Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Penntastic Adventure

Our day started at around 5 AM, when we woke up after getting just six hours of sleep. Soon enough we met in the lobby (6 AM) with Mr. Ramsey and Mr. Mannix. Mr. Mannix handed out our breakfasts he had bought the day before. We caught taxis to Union Station, and ate our breakfast while we waited for the train.

The train ride took about 2 hours. All of us ended up dozing off at some point, even though we tried to stay awake. It was good we napped then, as we had a long day ahead of us. When we got off the train at the Philadelphia station, we caught cabs to the Sheraton Hotel, where the Penn chaperone (Mr. Hillyer), was staying. We met up with him and had a second, sit-down breakfast. We ordered food, and called Dyana So, a current Penn student and PVHS alumni, to come join us. She soon arrived, and told us lots about the University of Pennsylvania, and college in general. Some of the things she discussed included finding your passion, determining your interests and priorities, deciding your level of involvement, and making a mistake once and only once.

Finding your passion is really important for college and life. If you are not passionate about what you do, you will not be happy, and you will not give it your all. Determining your interests and priorities, and deciding your involvement level are key for choosing extracurricular activities. In college especially, you should join clubs and get involved in activities because you want to, not because your friend has. Finally, learning from your mistakes is very important. Mistakes teach us a great deal, but only if we figure out ways to avoid that mistake in the future. This applies to all mistakes from burning your pancakes to failing a college class.

Mr. Hillyer also shared some excellent knowledge. He said that when you find out about a program, major, etc. and find yourself saying inside, "That's cool," you know you will like it and should pursue it. I had not thought about this much, but it's definitely true. If it does not interest you enough to be considered cool, you should not waste your time pursuing it. I would not have participated in the ILC if I didn't think it was "cool" and something that I wanted to do.

After our late breakfast, we headed to the Penn campus to get a tour. (Dyana was our tour guide, as that is one of her summer jobs.) When we got there, we received a red wristband to show we were part of the tour, and a couple handouts about why UPenn is a great place to go to college. The first thing that popped out at me was that UPenn is a no-loan school, meaning that UPenn does not give their students loans. Instead, they have lots of financial aid. Based on your family's income, UPenn determines how much of the cost of your education your family can pay, and UPenn pays the rest. When you graduate, you don't owe a cent. This was one of the key factors that sold me on the idea of going to UPenn. I like the idea of going to Ivy League schools, but the cost can be astronomical, and at some point, it is not worth it anymore. UPenn's financial aid for virtually everyone (except those who can afford the $50,000+ tuition per year), making the goal of attending an Ivy League college obtainable without an insane amount of debt.

The UPenn campus was amazing. Dyana's tour really brought it to life, with her energy and her experiences worked into the tour information. From her I found out that there are 4 schools within UPenn: Arts/Sciences, Penn Engineering, Business, and Nursing. Their engineering school offers a wide variety of majors from Biomedical to Computer Science to Mechanical. Unfortunately, they do not offer a Civil Engineering program, which is currently the discipline I want to pursue. However, this still made UPenn a good choice for me, as they let your declare Engineering as a major, take courses in the different types, and then decide your specific major (like Biomedical or Mechanical). Just because I think I want to do Civil Engineering now does not mean I will end up majoring in it. I like how this program gives you the chance to try out the different types of engineering and then declare a major. Just from the financial aid, and the engineering college, I was set on going to UPenn. But there were even more great aspects.

Another great part of UPenn is their libraries. They have 21 on campus, and if you need a book that they don't have, you can order it from a different Ivy League college, and they will ship it to you. UPenn is also located in the middle of Philadelphia, so it is easy to walk downtown to a restaurant or museum or really anything. Another great feature of the UPenn campus is their security. There are UPenn security officers everywhere, patrolling the campus looking for suspicious activity. There are call boxes all over campus (every 300 feet in fact), and an officer will be there within five minutes from the time someone pulls the phone off the hook. At the same time, the camera on the call box is activated, so security instantly knows what's going on. The security staff also offers Penn Walk and Penn Ride services. If it is late at night, and you don't feel comfortable walking to your dorm in the dark, there's a number you can call to get a UPenn officer to escort you for free. With the Penn Ride program, you can get the shuttle to pick you up from just about anywhere in Philadelphia, and take you to any of the buildings on campus.

