Thursday, June 23, 2011
|Chicago in the morning.|
|With the students.|
|Hutchinson Commons only pushes the|
|ILC with Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr.|
|Good night Callie!|
While we took the L for most of our stay in Chicago, we used the as-efficient and extensive bus line offered throughout the city. We arrived a few blocks off of campus and walked through the quiet street of college-town activity. From barbershops to cafes, it was certainly like the neighborhood of any college. Once we arrived at the university’s admission office, we were quickly introduced to Callie Brown, the Northern California Admissions Director, whom we have kept in touch with prior to our arrival.
We went straight into a conference room where we were given complimentary t-shirts and a folder detailing pamphlets and papers of information regarding the school. Because this is my second college visit (the first being Northwestern), I was more familiar with a lot of terms and topics that were completely foreign to me before. I quickly learned that the University of Chicago is too, on a quarter system. We were also briefed on how one’s education at Chicago would consist of one part “Core Classes” and two parts “Extracurricular,” which encompasses more focused classes that are usually associate with one’s majors and minors. Throughout the conference briefing, we were all asking questions left and right. We learned that athletes do not receive preferential treatment or exceptions compared to others and that the school. The University of Chicago also holds many similarities to Northwestern including the fact that they both take either the SAT or ACT and that the university is also on a “need-blind” basis, which means that no financial information of any applicant is given to the people that read their application. Granted, because I have very little experience with college considerations, many of these similarities may exist throughout all or most colleges.
We were given our campus tour by an upcoming fourth-year student by the name of Elin. Like many have said before, going through campus was like stepping into the world of Harry Potter. The architecture was splendidly vintage and had this very lovely, almost gothic tone. We walked through their updated sports facilities and a few classrooms. Throughout the trip, she explained to us many student traditions including their famed scavenger hunt. During one event, she told us that students had simply "Chocolate Rain" on their list of items and a few decided to poor Hershey's Kisses down from above. Our tour concluded at one of their dining halls. At our table, we dined with Elin, and two other students who go by Cullen and Judy. Our entire group shared hilarious anecdotes and simply enjoyed ourselves in a relaxed environment. Afterwards, we ended our trip by adventuring into their state-of-the-art library, which recently opened a newly constructed dome expansion. The basement floor was absolutely chilling because of the fact bookshelves could be mechanically moved so that some areas could be accessed and others "folded in" to preserve space. While sensors are implemented for safety, I was terrified that eventually, someone may get caught in between two shelves.
After a quick rest at our hotel, we headed out to dinner with Callie Brown at a steakhouse called Gibsons. While the food was absolutely amazing (as always), the conversations with which we shared with Ms. Brown was top-notch. While it is normally expected to ask questions regarding the college to get a better insight as to what to expect, we felt that most of our concerns were addressed during the morning briefing. Instead, a majority of our talks with Callie were more about her life and interests where only help with learning about the University of Chicago was only a minimal part of the night.
Every day here in Chicago has certainly been a learning experience. Today in particular taught me that after conversing with admission officers long enough, you shouldn't ask so many questions for the sake of asking about the school. This is because the campus tour should help resolve all of that. Instead, it is important that when you meet these people off of campus, one should always make the initiative to get to know her better and allow her to get to know oneself better. While questions regarding the person's school should still be asked, this opportunity allows one to put a "face" on himself so that he can gain valuable contacts and confidants. Ms. Neal, our chaperone, even told us once over lunch that she kept in touch with an admission officer she met during one college tour. Who knows? If that admission officer whom one had a heart-to-heart conversation over dinner is reading his application, that experience a couple of months or years back may surely resonate in the officer.
With the alarm ringing at 6 AM, we all got prepared to head back onto the “L” for a very long train ride. Today, we traveled all the way to Evanston, a quaint college town on the border of Chicago, to take part of a college visit tour at Northwestern University.
The school is one of the most heavily funded research universities in the nation, so I was quite intrigued as to what all the fuss is about. As we entered the admission office, we met Aaron Zdawczyk , the Associate Director of Admission. He gave us a brief introduction and we were off to explore and discover the school. We learned a lot about the school, including their unique Quarter System. Instead of splitting the school’s time periods into semesters, they are split into four quarters that allow students to take up to twelve classes in a year. I also discovered that the university is split into six different schools that focus on specific fields like Communications, Journalism, and Engineering.
