Friday, July 27, 2012

Skull&Bones 7

Arrived in New Haven at 1 p.m. and off to tour. The office of admissions was packed, the lawn outside also.   (Friday?) We were planning on tour first and info session last, but then here comes Alex Richardson, Northern California rep., leading his last group to his last info session on his last day of work, and then he's off to Texas. So we join his group. 

Mr. Richardson, of all the admissions officers we've listened to this past week, is the only one to put numbers on the board. And guess what? Those numbers gave me hope. Our kids--my kids, too--can go to a school like Yale. It is not about the finances. It is about being an educated, well-rounded, interesting, "rising" human being. Mr. Richardson spoke at length not about test scores, although they count, nor about GPA, though that counts too. Again for the first time this week, it was mostly about the personal statement. 

What he said made me feel good about what I've been telling my students all these years, what I've been teaching them. The average prospects' impulse on these papers is to go conservative, and that's understandable; risk equals potential failure, rejection. So risk reduction is the name of the game on their personal statements. Why make waves? So it's always the same boring stuff that's already apparent on the transcripts, applications, and counselors' recommendations. 

But the thing is, the student who gets into Yale is the one who lets the application and transcript stand for themselves, the one who takes a chance on the statement and reveals, reflects, tells a good story. That takes practice. It should take the whole first quarter of senior year, seminar style, with plenty of peer and teacher reviews and plenty of examples from the masters. 

We've missed the day's last general tour, but we're still on for the engineering tour, and boy did we luck out again. Taneja Young, chemical engineering graduate and international student from Trinidad and Tobago, guided us through the ins and outs of Yale's various engineering tracks.

In front of the cemetery where Eli Whitney is buried, and inside the building where undergrads get to play with made-to-order lab equipment, we are awed by the extent to which this school allows its engineers to work, to experiment, to express themselves--to play. 

Yale, she told us, never forgets and never forgets to remind its engineers that they are keepers and creators of culture as much as artists, scientists, and all the practitioners of the humanities. Thus, Yale allows its engineers to follow their inspirations not only on campus, in small-group, almost individualized settings, but also anywhere on the globe that their inspirations take them. 

Ms. Young is so cool that she walks us to the bookstore, a half mile away, all the while telling us her story, revealing the details of her own Yale experience that give life and color and truth to all the information we just got on the tour. 

Later in the evening, at the Union League Cafe, we hosted Ms. Vera Wells and Mr. Aaron Shipp of an organization called Y-Apply, as well as Yohanna Pepa, our own district's alumna and now Yale student by day and instructor of the Grand Strategies program for rising high school seniors by summer. In the next two weeks she will instruct the Yale cohort of the Ivy League Connection in the modern, practical, everyday applications of Machiavelli's ideas. Of course, I begged her to let me sit in, just once. 

Ms. Wells is an alumna (1971) with a wealth of history and tradition to impart, as well as the breaking of tradition: 1971 is actually a year earlier than the graduation of Yale's first co-ed class written about in the history books. Mr. Shipp, actor, life-coach, co-founder, with Ms. Wells, of Y-Apply, is a force of nature and a joy to sit next to. Y-Apply is a volunteer organization that does on the East Coast, on a (for now) less  grand scale, what the ILC does in the West Contra Costa Unified School District  in the SF Bay Area. 

So we had a lot of notes to share and stories to swap. We will definitely meet Y-Apply again. Others who were at the dinner but whom, due to seating arrangements, I unfortunately did not get to know, were Emily Farr, Yohanna's suite-mate, Grier Barnes, who is working as an instructor for Ivy Scholars (Grand Strategies is one program of three), Joshua Ackerman, who works at the Yale Admissions Office, and Lorenzo Labitigan, senior, freshman counselor, and Yale tour guide.

Joshua and Emily had to leave earlier
I'm sure the cohort's blogs will more that make up for my missing the opportunity to speak with Ms. Farr, Ms. Grier, Mr. Ackerman, and Mr. Labitigan. Next year I will sit next to them. 

One more day with the kids and then I have to let them go do their college thing. 

I'll miss them. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Igor,

    It was great having you guys on the tour last Friday. Thanks for the shout out - I'm glad you enjoyed yourselves! :D

    Good luck to all of you. Hope to see you around Yale campus someday in the future!