Freshly back from our last dinner in Providence, the finality hasn't hit me yet. A company now nineteen strong, we set the room abuzz; gathered around the table, we swirled Shirley Temples and shared laughs, stories, and amazing food. I didn't anticipate how easily we all connected as a cohort, flowing seamlessly from Brown Session One to Two. We are, as Mr. Ramsey fittingly put it, “a family.” However, Harvard didn't seem to think so this morning.
Our tour was scheduled for 11 AM and after absorbing the interesting introduction video with all the other eager students and parents, we attempted to file out for the tour, but there was some mistake. This was a tour for families only. No, splitting up into more manageable groups between chaperones would not do. We were to please stay back and see ourselves out after everyone else had exited for their tours, singled out by a young woman who explained her motive for attending Harvard as her aversion for hearing “no”. When the tables were turned, and it was she who turned us away, we couldn't help the impressionable situation. “This must be the ILC,” she remarked. She heard we might have some questions and invited us to please ask them on our way out.
Sitting outside the admissions set-up at Sanders Theatre amid drizzle, we pondered the perplexing situation. I’m sure the ILC isn’t used to hearing “no” either, and I can't fathom a reason why such a proactive, well-connected collective of supporters—donors of time, money, and invaluable guidance—ever should.
On the off-chance, we happened upon Harvard’s Northern California representative on his way into the office. We all have to commend his patience for bringing us back inside and taking the time. We stuck to our guns, and I actively grilled him about the balances of undergraduate versus graduate teaching/priorities on campus, the community’s distinguishing factor from that of other top-tier colleges, largest freshman intro course sizes, etc., basically to the extent that we achieved an unofficial hour-and-a-half-long private information session. The ILC experience has so changed my college perspective, that after a few tours, I know exactly what to ask.
From our self-facilitated virtual guide, my impression was that while the university fosters 400+ different club organizations, academic and athletic excellence, and a diversity on both the ethnic and interests levels, Harvard has its own way. And I really do mean that in more than one sense—one of them referring to brand recognition, and another meaning that this is not a college sending off the vibe or adaptability or “go with the flow” philosophy. Some important self-consideration in the search process is if we’re after a college for the name or for the experience, and it's okay to be honest enough to point out that it depends on the business.