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. 

Final Destination

We arrived in New Haven, Connecticut, by train shortly after noon. 

As my cohort and I stepped onto Yale's campus, I noted streets interweaving the campus; perhaps this should not have surprised me - New Haven, after all, is a very urban city.

We joined a tour that catered to those interested in Yale’s engineering program; although I do not consider engineering as my area of interest, it was a new experience visiting various science buildings and research facilities.

In regards to engineering, undergraduates can begin research as freshmen; students also usually seize the opportunity to conduct research abroad during their junior year.

Yale provides a very supporting environment for its students. Aside from the facts that Yale faculty is world-class and superb, the institution also provides continuous assistance to its students and their educational endeavors, especially financially.

Because we did partake in the engineering school, I was especially glad that we had the opportunity to sit down for an informational session with Alex Richardson, the former admissions officer assigned to the Northern California region where the WCCUSD lies. 

Students may apply to Yale through early action - the great part is that it is not binding. Even if a student is admitted to Yale early, he has time to reach a decision and change plans in regards to other schools.

A corner at Yale University.
 This evening, we dined with admission officers, student counselors, as well as current and past Yale students, which included a number of our instructors for Grand Strategies.

Seared tuna.
I felt very fortunate to have had the opportunity to sit down with the students and listen to them tell of their experience at one of the most prestigious universities in the world. It is not hard to miss the fact that they love Yale and all it has to offer its students.  

The students as well as Mr. Aaron Shipp bestowed upon us pearls of wisdom regarding the college application progress, from choosing the perfect school to writing an effective essay.
Roughly paraphrasing, applications must always reflect the student. Allowing yourself to become vulnerable and honest can produce an application with no comparison. Each person is unique; the personal statement is an opportunity to show the admissions counselors a side of the student that cannot be mirrored in the transcript or test scores. 

With that being said, I was very grateful to be able to mingle with the Yale representatives. I am eager to begin our course so we can reach a more informed decision about the institution as we spend two weeks on campus engaged in a rigorous course.

No More of New York

Unfortunately, today is our last day in New York. The past two days spent here has been phenomenal. We met up early in the morning to catch a train to Poughkeepsie, New York. This is when our day truly began.
Vassar College

Vassar College is a highly selective, liberal arts college. When I first arrived there, I immediately realized that this college had a really close knit community. The theater/performing arts here were amazing. It was also interesting to find out that the student body played a major role at the college. I can honestly say that this school is not my “type” because I'm looking for something more urban, but aside from that, this college is really nice. For those that enjoy a college with a strong sense of community, small classroom sizes, and personal attention, Vassar may be the one for you. After the information session, we met with Paola Gentry, our regional admissions officer and introduced ourselves. We exchanged few words and shortly after, went our way.
New York's Skyscrapers

Later, we caught the train to downtown New York. We visited Battery Park, Wall Street, and the 9/11 memorial site. Walking through the 9/11 memorial site was intense. I saw the Survivor Tree, the tree that embodies the hopes of millions of Americans. With this ray of light, we shall continue to grow as a nation and advance not only in our economy, politics, and technology, but advance as a society to where peace is attainable on a global scale. Okay, that was enough of my ranting.

Survivor Tree

Afterwards, we got back to the Empire Hotel and got ready for the dinner. For once, we didn’t have to rush like crazy to get to dinner. We actually had about two hours to get ready. How amazing is that? We took the substation to get to the restaurant, Gordon Ramsey, but later realized that it was easily within walking distance. At the dinner, we met several alumni and an admissions officer of Vassar College. They were all down to earth and eager to talk to us. They majored in areas like political science, business, economics, and theater and performing arts. It was nice that they weren’t interested in making us join Vassar but seemed to be more interested in helping us find the right college. This is the same for all the other colleges that we visited too. Everyone has been wonderful, helpful, and welcoming.

The dinner was delightful. The portions of food were small but plentiful. I was actually looking forward to this type of dinner since the previous meals I had were a bit heavy. I had an array of seafood that included: caviar, clams, crab meat, lobster meat, and halibut. The service was great and all of the waiters and waitresses were friendly. After the desert was finished, they brought complimentary chocolate truffles along with a selection of other teeth rotting delicacies. It sure hit the spot.

We bid farewells around 11 p.m. to the representatives of Vassar. It was a pleasure meeting them and having them over for dinner. My days spent in New York were certainly filled with fun things to do. Precious moments like these past days spent in the east coast are made to be reminisced upon in the future. I’m grateful for everything that the ILC has done for me.  We’re coming Yale!