Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Experience...

...doesn't end right here.

There are still tons of things that are going on that will add to what's happened in the last few weeks - college apps mostly. After going through two summers of hard coursework, great people, and new insights, there are a ton of experiences that can be shared and should be shared so that everyone can also get the most out of the college search.

The last 3 weeks have been growing experiences for me - well I'm only 17, I should be growing in everything I do. This year, I've been able to maintain that relaxed atmosphere of summer, but still find challenges in classwork and in college searches. Like I've said in previous posts, I've got a pretty good idea of what I like and dislike in a college, and I'm able to use those tastes to discern and identify colleges that would provide a good learning environment for me. After all, everyone is after one thing: Knowledge.

The college search is like a cryptogram. They all have the same message, "Knowledge," but each school has a different cipher, a different way of encoding that message. Some code it through a core curriculum, some code it through freedom of choice. Some present it as intense academia, some present it as vibrant social scenes. In all these cases, the code may seem arduous and imposing to decipher, but we all have our own "key" which can decode the message they're trying to send. That key is an accumulation of personal experiences, of hopes and dreams, of failures and tears, of frustration, of peace; each is a unique solution to the cipher. Our key may work faster or easier at cracking the one code than another, and maybe their will be a school which we can un-mystify immediately.

But the only way to really know which college is good for us is to look into who we are as a person and make a decision based on what we want. Although prestige is something that when given a passing glance, can make or break the decision whether or not to apply to a school, it's not everything. If someone wants to apply based on prestige, go for it, they can't go wrong with a big name school in terms of education. But after meeting with Mercedes today over lunch to talk about admissions, I believe that to get the most knowledge out of an institution, one must be proactive in that quest for knowledge and learn about the school before applying there. There are too many cases of students applying to 10+ schools because they all have good *fill in the blank* programs. And in the end, when they get into some of these schools, they realize that most of the schools they had applied to, if they knew more about them, they would never want to go to.

In the end, for myself, I don't want to turn burnout doing college apps. From learning about the mistakes of others and combined with the positive experiences I've had, I'm going to be starting early on apps, not applying to too many schools, not adding a school to the list because it "sounds good" or because "I might at least try"; I'm pretty set on only applying to the schools that I want to go to. I want to avoid the mishaps that comes from not having a clue about what I'll be doing, and I want to make sure the people around me don't do anything ridiculous either.


Charles Tillman Ramsey said...

Sage advice from a mature soul. Dennis I am glad that you used your gut and decided to spend two summers with us in the Ivy League Connection. We could not have asked for a better ambassador for our flagship program.

From reading your post, you are empowered and have your destiny designed in your own head. This is powerful and will help filter out the nonsense that comes with the sickening madness in applying to highly selective colleges. As you state, this is your time and this is your moment. You will make the call and no one else.

No need to apply to a multitude of colleges, hell, you can only attend one. So, yes it sweet, but keep it simple. I hope others will follow your logic. As I said before you are a young man, so what if you are only 17, that has provided other ILC students with sage advice.

In the end, I would not be surprised if you decide to do Early Decision or Early Action. No matter what, it will be your decision. I look forward to finding out.

Glad that you had a great time both at Brown and Columbia. You got a lot out of being with us on the East Coast.

Dennis, enjoy the rest of your summer.

Take care.

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

Madeline Kronenberg said...


You said it well.

The college search is a "cryptogram" -- (so are the other searches in your life -- career, mate, etc.) -- we are always looking for the elusive cipher.

It's clear to me from reading your post that you are becoming quite clear. You're a bright, disciplined young man with a wonderful future ahead of you. I'm confident that you have the ability to uncover your own "ciphers" -- and help others discover theirs.

As Mr. Ramsey said, you have been a great ambassador for the ILC -- and I know you have all the talents for a remarkable future.

Keep us in the loop as you make your choices -- both early and final. We're there rooting for you.

Don Gosney said...


You’re not the same Dennis Shem we sent east last year.

It’s just my opinion, Dennis, but since I’m writing these comments MY opinion is the only one that counts. By far you’re the oldest of our 27 ILC participants this year. You’re able to see things less as a 17 year old and more as a 27 year old. I appreciate reading blogs from someone who’s pragmatic and has an understanding of things.

Your comments about finding the right fit for a college applicant is SO right on, Dennis. I’m sure that even the colleges and universities would rather that the applicants exert a little more effort in learning about the schools they apply and eventually attend. It would cause them a lot less grief in the long run. Everyone wants happy and content students and could do without students who second guess their choice.

One of the worst things an applicant could do is to allow their parents to have any say in the selection process. Guiding your child is one thing but trying to control their destiny is a recipe for disaster. Cloning humans is still illegal so parents need to quit trying to turn their children into duplicates of themselves. Deciding for their kids what school, what major and what classes they’ll be involved with is like picking their future spouse for them. Yes, sometimes it works but mostly it pushes the kids and their parents farther apart.