Tuesday, April 10, 2012

College Tour! (how to have an exhausting spring break)

Alice Wilder
Opinion Editor

A few days ago, I returned home from my grand tour. After getting home, I know what college I want to attend and I think I’m more than ready for those four years.


Here is a description of my college tour experience, it’s part descent into insanity and part screenplay with a tiny tiny bit of advice.

Stage one: This is so exciting! I’m going to the big city, I’m gonna make it in Hollywood ect! I’m going to attend one of these schools, maybe! I’m going on a tour of my FUTURE! WOAH!

Stage two, after looking at schedule: I’m getting home at noon on Sunday and have to go to school the next day. I have no spring break, oh my god, what have I gotten myself into.

Colleges one and two, Hampshire and Emerson: I get to spend the night with two good friends and see what it’s really like to be in college! Plus both of these school are unique and promising! JUST LIKE ME.

Colleges three and four: Tufts. A bunch of kids try and impress the admissions officer during the info session by talking about their research  projects on the effects of globalization on African tribes. Oh my god. You’re fifteen. Stop. Then, Boston University. By this time, I’m absolutely dead, already, with three schools to go. But SUPRISE! My lovely friend Morgan and her mother and sister were in my info session/tour for BU. WHAT?! That gave the day a nice jolt of energy. BU is lovely, I really like that school, things are looking up, but I still want sleep and an internet connection more than anything.

Cut to: plane ride to Chicago. We ride the L and while walking into the elevator, find it covered in pee. WELCOME TO CHICAGO!

Colleges five and six: University of Chicago was huge and gorgeous. I mean out of this world insanely gorgeous. It is definitely the most college-y of all the colleges that I visited. We had a great tour guide and I got a good energy from the campus. Sorry, it’s much easier to write about terrible college visit experiences but it was lovely. Then, DePaul. DePaul is in a really beautiful part of Chicago, so I had high hopes, but it ended up being pretty lame on all accounts. Our tour guide was super awkward and effusive to the point where I went home and outlined a sketch based on her. Everything was “SO DELISH and THE BEST COFFEE/PIZZA/MUFFINS” but there was very little energy on campus. It seemed like most of the students just went home on the weekends, which isn’t an environment I’m interested in. ADVICE ALERT: If you know early on that you’re not interested in a school just leave the tour. Seriously. They’re usually an hour or longer, and it’s not worth walking for that long if you know you’re never going to go back. It might be a little rude, but just excuse yourself and leave, I wish I had.

Cut to: Second City. I already wrote a long post on another blog about this experience but woah. If you ever visit Chicago you need to go to the Second City. But only if you want to see the future of comedy, so it’s up to you.

College number seven: Northwestern. The campus was beautiful, I’ve heard good things about the school, Seth Meyers went here, there were people dancing to Backstreet Boys in the quad...I was immediately sold. It didn’t hurt that I was completely done with visiting schools and pretty much walked on campus and thought “okay, I’ll apply” and then walked to the dining hall to eat lunch.

So that’s it ya’ll, my college tour experience. Here is what I learned above all: college touring has done wonders for my academic focus so far. I came back from break thoroughly terrified and intimidated by the standards of the colleges that I visited. Basically, I came home wanting to get my shit together and get in to one of these schools. Also, wear comfortable shoes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What Do Colleges Really Want?

Erin Reed
Staff Writer

College.  Even the word gets me stressed out.  It isn’t that I think I can’t get into a good college or that I won’t be able to handle the work... it’s the pressure associated with the word.  While the college emails bombarding my inbox sound welcoming and friendly, the college board website turns the college search into a competitive race for admission.

Work hard for your grades.  Study for three hours for every hour spent in class. Participate in extracurriculars. Join student clubs, but don’t jump around too much! Having a job looks good, but make sure to do some community service too.  Take on a RIGOROUS academic schedule.... doing everything else perfectly at the same time. Do all this without going completely mentally and socially insane.  

High school counselors are even worse: Want a free block? Are you SURE about that?  Colleges will think you’re slacking, even if you founded your own charity and got a 5 on the AP Bio exam.  Don’t want to take a math class senior year because you’ve taken every one the school has to offer? WHAT? Not an option! If you don’t take community college math classes in addition to your already full schedule, every good college will TURN YOU DOWN.

