Thursday, July 7, 2011

Super Social Schools vs. Seriously Studious Schools

Settling into a new and unfamiliar environment is always a tough one. Though our rooms are so nice, and our beds are so comfortable, it took me a while to fall asleep. After just a blink of an eye, my alarm clock went off signaling my “Get Ready for Breakfast” call. We ended up discovering a local Waffle House, and had some fantastic waffles and juice.

We were pretty excited to go to our first college visit tour today. Emory University was the first stop today. I was wrong about the Emory building I saw in the city last night; that was Emory Hospital. The Emory College is actually separated from the downtown area, in a quiet suburban neighborhood with plenty of gorgeous trees and fields. It’s spacious and the buildings are large. The housing apartments have an old and elegant look to them, and the dorms and commons have a more modern feel to them.

Before the campus tour, we sat in on an admissions focus session. I learned that what sets Emory apart from other colleges is that this college focuses on community: community in the dorms, community as a college, community as a city, and also the worldwide community. Dorm rooms compete against each other in varying contests; almost every student participates in extracurricular activities; clubs and organizations around the school host community outreach services each week; and about half of the students on the campus participate in the Study Abroad program. In the informational video, a student stated that through the Study Abroad program, she not only learned how others live, but how she can live better back at home, and improve her own community by bringing back this information. Emory’s other perks include 100% need blind admissions and a promise to meet 100% of demonstrated need for financial aid.
One of the pieces of information that I found to be most informative came during the talk about admissions. What the officer stressed to us is not to worry about our test scores in the SAT and ACT tests. He said that Emory does not hold low test scores against you, and that you can make up low test scores with the quality of work you put in through the rigorous classes you take in high school and in extracurricular activities. He explained that when you see colleges post those SAT and ACT scores in their pamphlets or online, those are the mid-50% scores, which means that even people below those scores are admitted. I greatly appreciated him stressing this, because so many people don’t know that, and get discouraged when they see how high the college’s posted scores are. I feel like students in my school or in my school district don’t know facts like these and get discouraged when they see the high test scores or the rank of the college. So many bright, young students could qualify for Ivy Leagues and other renowned colleges. It would be nice to host a seminar at our schools to stop students from being discouraged and to encourage them to challenge themselves with rigorous classes and participate in about 2 school clubs or sports, since these could really boost a person’s application.

Our second college stop was Georgia Institute of Technology, or as Julia calls it, G-I-T (even though no one, even in Atlanta, calls it this for some strange reason). Georgia Tech boasts that its learning style is unique compared to other colleges. This school’s main attraction is that it has a hands-on learning experience with real world applications and experiments. Their top three opportunities are their study abroad programs, research programs, and hundreds of internships and co-ops. Even though this school is in the heart of downtown Atlanta, it still has that traditional campus feel to it with the large buildings, close-by dorms, and open fields and greenery. They like to call it their own little “tech bubble.” A cool quality at this school is their Invention Competition, where the top two students with the best invention receive a patent for their creation, and money to start their own company with that product.

We heard many similar things between this admissions seminar and the one at Emory. However we did learn a few new things. For example, Georgia Tech does not look at SAT II’s, AP scores, letters of recommendation, or class rank when considering your application. They mostly just look at a student’s curriculum in high school and test scores, as well as the personal essays. I also learned that when researching colleges outside of your home state, you should look up the common high school required courses in that state. I learned that in Georgia, they require four years of science, where as in California, only 2 are required, and three are recommended.
On a personal note, I do not think Georgia Tech is the right school for me. Though I thought the campus was beautiful, I thought that the social aspect was lacking compared to other colleges. It seemed like Georgia Tech was more of a serious school, mostly focusing on just academics, whereas Emory, which I greatly enjoyed, was also a serious school, but also had a large social atmosphere to it. To me, Emory seems more welcoming, with more freedom and fun both with classes and other activities. A more active and lively environment is personally more of what I’m looking for in a college.

Finding a spot to grab grub is always fun to do. We came across an American food joint called the Varsity, similar to the food place back home called Sonic. The waiters came to the car to take our order. I noticed the cool hats the waiters had, and asked if we could have a few. He ended up giving us five of these stylish paper hats, and a pamphlet of the restaurant’s menu lingo. For future reference, a “Bag of Rags” means potato chips in a bag, and a “Joe-ree” is coffee with cream.
Today was packed full of firsts. My firsts ranged from not extremely memorable, such as having my first frappuccino from Starbucks (I’m usually a Peet’s Coffee kind of girl), to rather important firsts like having my first small scale meeting with a college admissions officer. This type of gathering is more thorough and informative than the generic meetings with the 30 or so people we had earlier. Yes, those conferences we attended this morning were very important, but by meeting in this manner, we could ask more personal questions that related to our own interests and concerns, and further our interests and knowledge in that college, and other colleges as well. We met with Mrs. Merideth Ray, an admissions officer from Georgia Tech. She talked about what she looks at when she evaluates college applications, the types of essays she receives, the environment at Georgia Tech, and the different types of classes and activities available. One of the facts about the college that I found most informative was how helpful the faculty is for Georgia Tech. Because G.T. is such a strong hands-on school, professors are always available for help, and there are also directors in the dorm halls that check up on the students to make sure their workload is manageable and to offer assistance if the student is feeling homesick or overwhelmed. She also talked about Atlanta as a college town, and explained that there is plenty to do here in the city.

Other firsts of the night included trying mussels for the first time. Julia and I decided to be adventurous and try them. However when the platter of mussels appeared, our daring spirits dwindled to curious and weirded out expressions as we tried to open them and eat the contents inside. I’ve learned that I am not a big fan of this particular seafood. I think there might have been sand in one of mine, since I felt a bit of a crunch, and the insides of the mussels are supposedly normally not supposed to crunch. I at least hope it was sand, and not some other small, mysterious, undersea creature, inside of another undersea creature. My other first of the night was my first try of cinnamon flavored ice cream, which was fantastic.

After a late night dash to the nearest Walmart, it is time to hopefully get a bit more sleep than I did last night.

More college visits tomorrow. I can’t wait!

1 comment:

  1. Aiyana,

    Here’s a quick tip for you:

    When you’re on scholarship scouting out colleges, it may not be a good idea to send back a photo of you wearing the uniform from a fast food joint. One of the last things we want to think about is sending you away to college so you can come back having mastered saying: “Do you want fries with that?”

    You’re going to come across a lot of people who will try to convince you that eating fried bugs is a delicacy, that eating fish bait (clams and mussels) is worth paying top dollar for, and that eggplant is fit for human consumption but I’m telling you right now to use some common sense, Aiyana. If it doesn’t look like it ought to go in your mouth then maybe you shouldn’t put it there. That gritty thing you bit into should help validate this.

    Far be it for me to say that Georgia Tech, which has been around for a gazillion years and has a fine reputation, has a goofy admissions process. It seems to work for them. If it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it.

    We often think of some Southern states as being somewhat backwards when it comes to their schooling but when you compare their science requirements and even their PE requirements to those here in California then you have to reexamine the question of who is backwards.