Monday, July 29, 2013

Looking Back on My Adventure

Dawson (my math instructor) and I
Looking back on my ILC adventure, I realize that there are three big things I take away from it: 1) academic content from my math course, 2) a better understanding of the college admissions process/what I am looking for in a college, and 3) improved life skills.

First of all, the course "Special Topics in Math" was the whole reason I wanted to go on this trip. The course blew my expectations out of the water. When I applied, I was thinking, “That sounds like a good course.” I was wrong. It was an awesome course, the best math class I have ever taken!

In the class, we tackled a wide variety of math concepts from puzzles, to Trigonometry, to Combinatorics, to Game Theory, to Code  Encryption. Although we did a different Puzzler everyday, they always challenged me. I learned something new from each one that I can apply to other math puzzles and concepts. I always looked forward to them as a great way to start class.

My math textbook
Independent Study really helped me learn how to study for math. I have never had to study for a math test, but now, when the time comes, I will know how. Studying is all about being able to gauge what you know. Dawson (the instructor)  really helped us with that by letting us decide when we were ready to take the quiz, instead of having a scheduled quiz for each section.

Dawson’s lectures were always interesting, and highly educational. There was never a time when I wanted the lecture to be over. Through these amazing lectures, I got a sneak peek at the math I will tackle in the future from Pre-Calculus to college level math. Dawson’s awesome lectures were always reinforced by activities/competitions. Some of my favorites were Jeopardy and the two-hour Scavenger Hunt. These activities took already awesome topics, and made them 10 times more fun!

Over the course of the three weeks, we did two big projects. The “Teach the Class” project was by far the most fun and educational. It was fun to see my classmates try their hand at teaching. Some of the things I learned from teaching and watching other students' lessons include: a new way to factor a quadratic equation, how to deal with students passing notes, and how to deal with a lesson that completely failed. Dawson’s three pages of feedback afterwards were really helpful. I probably won’t ever become a teacher, but this will certainly help me teach others when they come to me for math help.

After lunch with Dyana in Philadelphia!
The second thing I got out of this program was a better understanding of what I want in a college, and the admissions process. Before going on this trip, I had no idea where I wanted to go to college. All I knew was that I want to become a Civil Engineer. Spending July 3rd with Dyana helped me make a huge leap from indecision to having a pretty good idea what I’m looking for in a college. Some of the things she discussed with us included: finding your passion, determining your interests/priorities, deciding your level of involvement, and making any given mistake once, and only once. That was just at breakfast. I learned even more from her UPenn tour and from eating lunch with her.

Talking with Kathleen (one of the Vanderbilt proctors) enlightened me about some of the opportunities in college. She is double majoring in Biomedical Engineering and Music Performance at Vanderbilt. Before talking with her, I had never thought of doing both music and engineering in college. Throughout high school, I have and continue to struggle to balance both music and engineering courses. I had never even dreamed of being able to do both in college. Now I want to go to Vanderbilt so I can do both! (Most universities do not have a School of Music and a School of Engineering, so Vanderbilt offers a very unique opportunity.)

The mock admission activity I did at Vanderbilt really helped me understand the process. In the activity, we read the profiles of four students who applied to “Red Brick University,” and then decided who to accept, reject and waitlist. What surprised me the most was that admissions officers (at least the Vanderbilt ones) practice positive advocacy. They try to find the strong points in everyone, not look for faults in everyone. I also learned that small committees narrow down the applicants, and then present them to the whole group. All the officers then vote on who to accept, reject and waitlist.

Thirdly, this trip taught me some very important life skills. One of the first things I learned was how to deal with a taxi (catching one, telling the driver where to go, paying the driver with an appropriate tip, and getting a receipt.) I got to practice this in San Francisco (for the Vanderbilt Alumni Dinner) and in D.C. to get between Union Station and the hotel.

Before the ILC, I had never written a blog before. Now that I am an experienced blogger, I realize how helpful blogging is. It really makes you think about what important things happened that day, and also gives you a written record of what happened. It may be very time consuming, but it is definitely worth it.

This trip really helped me improve my time management skills. During our week touring colleges, we got up early, and got back to the hotel rather late, but I still had to find time to squeeze in blogging. The first couple nights were a disaster: I stayed up way past midnight to finish the blogs. By the middle of that week, I was working on my blog during every bit of down time I had, so that I could get a reasonable amount of sleep. While at Vanderbilt, I used my free time wisely, so that I went to bed on time most nights.

Without the ILC, I would never have experienced dorm life until college (assuming I would go somewhere far from home, which would not be likely without my ILC experience.) Living with a roommate was definitely a unique experience. I was lucky to have a good roommate. He was very accommodating, reasonable and friendly. I was worried I would get a horrible roommate, but it turned out great instead.

I also had to do my own laundry. I help do laundry at home, but doing it full on your own is a different experience. I also had to decide when would be a good time to do laundry. This involved budgeting enough time to wash and dry, but also anticipating how crowded the laundry room would be.

Me with my proctor Hugh!
As the name suggests, the Ivy League Connection is about making connections. I made some very important connections through this trip. First and foremost, I made connections with Vanderbilt alumni at the Vanderbilt Dinner in May. If I have any questions about Vanderbilt, they were (and still are) happy to answer them. I also made connections with four Georgetown students/alumni at the Georgetown dinner we attended in D.C. One of the alumni even offered to read my college application essays!! My connection with Dawson (my math instructor) is priceless. He has offered to write me a letter of recommendation, if I so desire. I know that if I ever encounter a complicated math concept/problem, he would be able to help me. The final connection I made was with the VSA proctors, specifically Hugh (my proctor) and Kathleen. I learned a lot about college from both of them, and will definitely stay in contact with them. I will definitely take advantage of the connections the ILC helped me make!

Overall, the ILC was a life changing experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything! I've learned a lot of math, learned about the admissions process/where I want to go to college, and gained a lot of important life skills. I would like to thank Don Gosney, Charles Ramsey, Madeline Kronenberg, Mr. Mannix and anyone else involved with this program for making this amazing experience a reality. I will highly recommend the ILC to every qualified student at PVHS. I’m sure going to any college with the ILC is an awesome experience, but of course, Vanderbilt is the best one of them all! I look forward to being able to participate in the ILC next year!

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