Thursday, July 26, 2012

I Love NY

I can scarcely begin to believe that I have already been through three states in four days. But I, of course, must come to terms with that; after all, each place had their touch of food to compensate for the lack of static existence over the past few days, which I do not mind at all.


Welcome to Madison Square Garden!
Today began with a rousing knock and bagel delivery from Mr. Litvin, reminding us to be ready soon to go to the train station. We departed early in the morning (around 9 AM) from Philadelphia's 30th Street Station, and made our way to New York City. We checked in our luggage into the Empire Hotel before setting off for Columbia on foot. Mr. Litvin took us on a tour through Central Park, where we saw many of the ancient basalt rocks as well as the Dakota Building, the former home and site of the murder of John Lennon, one of the Beatles.


One of the pristine lakes in Central Park.
Eventually, we boarded the subway train to Columbia University. Being able to ride on New York's famed transit system was an amazing experience. The sheer mass of people far outweighed any Bart ride I have ever been on. Truly, no one uses a car in this city.


 We arrived promptly at 2 PM for the information session. The admissions director who delivered the session, Diane McKoy, had been at Columbia for over thirty years. One could see she knew the breadth and depth of the school. She covered a myriad of things during the information session, such as the general SAT score range for admitted students (2130 - 2380), the many programs Columbia has available for cultural enrichment (including a Directed Arts program that pays for tickets to city operas, plays, and concerts), and of course, the famed (and sometimes infamous) Columbia core. She outlined the exact courses we needed to take, and when, including a sports course in addition to another physical education course, a writing workshop, contemporary studies, and a set math program. The core had existed in Columbia for decades -- meaning that it is obviously a system that works for, at least, some people.


The Low Library, the central administration building for Columbia University.
 Our group split into the engineering and arts groups and toured the campus. We visited a few of the undergraduate halls around campus, as well as the main residence halls. Our tour guide advised us not to leave campus for as long as possible if we attend there, as the New York rent was "way too high."


The main quad, otherwise known as the "Urban Beach"
Finally, at Columbia, we met with regional admissions officer Dana Pavarini and another undergraduate student, Stephanie. We did not need to ask her much as Ms. McKoy had covered practically everything in the information session, but we asked a few clarifying questions (such as the supplement and the testing required for the application).


 Next, we had dinner at Trattoria del Arte with ECHS alumnus and current Columbia student Matt Arcinega and a few other Columbia undergraduates. I specifically spoke with Evan Munro (Matt's roommate) and Andrea Hazday about the student life at Columbia. They affirmed that while sports school spirit was not necessarily the best, it was compensated by other clubs and activities throughout the campus.


They also expressed their love of the core, as the system allowed each of them to study a wide range of topics that was uniform throughout the school. I also spoke quite a bit with Matt about Columbia, as well as other subjects, such as his brother Joe (whom I attended Cornell with last summer), Boy Scouts, and the Yale Ivy Scholars program (he was one of the first participants in the program).


Before I visited Columbia, I was rather iffy about applying there. I knew a little about the core and it's stringency turned me off from the school. But after speaking with the students and learning was the core consisted of, I became much more open to applying there. The decision for that is only a few months away, but right now, I am considering applying. And I can't thank the students and the admissions staff enough for justifying my reconsideration.

After dinner, Mr. Litvin took us to Times Square, Grand Central Station, and Bryant Park. New York City is truly an marvelous spectacle at night, with the grandeur of ancient Gothic and Greco-Roman-influenced architecture contrasted with the neon lights and mass hordes of people that crowded the streets. It is an experience everyone should undergo at least once in their lives. 


Bryant Park at night, with the backdrop of the city.
Tomorrow, we are headed off to Poughkeepsie to visit Vassar. It should be a great change of pace from the hustle and bustle of the big city, so it will be quite interesting. In the meantime, till tomorrow!

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