The English building at NU.
For the actual tour, we all split up into groups as five tour guides were accessible to us. Terilyn, Taylor, Jobel, and I chose to go with Andrew, a rising Junior who is an executive on the school’s fraternity board. We explored campus as he explained almost every building as we passed by them. We even entered the Engineering building and actually walked through the halls and classrooms. He went into details about instances of school culture including a 30-hour dance marathon and a tradition which they refer to as the “Rock.” The Rock, which has spawned from a broken water fountain, is a local landmark for students. Many students get hands-on involvement with the Rock by painting on it. However, to do this, they are required by the school to guard the Rock for 24 hours.
The famous Rock.
After the tour, we ate out in college town and then took the L train back to the hotel. With a few hours of break prior to our dinner with Aaron at Spaggia’s, we ventured out to the beach across the street. Once we concluded our small excursion, we all got ready to fill our minds and stomachs.
Aaron Zdawczyk delightfully answered our questions and helped clarify many things regarding Northwestern during our dinner. I brought up how I was always skeptical with the university system and how I was always under the assumption that it was "the name you were paying for." He brought up some really insightful info including how a community college wouldn’t give you the same support a student from a university would normally receive. I also asked how much the Communications school is well-connected with Journalism considering the fact that there is a dedicated Journalism program. Northwestern has tons of flexibility when it comes to class and majors and Aaron certainly brought that up. He also brought up that picking either Communications or Journalism will depend on what the endpoint of your career will be like.
Today has truly made me reconsider that going to a university, especially with all of these resources available to prospecting and existing students, is a decision worth thinking over again. Although I still have some drawn out skepticism, this first-ever college visit has certainly set the by high as we explore the University of Chicago tomorrow.
I was blown away today, but not because we’re in the Windy City.
As you’ve all probably already garnered from the blogs of my fellow Cornellians and their photos, Northwestern’s campus is just gorgeous and filled with incredible, friendly people whom have nothing but wonderful things to say about the place. They love it here, and that is delightfully reassuring.
Today’s tour really confirmed my previous perceptions that Northwestern was THE place to spread one’s wings; it’s a place where one can discover and explore all his/her interests (or even the world via study abroad), while still being able graduate without delay (oftentimes easily picking up design-your-own dual degree) and gaining experience for the professional world. The flexibility and resources available are found nowhere else.
I learned so much about the former Fighting Methodists known today as the Northwestern Wildcats from Josh Bay, our amazing tour guide. The campus architecture is a beautifully eclectic synthesis of gothic spires and their edgy modern counterparts.
As I had anxiously planned, we took a very special photo in front of The Rock (Northwestern’s famous, ever-changing stone drawing board/bulletin/mural/window of expression) by accessing the online RockCam. We went shopping for Wildcat wares, sunned up at the beach at the southern edge of campus, watched college students on the green spin their heads on a rotating baseball bat and crash to the ground in some sort of relay race, and stuffed our faces at Clark’s Diner. I remember smiling to myself when Joe commented that I had picked a great 1st choice school.
It’s so odd that this is technically my first college visit. A fine way to start off!
He is a really awesome guy and interesting conversationalist who Taylor is convinced resembles Jake Gyllenhaal. This is a guy who has been all over, working in places from Wuhan, China (even more humid that Chicago) to Columbia University, and who is happy to say Northwestern is where he belongs. We’re lucky to have him as the admissions director for Northern California.
I will take to heart his advice about the essay portion of the application process. The key is to strike a balance of personal relevance to showcase your best writing and so college admissions officers can get to know the real you. I’m glad Aaron didn’t give us the usual useful, yet tiresomely over-repeated, advice to avoid infamously overused topics such as that trip to Spain or building houses in Costa Rica. The essay can really make or break.
He explained that the components of a Northwestern candidate are “like building a house.” There has to be a balance between a solid foundation of academic excellence built on by extra curriculars and a really strong essay.