After our tour, we headed to the auditorium to get an informational presentation about why UPenn is a great place to go to college and about the application process. Before the presentation started, my friend Junhui came to see us. He is currently in a Physics program at UPenn through the ILC. He was on his lunch break, and decided to stop by. He shared his experiences with his class so far, which he is really enjoying. He said it has two hours of lecture, and five hours of labs each day. He is having a blast experimenting with lasers and optics. We only had a short conversation, as he had to go get lunch, and we had to go to the info session.

From my notes--almost illegible but I can still follow it
At the info session we learned a lot about UPenn. So much, I ended up with two pages of notes on the presentation. UPenn was the first university in the US (1740), was founded by our first statesman (Ben Franklin), and located in the first capital of the United States (Philadelphia). Each year, 31,000 people apply, and 2,400 are accepted. The presenter talked about the four schools within UPenn. When he came to engineering, he asked who in the audience was interested. I raised my hand. Then he asked what kind of engineering. I said Civil, just to see what his response would be, given that they don't have a program. He said, "Well...Sorry, Civil Engineering is one of the engineering programs we don't have." Then he moved on to the next person. I was surprised that he did not try to sell me on the engineering school anyway. (I was already sold, so it did not really matter.) If I were him, I would have said, "Sorry, we don't offer Civil Engineering, but our engineering school has a broad spectrum of majors for you to try out. I'm sure you'll find something you like.”

Anyway, he then went on to what the engineering school entails. It is a four-year program, and for your senior year, you have to design a product that could be marketed and sold to fill a need. Many of these projects have become successful items that people still purchase today like M&M sorters, and retractable high heel shoes.

He also discussed a unique Penn program called co-ordinated dual degrees. By participating in these programs, you get 2 degrees in 4 years, each from a different school. They have nine dual degree programs in total including an engineering/business one that interests me called Management and Technology. The name is pretty self explanatory: it's a degree in technology, and a degree in business management. Another interesting one was called "Integrated Energy Research" (an engineering and arts/science degree combo), that focuses on the different standpoints of green energy. (environmental, scientific, economic, political, social, etc.) The program is designed to create thinkers and problem solvers for green energy.

Next, he talked about the admissions process. UPenn uses the Common Application that many universities use (hence the name.) The UPenn admissions staff first looks at your transcript. They are not looking for GPA so much as they look at the rigor of your classes, most importantly in Math, Science, History, English and World Language. Having AP classes in these areas makes your app very strong. Next, they look at your test scores (SAT and/or ACT). These do not count as much as your transcript, but are still important. At this point, they have narrowed it down to all of the qualified people, but there are still too many applicants. The third thing they look at is your common app essays. These give them insight as to who you are. In one of the essays, you have to tell them why UPenn is the right school for you. This requires research about the programs UPenn offers and what makes it unique. Fourth, they look at your letters of recommendation. They are looking for students that contribute in class, and take advantage of as many opportunities as they can--like this ILC scholarship. The last part they look at is what motivates you, and what you can add to the UPenn campus. They are not concerned with what you do, but rather why you do it.

Our presenter revealed even more benefits of going to UPenn. There are lots of internships available for Penn students. Last year 12,000 interviews were conducted on campus. Some of these internships were for research with professors, but most were with outside companies in Philadelphia. Being a UPenn alumni also has benefits. Alumni get a voice in the admissions process, and get lifetime access to the UPenn libraries.

