Thursday, June 21, 2012

Nothing's Classier than Vassar

Today, we not only visited out next Ivy League College, Vassar, we would also be visiting the house of our 32nd president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, also known as FDR. Not too long after FDR's death in 1945, his childhood home the Springwood Estate located in  New York's Hyde Park, had been converted into a national historic site, which would serve as our day's morning adventure. 

The morning started off fairly early at 7:15, and much like the mornings before included a quick breakfast and subway ride. After we had excited off the subway, we took a train to Hyde Park, passing by many picturesque landscapes, such as that of the Hudson river. After departing from the train station, we went by taxi to Springwood Estate and soon meet with our tour guide. 

Almost the entirety of the property had been completely and beautifully restored, and I found the estate itself to be very refined and elegant. The history that accompanied the area also added to the dignified nature of not just the Roosevelt family, but Franklin Roosevelt himself. For example, while the home was formally owned and ran by FDR's mother, Sara Delano, personally saw to it that FDR's possessions, such as his taxidermy collection, were properly displayed and maintained, resulting in a home that easily captured both FDR's character and hobbies. 

After the end of the tour we briefly took a look a FDR's personal rose garden and burial, followed by a movie detailing FDR's relationship with American people, as well as quick lunch at a small cafe within the park's main lobby. After lunch was over, we took yet another taxi to out next destination--Vassar College. 

Like UPenn and Sarah Lawrence before it, our trip to Vassar began with yet another informative seminar. While Vassar offers research opportunities, they do not have a graduate program, instead preferring to concentrate on the education of their current undergraduates. While there is not exact core curriculum, students are required to take a few required classes, such as the mandatory freshman writing course--a writing workshop that helps develop their to further develop and improve writing skills--and fulfill certain course requirements such as taking a quantitative class, a mathematics course, and a foreign language. Admissions within Vassar use the common applications and heavily factor in a student's test scores and academic history. Other requirements include at least two recommendations--one from a teacher and another from guidance counselor--evidence of leadership skills, either through clubs or other extracurricular activities, an essay explaining "Why Vassar?", and a personal statement essay. There is also the optional "Your Space" category which allows students to submit anything that they think would help their chances of getting accepted. Anything can be submitted from showcases of talent, like art works or writing, or somewhat simpler gifts such as personalized merchandise or food. Once admitted freshman receive a pre-major adviser who helps the student get accustomed to the school and their classes. After freshman year, students are required to pick a major, and are then assigned to a major adviser who then helps the student focus on majors specific studies. 20% of Vassar students pursue a double majors, while 35% of the students partake in a minor. Vassar also offers an in-city internship that pairs a student up with an internship directly related to their major, and currently 60% of  students to partake in the program. 

Personally, I find that I really enjoyed Vassar. To me it was the best of both worlds--not as big and open ended as UPenn, but not also larger and more structured than Sarah Lawrence.I really love this aspect because I  think that I would enjoy a school that would not only give me academic freedom, but also a guideline that would allow me to me more of well rounded student, rather than a specialized one. This way, I can take classes that interest me while still be motivated to study other general courses as well. I also found that the student services provided by the school is great as well--from the previously mentioned advisers to teacher fellowships to even personal librarians, the school seems to take care in the individual attention of the students. 

After the informative seminar came the tour. We visited buildings such as the library, dormitories, the Vogelstein Center theater hall, the New England building, the biology building Olmsted building, and the Rockefeller Building. We ended up having to leave our tour early to catch our train but, much like yesterday there were some slight problems with getting back to the hotel. After spending nearly an extra 45 minutes in the scorching heat, our train finally arrived and we headed home to get ready for dinner. 

Tonight we dined at the Le Bernardin, a restaurant that specializes in mainly seafood. While in the restaurant we began to discuss how we as member of the Ivy League Connection can convey what we have experienced to the rest of the district and to increase advocacy college. Eventually, we agreed on the idea of producing a film about our experiences, although as of know we have yet to work our the finer details. 

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