Saturday, June 27, 2009

Fits Like A Glove

Today was spent visiting colleges around the Boston area, namely Tufts, MIT, and Harvard. I first want to say that all the constructive feedback we've been receiving on our blog posts have been taken with an open mind, and as a contingent, we've figured out for the most part what we can do to improve on our blogs. It was just overwhelming at first to have to cover such a wide range of topics each blog post but now I believe that we will be able to give insight to what we each feel about our experiences.

So our first stop was Tufts. Wow what a beautiful campus it was. I was so shocked to see how empty it was too. Almost all the buildings were closed for the weekend, and not very many students were seen on campus. However, the weather today was absolutely perfect in the morning, and I think it definitely helped give us a "perfect" picture of the beauty of the campus. After Mr. Ramsey was able to find a student to talk to us for a bit, the thing that stuck out to me was still just the beauty of the campus.

Next was MIT. We had a great tour guide named Eric who was a Hercules High graduate. He shared so many personal stories and his vast knowledge about the MIT culture. He really helped me capture the idea that MIT is a rigorous, intense, and very difficult academic environment. But after inquiring about social life, I was able to find out that it's not completely out-of-reach to have one. A lot of the culture at MIT centers around traditions and quirks that I found really interesting. Each building has its own history and even though I'm not an intended math or science major, I really wish I could go to MIT. The ways that the students keep the school fun and exciting really fits with how I feel that school should be.

Our last stop was Harvard. Our guide was another Hercules High grad named Peter who had his own kind of twist on the campus life. It was more of an "it's there" type of attitude which really conveyed the kind of humor that can still be found on even the most "serious" of college campuses. I really liked it because well, it's Harvard. Stepping into Harvard Yard and onto the streets around it, I felt like this was what I was looking for in a college, it was a good fit.

I've been talking a lot about fit. And I think I realized that fit was more important than the scores universities require or the prestige early in my college search. I also think it's because that the latter two were easy for me to grasp. I knew I was able to get good grades and good scores early, and I also knew what a prestigious school was. So when figuring out what college I would want to go to, all I really had to think about was fit - right from the get go.

So what do I mean by fit. I'm talking about the location of the school, the people who attend it, what there is to do when you're not in class, accessibility to the city or teachers or jobs, traditions and things they don't tell you in college tours. Which is why I was so glad to have tours not given by the admissions office staff; we were able to get a more personal and reflective look at schools rather than the scripted highlight reel given to the masses. At both MIT and Harvard, when there was something interesting, we were able to actually stop and talk about it, rather than get moved along from place to place. We could ask more personal questions about how they dealt with the pressures and could receive more personal answers that sometimes talked about the school in a darker light.

I've had the good fortune, because of the Ivy League Connection, to be on two different campuses over the summers, Columbia and Brown. They're extremely different. Columbia is in the urban metropolis New York City, and Brown is in the small city of Providence. Two very contrasting schools that have very many things to offer. By being on both I've been able to see how each one may or may not fit me. I like the accessibility, closeness, and busyness of New York, but I also disliked the claustrophobic nature of Columbia's campus. On the other hand, I love the open and free nature of the Brown campus and curriculum, but I loathe the fact that Providence isn't the most exciting city or the fact that the beach is an hour away.

So as you can see, this may be why I like Harvard so much; The college reminds me a lot of Berkeley. Cambridge is like to Boston, what Berkeley is to San Francisco. A college town that's like a suburb to the larger city, but on its own is self-sustaining and has a plethora of things to do. Walking around Harvard Square, I was reminded of the environment that surrounded Columbia and UC Berkeley. A subway station right next to campus and a whole area of shops and cafe's that keeps the area active. Boston is between Providence and New York in size, which gives me that balance I'm looking for; A school where work meets play. Where when you're not busy doing problem sets, you can go hang out downtown. Where if you don't want to study in your room, you can study at the cafe across the street. Where if you don't want to outright work at all one day, you can go to the main quad and find something to do that day or join a pick-up game with some people.

It would have been a lot harder for me to discover this fit for me if I hadn't been fortunate enough to be a part of the program and be able to visit these colleges that are all nearby. If not for this program, I wouldn't have been able to understand how hard people have to work to get into these schools nor would I have realized that certain schools click better with my personality than others.

Just on a side note: The food for dinner today was delicious and I can not question Mr. Ramsey's taste in fine dining.

1 comment:

Charles Tillman Ramsey said...


Very much enjoyed our day. You were fabulous with directions and made a potentially nightmarish driving experience in the Boston area as smooth as possible. I could not have done it without you!

Your post reads like a dream. You provided relevant detail and gave us valuable feedback as to what made a difference on the day. Your comments about having a personal tour guide who were past district graduates has cemented my resolve to always use this as a model when possible.

No we did not have any current students at Tufts and yes it felt that the school had no life. I must say that I have never been on a campus that seemed utterly deserted. Nonetheless, I grabbed the two students that we saw and had them provide us some information. For me, Tufts is a school for students looking for an educational oasis.

Please continue to share your thoughts and show this post to the other Brown ILC students, they could learn a great deal from it. This is exactly what I want to read and your comments allows me to show other school board members how we can set policies that speak to your need.

This post provides that direction and helps me better understand why the Ivy League Connection is so vital and needed for highly motivated students in our district.

Thanks for sharing.

Charles T. Ramsey, Esq.
School Board Member
West Contra Costa
Unified School District