Friday, June 15, 2012

What a Wonderful World

It was a relief to finally be able to get some real sleep after a week of early wakeups and frantic scrambling in the morning. Although someone had suggested idea of getting up early to work out, I decided that I would much rather be unfit and sleep in. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology marked the last stop on the Brown cohort 1 college tour excursion. On the way to Boston, we discussed things that we learned in the past few days.

The Rogers Building (aka building 7)
Inside the Rogers Building

The food court
MIT is at the heart of the Cambridge area in Boston, similar to Yale’s location in New Haven. Massachusetts Avenue runs right through the center of campus, separating it between the East Campus (where most of the research and academic facilities are) and West Campus (which consists of student dorms and more social oriented locations). Upon arrival, we got info on the info session and tours before heading to brunch at the food court. Half of us had Japanese food while the other half chose Indian cuisine. The milk tea with tapioca really left me reminiscent of home.

Despite the nature of my eyelids to droop during the information session, I picked up a lot of critical information. MIT’s motto is “Mind and Hand”, which basically defines its learning process. Students spend as much time learning new material as putting it to use in the lab. At MIT, there is a positive learning environment in which students enjoy being challenged and using what they’ve learned to solve problems.  MIT has 5 strong areas of majors: science, engineering, architecture, social science, and the humanities. 93% of undergrads live in residential halls that include fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups, similar to the Yale system. Each residential hall has its own unique environment, and most students stay within the same hall all 4 years. Surprisingly, you don’t apply to MIT through the CommonApp; it has its own separate application. The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) gives students abundant opportunities to pursue their own research or join established projects. It includes all phases of the research process: developing plans, writing proposals, conducting research, analyzing data, and presenting results. Around 85% of MIT students utilize UROP during their four years and they can choose whether they would rather get paid or get course credit for their efforts.

The tour itself was great and we learned a lot more about campus life. The Great Dome (aka building 10) is connected to the “Infinite Corridor” which in turn leads to other parts of campus. Interestingly enough, the MIT community advocates pranks. ‘Hacks’, pulled all over campus by underclassmen are meant to show the creativity and technological skill of its hackers. A lot of exhibits on campus are dedicated to hacks from over the years, and our tour guide described quite a few of them. The Great Dome was a prime example of this. Once, someone placed a fake police car on top of the dome. Another time the Dome was dressed to look like R2-D2. And so on. Recently, they’ve even been able to use the windows on the Green Building to play Tetris.

Pretty self-explanatory
Fire Hydrant Water Fountain
The infamous Green Building
A bit of Boston from MIT

Kresge Auditorium
Spectacular view from the Harvard Bridge
Unfortunately, we had to cut the tour short just as we were about to explore West Campus. On the way home, we got stuck in traffic on the Harvard Bridge. However, with a stunning view of the sunlight reflecting off of the Charles River next to the city, I wasn’t complaining. At the same time, Alan Miranda, a rising senior at MIT (whom we had just met during the tour) emailed us with an invitation for application. I was surprised that he took the time to reply so quickly to us (almost as good as Don!). Although I can’t apply as a sophomore, I know that I’ll definitely be considering MIT because of my interest in biotechnology. What better place to study biotech than at its birthplace? What attracted me to MIT were its state-of-the-art facilities, emphasis on hands-on experience and research, its location in the city, and its students’ passion for the sciences in general. Overall, MIT has a significantly different feel than the colleges we’ve toured so far. Its emphasis on research and relatively large student body give it more of a “big college” atmosphere while still maintaining some characteristics of small, liberal arts colleges (contrary to what you might think, its liberal arts at MIT are pretty strong).

For each college that we’ve visited, I try to imagine being a student there and going from day to day life on campus. Through this process, I’ve been able to discover more about myself and help me to narrow down what type of college is best “fit” for me, which I know, will help me when the time comes senior year

Tonight’s finale was the dinner with Brown staff, students, and alumni at the Capitol Grille. Coming back from Boston, we only had about 15 minutes to get ready. On top of that, I was delayed and missed the first elevator up. After a record stair-climb and preparation, we met in the lobby at around 6:45PM and made it to the restaurant in time, and found several already there. With more than ten staff/students/alums, the cohort was seated among them rather than together as usual. I sat next to Mary Grace and Irene Rojas-Carroll. Mary is a member of the faculty at Brown and grew up in southern California, going to college at U of San Diego. Most of you already know Irene as a successful member of the ILC. She participated in the Women and Leadership program at Brown in 2010, and is now a rising sophomore there. Since we are both from ECHS, it was great to catch up with her and talk about her experiences at Brown. One of the best things I’ve heard about Brown University is that it has an encouraging, mutual aiding school community. Everyone actively helps each other and wishes for everybody else’s success, rather than having serious competition between students like so many other college environments. I also met Kisa Takesue, instructor for the Women and Leadership program. Just a heads up for the second Brown cohort, informed us that this year, a male student has signed up for the class, which should make it more…interesting. Overall, the dinner was a wonderful and fun experience. From bonding and learning more about Brown, I feel more than ready to get the actual experience on campus, and it could not come any sooner. The orientation is this Sunday, and classes begin Monday.

Pretty good? Think again
During this exposure we’ve had to schools on the East Coast, I’ve really gotten a good feel and learned a great deal about college that I didn’t have much idea about before, and just for that I know how lucky I am. If only our school district had more assistance and resources in informing its students about colleges and giving them the skills and resources that they need to be ready for these top-notch universities. What bothers me is that most kids back home have little to no knowledge about these most of these amazing schools, and probably don’t even consider the amazing opportunities they have to offer for us when applying for college. When I return from the East Coast, I want to find some way to help students to be well-informed about different kinds of universities and promote the college-going culture. To help create a better idea, our cohort decided to divide and discuss different aspects of things to look out for when college hunting. I was assigned demographics, which can tell you what sort of people make up the student body. Demographic statistics are important because they influence a lot of school culture. A few typical questions in this area might include:
  • ·         What percentage of students accepted receive the financial aid they need?
  • ·     What is its gender/ethnicity/socio-economic distribution?: This tells you just how receptive each campus is to diversity among its student body and can also say a lot
  • ·         What is the ratio of undergraduates to graduates?: Helps to show how much the school focuses on its undergraduate population. For instance, MIT has about 2,000 more graduates than undergraduates, showing its dedication to research. After all, it is MIT, a world-renowned research institute. On the other hand, Wesleyan has around 2000 undergraduates compared to only 200 graduates. Wesleyan places its priorities with its undergrads and helping them to discover their own paths.

These past few days it feels like we’ve conquered the world—touring four breathtaking schools, exploring the East Coast, and meeting and getting to know so many accomplished people. I, for one, have been spoiled beyond belief from all the fancy lunches and dinners. As always, I’m just so grateful to the ILC for giving us this eye-opener of an opportunity.

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