Aaron went on to talk about a great many things regarding Northwestern’s amenities and the admissions process, but one topic was of particular attention for me: HPME. He corrected me that the program admits up to 40 instead of 30 people, but I also learned this is out of roughly 800 applicants. 100 are chosen to be interviewed and 60 more are weeded out. It was nice knowing the numbers but mostly daunting.
Aaron also introduced me to a different path. The top Pre-med sophomores at Northwestern automatically gain acceptance to Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, almost similar to the HPME’s arrangement. However, I have my doubts. I feel like there’s a better chance with HPME because while Northwestern’s campus seems really friendly, it also must be highly competitive since it’s filled with the best of the best. I have no idea where I would stand in the 8,000 undergrads, or even if I can (get accepted). Regardless, I will be working my hardest… wherever I end up.
Then there is issue of financing Northwestern in the first place. While the university has a highly generous financial aid tradition, it would be virtually impossible for me to gain access to it due to personal situations. Their financial aid is need-based and they offer no merit-based aid, except National Merit Scholarship. Tonight, I learned that Northwestern offers $2,000/year in the NMS Finalist scholarships. I know that USC’s NMS Finalist scholarship offers half tuition and University of Miami offers almost a full ride, so when someone put me under the false impression that tuition could be reduced by $25,000 at Northwestern, I should have known it was too good to be true . I feel foolish now, because I had previously thought that I could actually afford to attend the school of my dreams. Now understand that so many National Merit Finalists attend elite schools like Northwestern, so it wouldn’t be logical for such prestigious universities to give all that scholarship money to everyone.
This has certainly been a learning experience. While Northwestern will always be number one in my heart, I am uncertain if I will be listing it as my first choice college with NMS if I’m chosen as a finalist or if I can even afford to attend at all if I’m miraculously accepted either to regular undergrad admissions or (even more inexplicably) to HPME. What I do understand now, is that I should start being more open to other colleges as well.
Dinner at Spiaggia's
We started our tour at Northwestern at 10:15, and broke off into separate groups so we could all hear all the different tour guides’ perspectives. Luckily for me, I ended up with by far the best tour guide, a Northwestern student name Josh Bay, who will be graduating next year. While I had gone into this tour with absolutely no intention of applying to Northwestern, Josh showed that the school was really supportive once you got in, and I am pleased to say that because of him and Aaron Zdawczyk (who I’ll talk about later) I will be applying to Northwestern a year and a half from now.
I wasn’t planning on wearing a floral crown today, but I woke up severely tired this morning and decided that I would wear one to give myself a little boost.
Our day started with a quick breakfast at Starbucks (for me, it was a slice of banana walnut bread and a strawberry smoothie). After that, we all walked to the CTA and traveled to the stop nearest Northwestern University.
We split up into different campus tour groups. I was in a group of strangers since no one else picked the tour guide I did, Meghan White.
The tour was absolute magic.
Before the tour, my first impression of Northwestern was definitely one of admiration, but there were no real feelings. The moment Meghan started talking, though, I began to imagine myself at Northwestern: lying in the grass, chasing the squirrels, reading in the Harry Potter- like library, guarding The Rock, sitting in a classroom writing about the extinction of dinosaurs. It was a very instant transition.
I have only recently begun to feel excited about college, and this is the first time I have felt excited about applying to a college. This was my first campus tour, and Northwestern is the first school that I am sure I will be applying to. These are many firsts. Yes, this is exciting stuff!
After we left Northwestern, we ate lunch at Clark’s and then visited Beck’s Bookstore and the Deering Library on campus. (It’s the one that looks Harry Potter-ish.) When we arrived back at the hotel, I explored a little bit and found an empty conference room. The room had a large window seat and an interesting view of the beach, so I sat in that room for a while by myself, until I wandered back downstairs and the some of the others found me and asked me to go to the beach with them.
It was nice to run around on the sandy shores of Lake Michigan before getting ready for dinner at Spaggia with Aaron Zdawczyk, the Associate Director of Admission at Northwestern. We all dressed up and ate amazing food while talking and laughing and asking Aaron questions. The atmosphere was perfect. Our waiter was funny and excited about us being Californians since he came from California. It was just a very magical day today.
Thank you, ILC.