This heavy pressure is confusing and self-hate inducing.  The pressure has, on me at least, an opposite effect:  Instead of becoming perfect, I watch Jeopardy re-runs and drown in fear-of-college-admissions-induced tears over a heaping bowl of pistachio ice cream, leaving homework stuffed in a corner.  

The fact that colleges advertise themselves as non-threatening places where students are encouraged to learn and think, yet the college board and counselors drop the COLLEGE STRESS BALL on previously excited learners (turning them into sleepless, multitasking, COLLEGE zombies) leads me to think there’s something wrong here.  What do colleges really want?

Here’s my unofficial guide:

1. Be yourself.  If you hate community service, don’t do it.  Colleges can tell if you don’t care about something.

2. Take charge.  Do what you think is best for your education, instead of following an action plan or a counselor’s cookie cutter schedule.  Colleges will appreciated your individuality.

3. Pick extracurriculars you like.  Say, you’ve been playing clarinet for 8 years, but if you get bored and want to take up archery or theatre instead.... do it.  You can always change your mind.  Opening new doors may lead to a possible college major.  

4. Don’t be afraid of alternative options like the Peace Corps, a gap year, or starting your own business.  It’s possible to be successful and get your own education without pursuing college right away.  

image: The Tightrope Walker, 1885, Jean-Louis Forain

Monday, March 19, 2012

How to De-Stress (if that's even possible)

Samantha Sabin

Seniors, I don’t know about you, but these notification dates are really starting to freak me out. Just the idea that my favorite schools in the entire world will either say “Hey, we like you too. Let’s make this official” or say “Um, well, we think you’re great but we’re just not a ‘good fit’” within the week is nerve-wracking. I haven’t been able to calm down since I found out my first official notification date. So instead of rolling around in the fetal position on my floor and crying into a bowl of ice cream (which I mean, I kinda already did), I’ve turned to seven reliable activities to do instead of worrying about decisions: 

Drink Tea - Seriously, half of a book shelf in my room is dedicated to this stuff. I have Chai, English Breakfast/Afternoon, Earl Grey, Green, and Green Mint tea at the ready for when anxiety hits. Maybe it’s the antioxidants or maybe it’s the caffeine in the some of these things, but nothing truly settles my nerves like it. The English have the right idea.

Pick up a book. - Forget about your own life for a minute and worry about another person’s life, even if it is fictional. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in these story lines. How do you think The Hunger Games and Harry Potter fandoms came about? I’m still not over the last HP movie premiere (like to the point where I haven’t even rewatched it because it was that emotional...).

Go for a walk. -- Take advantage of the spring weather and step away from your computer. The walk will only do you some good. Instead of driving yourself crazy refreshing your inbox every two seconds, you can actually enjoy the great outdoors (except for the wasps who follow you everywhere you go. They’re probably the only down side to this entire plan).  

Give yourself a lot of pep talks. - Keep in mind that the college admissions officers only know you based on your application. They hardly know your personality, and they can hardly ever gauge how much potential you actually you. So give yourself some reminders of your awesomeness. Seriously, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve done this. So go stand in front of the mirror and tell yourself that right now. It’s what mirrors we’re made for, right?

Find new music -- Now is the time to download that album you’ve always been eerie of buying. Spend the time that you would be spending anxiously refreshing your inbox memorizing the lyrics to your new favorite song (or spice it up, and rewrite the lyrics). Don’t know where to start? Well, The Shins have a new album out and Regina Spektor just released a single from her upcoming album.

Focus all of your energy in your school work.-- As lame it might sound, this really is a perfect time to buckle down and catch up. It’s the perfect distraction, in a way. You become so engrossed in your studies that you just forget about those decisions. And you’re being productive and improving your grades at the same time. It’s a win-win.

Watch Ryan Gosling - If you don’t like politics, don’t worry, “The Ides of March” is still a movie for you. Sure, you might think that everything they’re talking about is completely irrelevant to life, but it’s Ryan Gosling. So even if you think politics is pointless or if it frustrates you, it’s okay because IT’S RYAN GOSLING. And let’s not forget about his heart-throbbing performances in “The Notebook” and “Crazy, Stupid Love.” Seriously, whose nerves aren't calmed when they see him? Also check out the blog Is Ryan Gosling Cuter than a Puppy?. Your fangirl heart might just die.