Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Facts and Reality, Not Fiction

Today was so exhausting, but so exciting and inspirational. We started the day at 7AM to get ready for the big day. Our first stop was Au Bon Pain which is a cute little cafe around the corner from our hotel. There were so many cute pastries and everything was so clean. As much as we wanted to sit longer and savor each bite of our breakfast, we had to rush to MIT for our tour and information session. We caught taxis(with our expert skills) and headed straight to the school.
When is it too early for cupcakes?

When we first entered MIT, I wasn't sure if I could see myself there, but we got to know a lot more about it. The information system was super packed and it was apparent that MIT is an extremely popular school. Our presenter was an admissions officer named Matt McGann. He also graduated from the school in 2000. He gave us so much information about the school. Here are some of the main points that made me really want to apply to the school:
  1. Many of the teachers are Nobel laureates
  2. MIT is a hands on school where even freshman can get internships
  3. MIT focuses on a cooperative environment as opposed to a competitive environment
  4. The school is fairly small with 1,100 students per class
  5. There are several internship and study abroad programs
  6. Hacking, which is just a term they use for pulling pranks at the school, takes place. The students usually decorate or put random things on top of the dome.
  7. The campus is gorgeous
  8. There's a month dedicated to research
  9. Students receive substantial amounts of financial aid if accepted
  10. There are state of the art facilities such as indoor pools, ice rinks, research labs, and much more.
The futuristic buildings on campus

It's a really nice school, but it's extremely competitive to get into. They also require math and science subjects tests. Our tour guide, Carolyn, is a physics major. After going to several school tours, I've realized that the information session and tour guide are so important. I guess some people can fall in love with a school from liking the campus, but I feel that the tour guides really represent the school. And when they can't read words on their own presentations or use silly perks(like free movies or food fairs), it really makes you wonder whether the school and the students are serious. But of course, all of the schools I've toured on the East Coast are represented extremely well. She told us about both social and academic aspects of the school. We saw a lot of different buildings during the tour, and I really liked that the buildings kind of represented time. They talked about the school being really futuristic, and the campus really shows that. There were some older looking buildings with older architecture, buildings that represented modern styles, and even really futuristic buildings. The people we met seemed pretty nice too. The school has so much to offer and I'm pretty sure that I'm going to apply this summer. 

The freshman dining hall at Harvard

Afterwards, we hurried to Harvard. The presentation was packed just like MIT, and we even saw some of the same people. The admissions officer and two students gave speeches. They highly emphasized the amount of assistance that students get, and it was definitely different from other schools. Some of the opportunities that they provide include:
  1. A group of 4+ advisers that help you through your classes and social life
  2. Cross registration programs with MIT and other top universities 
  3. One of the largest libraries in the world
  4. A variety of extracurricular activities
  5. Freshman benefits to help students adjust to the school
  6. A really traditional and uniform campus
  7. They also have a pretty small school 
  8. The retention rate for classes is 97%
  9. It's easy to get into classes unlike some public universities
  10. Lots of school pride

We were also lucky enough to get a private tour. All of the other tour groups has 30-40 people to one tour guide whereas we had three tour guides for seven people. The other groups were overflowing to the point where some people saw our group and sneakily made their way into our group. I felt bad that they didn't get nearly as much attention, but some of the parents were trying to hog up the tour guides and more people kept making their way over. One of the tour guides had to speak up and ask them to leave. Oh! And our three tour guides were Joanna, Drisana, and Emily. Joanna is a junior majoring in government, Drisana is a sophomore in applied maths, and Emily is a sophomore that studies Latin American culture. They were all so sweet and helpful! Joanna talked to me about debate and we found out that we both participate in Lincoln Douglass. And Drisana talked to me about the differences between high school and college. They pretty much made the whole cohort want to apply to Harvard. We got to buy some Harvard souvenirs too! I was so tired because we were walking all day, the weather was blazing hot outside and freezing in the buildings, and the taxi driver was constantly making sudden breaks. It was all so worth it though! 

Our last event of the day was the dinner with Harvard students. We ate at Meritage, a restaurant with magnificent views. Our three tour guides joined us along with friends of Terilyn Chen, an alumni of ILC and a current student of Harvard. I sat next to Lizbeth Hernandez, a major in government who graduates in 2016. She was so sweet and answered all ten thousand of my questions. Lizbeth doesn't come from a wealthy family either, and she worked really hard to get to where she is now. I really admire her and I felt like we could kind of relate! She said that the people at Harvard are truly friendly and it's super important to join some clubs on campus. She even applied to 13 schools and had the problem of not knowing which Ivy League school to attend(what a dilemma, right?). The food was great but I didn't feel too well so I didn't get to enjoy it as much as everyone else. All around, there were just good conversations going on between everyone and we didn't want to leave. I also talked to Lizbeth about the ILC and she really wished that her siblings North Carolina could have the same experience. 
The view from the restaurant 
Lizbeth and I
We did so much today and there's so many more activities to talk about, but only a novel would do justice to everything that happened. I'm glad we got to visit the schools, however I like them all so much that I haven't been able to knock out any schools off of my "should apply" list. This is going to be such a hard decision because I don't think I can financially or physically afford to complete eighteen applications to schools who all have different supplements. I think I'll just take the time to enjoy these next few weeks before I start stressing out about college apps. 

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