After all that, I decided that I am going to apply and hope I get accepted to UPenn for the 2015-2016 school year. I was extremely happy with UPenn when I found out they have an awesome engineering program, and they offer financial aid for virtually all students. All the other benefits like the beautiful campus, the state-of-the-art facilities, the location, the libraries, the security and the alumni benefits are just icing on the cake, making UPenn a perfect match for me. I know that I can go to UPenn, because as my fortune said last night, "They can because they think they can." Without the ILC, I would never have even considered applying to UPenn, let alone want to go there.
Thanks Mr. Hillyer for taking our group photo!!
When the information session ended, we went to lunch at a Mexican restaurant down the street with Dyana, Mr. Hillyer, Mr. Ramsey, and of course Mr. Mannix. The food was delicious, and we asked Dyana the new questions we had after the tour and info session. I asked about the early admission process. I knew that you applied early, and got accepted early, but that was it. She explained that there are actually two types of early admissions. One is called early decision. Under this application, if I apply and get accepted to UPenn, I must go there and forfeit all other college acceptances. The other is called early application. This is not binding. (You are not required to attend if accepted.) The only reason people do not accept this offer (if they get it) is if they received better financial aid elsewhere. I know it is kind of early to say this, but I almost positive that I am going to apply to Penn under early decision.

Also at the lunch, we had a wonderful conversation with Mr. Hillyer. It turns out that he used to be a teacher at Pinole Middle. We ended up talking about the different teachers we knew from there. It was cool that Dyana knew most of the teachers we talked about, too. We talked about many teachers like Ms. Collins, Mr. Brammer and Mr. Johnson. Mr. Hilllyer also talked about his plans this coming year for teaching a leadership class. I know that most teachers would not want to do leadership, but he already has tons of projects and activities planned out. I can tell he will be great at teaching it.

After the lunch, Mr. Hillyer lead us to the Penn Bookstore. There we bought various Penn souvenirs. I was not going to buy anything, but I finally found a reasonably priced item: A blue UPenn t-shirt for $15. (Yes that may sound expensive, but other shirts were $20, sweatshirts were $33, and the hoodies were $50.)

Our outstanding visit to Philadelphia ended after our trip to the bookstore. Dyana went back to UPenn, Mr. Hillyer went back to his hotel, and the rest of us caught a taxi to the Penn Amtrak Station. We waited a little bit, and then boarded our train to Washington, D.C. The train was so crowded that we were scattered all around the car. Eventually enough people got off that we could all sit somewhat near each other. When we got to Union Station, we had to wait in line for a taxi. There were tour buses everywhere, and you could not move down the street. I was quite surprised at the crowds, but I soon realized that many of these people probably flew or rode a train to D.C. this evening so they can enjoy the celebrations tomorrow.

Our cab driver was the nicest one we have ever had. He was an elderly African-American man, who was accompanied by his wife. We had a very pleasant conversation about the colleges we were going to visit, the attractions we were going to see tomorrow, and what we plan to major in in college. The conversations made the longer than normal cab ride much more enjoyable. 

Mmm. Pizza...
Once we got back to the hotel, we rested a little bit, and then went out to find dinner. We decided to walk around the M street area to find a restaurant. We ended up walking all the way down to the Potomac River, looking at the view and looping back around. We eventually decided to get pizza. We ordered via phone and rode the bus to the pizza place. We then took our pizza back to the hotel to eat.

Tomorrow we don't have to get up quite as early (we meet in the lobby at 8:30), but we will have a long, busy day ahead of us. Washington, D.C. on the Fourth of July is going to be extremely crowded, but I'm sure we will still have lots of fun! 

1 comment:

  1. Every year we send ILCers to Penn for site visits but even when they write--as you did--that they don’t have the major you want, they still write such glorious things about Penn and how it’s now one of their top choices for applying.

    When you have an elaborate security system, it’s usually the result of something that’s gone bad or gone wrong. But the way that you--and so many others--write about Penn’s security system and how it made you all feel so safe, it negates whatever prompted them to go to such lengths to begin with. That’s so awesome.

    I’m not even going to touch on the ‘blue’ T-shirt you bought that looks so yellow in your photo. What I need to know is if that pizza tasted as good as it looks in your photo. I have to sign off now because my drool is getting all over my keyboard.