Sunday, April 29, 2012

When I first arrived at Harvard for Visitas on April 21, I felt like something was tightening in my chest. It wasn't really a good feeling-- I was terrified. I was scared that I had to make a decision soon, that the city I was in was not San Francisco, that I was actually going to leave Hercules High School for good. These things had bothered me when I was at Brown three days before, but at Brown, I was able to tell myself,  "Don't worry. You still have Harvard to visit before you decide."

The minute I stepped onto Harvard, though, I realized that I didn't have the luxury of another college visit before I had to decide. I didn't have something that I could use to continue keeping myself in denial about the fact that I would be going off to college soon. It was scary to have to tell myself, "Yes, you're going to college." (All the while, I felt incredibly, incredibly guilty for how bratty I was being-- after all, I was choosing between two of the best universities in the country, and I was getting the chance to visit both and really make an informed decision.)

Right off the bat, then, my Harvard visit was tainted with some bad feelings. Plus, the fact that I had attended another university's visiting program first also contributed to this.

I tried to keep this in mind while I went about attending the different Visitas activities. I did so much during my three days at Harvard and felt so many different emotions that it wouldn't be possible to chronicle everything without writing several pages. So, here is just a sampling of what I did/felt each day I was there:

Saturday, April 21
President's Welcome- Very traditional, grand, "official" feel. This was off-putting at first.
Regional Receptions- Met other admitted students from California and the Pacific Islands
What I Wish I'd Known- Harvard seniors talked about what they wished they had known going into Harvard. (Very reassuring)
Exploring- I visited many of the residential houses with a new friend and stumbled upon countless mixers and get-togethers.

Sunday, April 22
Visitas Thinks Big- One of my favorite events of the weekend. I listened to some professors who I hope to take classes from in the future.
Pre-Frosh Palooza- Inspiring, but also a bit off-putting like the President's Welcome.
Activities Fair- Super informative, learned about Mock Trial at Harvard and the Radcliffe Union of Students (feminist student group), met fun people.

Monday, April 23
I sat in on three courses: Indian Religions, Human Sexuality, and Environmental Policy.
(I especially loved the Environmental Policy class that I sat in on. Professor John Briscoe made a point of asking the pre-frosh to introduce themselves both to him and to the class, to which the actual students of the class responded with a "Hi" or "Hello" for every pre-frosh. Briscoe was super funny and engaging, and had actually worked on the Madeira bridge projects that he was lecturing about. All the students were participating in the discussion, and many were happy to talk to me about the class, about Harvard, and about how they made their decision. I really don't know what to say about this class other than that it was amazingly inspiring and that I desperately wanted to be a part of it.)

Even though I felt like I enjoyed ADOCH more than Visitas, I had a difficult time deciding because I felt that a lot of the negative feelings I associated with Harvard were due to things that didn't actually have anything to do with the school. One thing, for example, was the bad weather, which I know Providence is also infamous for. The two days I visited Brown just happened to be super sunny and gorgeous. It was rainy and cold, however, for most of my Harvard visit. Plus, I had some bad luck at Harvard and lost a contact lens one day, and also had multiple nose bleeds during my visit. And then there were my initial feelings going into Visitas.

So, to be fair, I never considered my immediate impressions of Brown and Harvard very helpful. 

Today, I decided to attend Harvard and submitted my SIR. I made my decision based on many different things, but here is some of the reasoning I used: 

Brown was generally more laid-back and I liked that,  but I decided that even though I probably would be immediately more comfortable at Brown, I would definitely be able to find people with that type of attitude at Harvard too, plus a lot of other "types" of people. In other words, I felt that the diversity would be greater at Harvard, and I liked that that would force me to branch out more. (This is, of course, not to say that I think the student body at Brown is homogeneous, which it most certainly is not.)

I don't think I got "the feeling" at either school, though I came close to it at Harvard. This is how I explained it to my Harvard application interviewer in a recent email: "It happened when I was on top of the Science Center, looking at this gorgeous view of Cambridge and Boston, with the STAHR club, whose members were so passionate and inspiring. For a moment, I could imagine myself hanging out or doing homework there [on top of the Science Center]. (I also got to look at Saturn through the telescope there, which was very cool.)"

I believe I made the right decision, but I realize that I probably also would have felt great had I chosen Brown. I really did enjoy both, and I really would like to thank ILC again for all the support. I am so grateful and I feel so fortunate. I am so excited! THANK YOU!

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