Tuesday, June 19, 2012

City of Brotherly Love

Even though I was the only member of the cohort that received five and a half hours of sleep, I was still exhausted as I woke up for today's adventure. Tomi and I awoke at 6:30 and were down in the lobby by 7:15. Groggy but excited, our cohort walked to the subway and made our way to Amtrak, where we brought to-go breakfast from a nearby cafe as we waited for the train. Riding on the train was nice, I didn't spend a lot of time looking outside because I wanted to catch a quick nap. After about an hour, we had arrived in Philadelphia! The train station was absolutely gorgeous and looked exactly like I imagined it would.

Waiting for the train to Philadelphia
Amtrak Information
Welcome to Philly!
After taking a taxi cab to Independence Hall, we met up with the Cornell cohort. It was good seeing my friends from school - Alex, Calvin, and Eric Wilson - and seeing the other members of the cohort, including my good friend Eric Wang. After making small talk, we were escorted into Independence Hall, where we were given a tour and information session. The first tour guide gave a quick background on the importance of the Declaration of Independence and the men who worked very hard to have it signed. I also found a fact about Benjamin Franklin very interesting: his son, William, was a very serious Loyalist, whereas Ben was a true Patriot. William even became Royal Governor but was later jailed for being a Loyalist and lost his property. Ben never forgave William for his betrayal. I found it interesting but very sad about how differing politics can split up families. The second part of the information session and tour was led by a woman, who spoke about the history of the U.S. Senate, how the presidency started, and the inauguration of the second president.

Independence Hall
Portrait depicting the signing of the Declaration of Independence

Our tour guide holding a replica of the Declaration of Independence

After the tour/information session, we said goodbye to the Cornell cohort (for now; we would meet up with them later for a bit) and took taxis to Distrio, a small Mexican restaurant. We had lunch with three U-Penn students and an admissions officer, David. I had the pleasure of sitting next to David and sitting at the same table as Aurea, Tomi, Morvarid, and Monique, a U-Penn student. Monique is a rising junior and has created her own major, which has to deal with energy. She applied to U-Penn through Early Decision after visiting the school and feeling very comfortable with the student body. David went to American University and majored in Political Science. I was eager to ask him how the admission process really worked, such as how long does it take for an admissions officer to read a file and what they look for. David said that at U-Penn, admissions officers typically take twenty-five minutes to read each file. He said that test scores are important but not as important as many people think, and that the admissions officers really look at the person and what they are about. He said there are so many great personal statements that he reads out there that he couldn't pick out "one great one", especially since everyone is different and has their own story. I found this to be relaxing advice, seeing as though I'm going to start writing my personal statement when I arrive back home in California. David also asked Tomi, Aurea, and I to talk about ourselves and state what we were interested in studying. If anyone hasn't read my bio on my info page, I am interested in studying writing, psychology, and possibly political science. Aurea is interested in study aeronomical or civil engineering and Tomi is interested in double majoring in English and astronomical physics. Ambitious, indeed!

Onward to the University of Pennsylvania! 

Lunch was only about an hour since we had to rush over to the information session, which was held inside of a cathedral. About one hundred people were at the information session. The information session was not the best because the microphone wasn't working very well and the speaker did not speak very loudly. After the information session, we headed out on a tour that was lead by Brian, a rising senior who is double-majoring in bioengineering and pre-med.

Interesting Facts about the University of Pennsylvania: 
1. U-Penn was founded in 1754 by Benjamin Franklin. Ben felt that education should serve a purpose, which is why so many Penn students are invested in service projects around the campus. 75 percent of Penn students conduct research projects as well. Benjamin Franklin is also credited as really started the liberal arts and sciences education by insisting on courses ranging from philosophy to religion. 

2. Penn has a 12-14 percent acceptance rate for a freshman class of about 2,400. There are about 10,000 students in the school. Penn students are cited as always questioning themselves and looking at how things intersect in the world. Many students are involved in extracurriculars, such as writing for The Daily Pennsylvanian or joining a sorority. 

3. There are four undergraduate schools at Penn, and when applicants apply they have to apply into a school (students apply through the Common App and complete the Penn supplement): 
  • College of Arts and Sciences - The most popular school within Penn. C.A.S. has over fifty majors, ranging from anthropology to psychology.
  • School of Nursing 
  • Wharton School of Business - Penn is the only Ivy League school to have a business school. Wharton is also the oldest undergraduate business school in the United States. 
  • School of Engineering 
Undeclared is the most popular major coming into Penn. This perked my interest because I have decided to apply into all colleges undeclared since I want to explore classes when I am a freshman. Students have to chose a major by the end of their sophomore year but are welcome to change it if they feel the need and are also given peer advisers to help them choose classes and figure out their major. Minors are offered at Penn, such as photography and American public policy. Penn also has distribution requirements, but I did not hear too much about this during the information session or tour. Penn strongly suggests students take classes in schools other than their own and have a proficiency in a language.

4. Penn only offers need-based aid like the other Ivy Leagues. If students receive a full scholarship due to financial issues, it is expected of them to work on campus or get an off-campus job as the "trade-off", which I felt was fair.

Welcome to U-Penn!
Nice fashion sense, Ben Franklin...
It IS called the City of Brotherly LOVE
Where the information session was held

Basking in the inner beauty of U-Penn

Penn Engineering
Aurea and Morvarid
Rachael Redlo (ILC Cornell 2012 - Hotel Management) and I
Last picture of University of Pennsylvania. It truly is a beautiful campus
While the rest of my cohort members were ecstatic about Penn and relaying how their wanted to start their applications already, I did not feel the same. I really loved the campus and felt excited about Penn during the lunch, but the information session and the tour did not connect well with me. Do not get me wrong, Penn seems like a wonderful school and has a vast array of majors that I'm interested in but I believe that the problem was that the tour and information session didn't scream to me THIS IS U-PENN AND THIS IS WHY WE'RE SPECIAL! I especially look for that during tours and information sessions and I was disappointed that this set didn't do that much for me. Fortunately, we are having a dinner with Penn alum and students Wednesday night, so hopefully that can spark some more interest in U-Penn for me.

After taking the train back to New York City, we had less than an hour to get ready for a fancy cohort-only dinner at Petrossian. The dinner was wonderful and the food was absolutely fantastic. We had great conversation about our schools, possibly senior quotes, what we all look for in a college, and had many great debates. Here are the top three things I look for in a college:

1. Diversity - This is very important to me. I went to an elementary school that had over fifty percent of one race, and I got made fun of for not being a part of that race. I do not want to go to a school like that for the rest of my life. I own the book The Best 367 Colleges in America and I like looking at the percentage rates for each race. If a school has a 2 percent minority rate for each minority group, that does not interest me. I feel like diversity should be a very important part of my college experience.

2. Programs for my major - Even though I am going in undeclared for every college I apply to, I am looking into schools that have good programs and classes for my interests. I feel like this is really important because even if I end up changing my mind for my major, my interests will always be my interests and I want to enjoy them when I go to college.

3. Location - I am interested in a school that is either in a city or a quiet-town that still has a city. I am not interested in attending a school that is deemed to be in the middle of nowhere.

Where we ate dinner!
Group Photo!

Black caviar - very salty!
Split pea soup
Filet Mignon with mashed potatoes and mushrooms
Apple tart with cinnamon ice cream
Ms. L!

We get to sleep in tonight, which makes me so happy I might cry of joy. Sleep is needed! Tomorrow we see Grand Central and tour Sarah Lawrence, which I have been interested in due to hearing about their great writing program!

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