Sunday, July 28, 2013

Getting Off the Roller Coaster

The roller coaster has come to a stop. After the initial descent of visiting colleges and zooming around the twists and turns of my class, it is finally over. It was a fun experience; nerve-wracking in places, but amazing overall. This was truly an amazing opportunity. It isn't everyone who can say they got to study at one of the top universities in the nation over the summer. The class itself was wonderful. It focused on learning. It didn't care about assessment. Learning was the goal. In the interview, months ago, that got me in to this program, I said that I loved learning. This class was the perfect fit. It answered so many questions I had about how the world works. I felt like I learned how to think more deeply. I felt like I have a much better grasp on what science really is. It is not getting some specific answer. It is about learning how the universe works. I would certainly recommend this class to future people. It was fully worth it.

However, I don't think that I will do ILC next year. The main reason for this is the classes offered. Physics was the class on the list that really caught my eye. Furthermore, physics seems to be the only class that focuses purely on learning. While I haven't read everybody else's blogs in depth, it seems like there is a larger component of assessment in the other classes. The focus on learning was a major reason why I liked this class. In addition, a smaller component of why I would not do ILC next year is what I had to do to get in. Many of the events before I came to the East Coast were a pain to go to. I am not sure that I would be willing to put up with Evil Don's emails to go to a class I'm less interested in. However, if you are a future student, if there's a class that you are really interested in, do not let this deter you. 

There a a couple things I would change about how the Ivy League Connection functions. First of all, I would create deadlines. Admission to schools this year was supposedly much more of a pain, since many people did not apply promptly. While I did get in in a reasonable timeframe, it was still perhaps later than would be preferred. In my opinion, the main reason admissions were an issue was because we had very little idea when we were supposed to complete them by. After the interview, Don told us to check the website for admission information. On the website, it said the deadline was June 1. I realized that completing it early would be a good idea, but I set a mental deadline of April 1, since I didn't have much experience. At the beginning of March, Don sent us emails asking why we hadn't been accepted yet. I would recommend that in the future, after interviews, Don tells us "The website may say June 1, but for our purposes your application is due February 1." This would give us a decent amount of time to get them in along with making sure they got in at a more reasonable time. Really, this deadline idea applies to most things we had to do for ILC. If you want us to do something tell us when to do it by. "Soon" is too vague. I would also tell students more about what to expect. Perhaps it is new this year, but we had to send rather a lot of information to Don. Don did not communicate much of last year's information to us, so I didn't know what to expect very well. One thing I would not change is blogging. While at the beginning I though that it was a pain, now I think that it is quite valuable. I wouldn't quite call it fun... perhaps enjoyable. While it does take up a bit of time each day, it is a good part of the program. Future students: it may feel onerous at first, but stick with it. It gets to be natural.

As I get off this roller coaster, I am thankful to ILC and to Penn for such a great experience. When I first applied, I was sort of lukewarm about the idea of going and taking this class. I figured that I should apply, and if I didn't get in the decision would be made for me. Soon enough I had gotten in. I was caught up in the ILC process, and suddenly I was here at Penn. If any future students are in a similar position, go for it. Apply. Try to get in. If you don't get in, it's a valuable low stakes practice at college admissions. Practicing interviews and essays is almost always a good idea. If you do get in, it is a great program. It exposes you to a wonderful learning environment. My main complaint is that regular school next year will probably feel boring by comparison. Go for it. Get in line for the roller coaster.

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