How to Ace the SAT

The following is an article I wrote that will be published next week in my town’s newspaper!

It elicits groans. It incites fear and angst. It creates feelings of stress, anxiety, and pressure. And of course, it’s the SAT. The infamous standardized test is a necessary evil for high school students across the nation. But with patience, persistence, and practice, it can be outsmarted. It can certainly be aced.

I first took the SAT examination in March 2014, just before the spring of my junior year. However, at the time, I was academically underprepared. The night before the exam, I bawled and bawled and bawled. I had yet to master time management and the other key test-taking techniques. And ultimately and unfortunately, my score was only half as high as I would have liked it to be. I was upset, and I knew I had to improve. The question was, “how?” With the help of an assortment of books from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the local library, and my English teacher’s bookshelf, I slowly began to boost my scores and enhance my test-taking skills. I became a Critical Reading, Math, and Writing wiz. And it was all thanks to intense daily periods of “lucubration,” as one would say on the SAT. Practice makes perfect, and the following resources and tips are sure to improve your standardized test-taking habits and slowly inch you closer to that coveted 2400 score.

1) Obtain a copy of “The Blue Book.”

The “Blue Book” is student jargon for The Official SAT Study Guide. It’s an incredibly useful resource, as it features 10 actual SAT tests that have been released by the College Board, the company behind the SAT, SAT Subject Tests, and AP examinations. In terms of learning the format of the real SAT, this is the best book in town. As they are formerly administered examinations, the questions and level of difficulty are akin to what students will see on the actual SAT. “The Blue Book” is the way to go if you need to practice the exam itself.

2) Purchase a review book from a reputable company.

Besides taking actual SAT tests, it is important for students to learn the ins and outs of the exam. They need to know how to strategize, how to manage their precious time wisely, and how to solve those tricky level 5 geometry problems. For me, The Princeton Review offered the most concise yet comprehensive review of the SAT. It presents information in a friendly, easy-to-understand tone. And even better, it’s test questions are highly similar to those students will see on the actual SAT. Another review guide I highly recommend is Grammar Smart, which covers the proper usage of the English language in general, not just on the SAT. This proved of great help on the SAT Writing section, and explains grammatical subjects like parallelism, idioms, mood, and verb tense.

3) Get Flash Cards!

Thanks to Amazon.com and my English teacher’s bookself, I was able to go through two boxes of essential SAT vocabulary words. I quite liked Barron’s SAT Vocabulary Flashcards as well as The Princeton Review’s Essential SAT Vocabulary, which contain over 500 cards each. I learned strange words like “prosaic,” “quiescence,” and “picayune.” Flash cards are a fresh, innovative, and fun way to develop your vocabulary, as you can use them to quiz and play games with your friends. They’re small enough to be carried in your backpack and are a great, compact way for students to study for the SAT on the go.

4) Read books for fun.

Between my last SAT examination and now, I have read maybe 10,000 pages worth of literature. Over the summer vacation, my AP English teacher assigned advanced works like Anna Karenina, Gulliver’s Travels, and Oedipus Rex. She also made us read magazines like The New Yorker, Harper’s, and The Atlantic in our spare time, and compose journal entries on each of the articles we had read. At the time, it was a nuisance for me and my peers. However, in the end, the innumerable assignments proved useful, because reading improves your vocabulary immensely and also introduces you to different writing styles, genres, and literary time periods. Reading for pleasure can really be helpful to students taking the SAT, as an array of writing passages are to be expected. Reading has infinite benefits — and those benefits will go far beyond the SAT.

5) Surf the Net

The internet is an infinite resource full of tips, tricks, and other information to help students ace the SAT. SparkNotes.com is a wonderful resource, providing examples and critiques of great SAT essays especially. YouTube has also proved to be helpful with its innumerable SAT advice videos and tutorials. There are also free SAT questions and tests on CollegeBoard.org.

In my opinion, students do not need pricey tutors to succeed on the SAT. As shown above, there are a plethora of resources to prepare for the exam. The SAT Math section does not extend beyond geometry; all the student really needs is a brushing up on skills and the memory. Additionally, I believe that good verbal and analytical skills come with reading more advanced literature, essay writing in the classroom, and of course, intense studying. It is entirely possible to obtain a high score on the SAT, but students just have to look for the resources and devote their time to exam preparation. I feel confident that by following this advice, candidates will be lead towards that coveted 2400. You are now ready to take the SAT.

An Interview to Remember

Today was a fairytale. A dream come true. An interview to remember – a college interview that is.

A few days ago, I received an email from Brown University inviting me to New York City for an interview. I was enthralled — even though pretty much everyone who applies is offered an interview. But it’s such an interesting experience to chat with an alumnus, as it allows me to get to know the university a little bit better.

Anyway, Brown University sent us to this very posh building in downtown Manhattan to conduct our interviews. I have to admit, I was surprised. I was hardly expecting to enter a college interview feeling like a pampered princess. The event was very well-organized, while the ambience was classy yet welcoming.

The entrance of the building was very inviting. There were balloons emblazoned with Brown’s logo everywhere, which I thought was a charming detail. When I arrived, the doorman of the building sent me to an upper floor, where I signed in and was greeted by the coordinator of the event. She gave me a name-tag (which I’m still wearing at the moment). I wish I had my camera and took one of those free Brown pens.

I actually got lost on the way to the interview session. I somehow ended up in a building on another street corner, that was coincidentally also conducting interviews for the day. However, the place reeked of cigarettes and everyone was twenty-five. I quickly left, and used a hotel’s computer to find the right building.

But back to the Brown interview. Like I said, it was in a very high-end office building. My interviewer informed me that it was the former headquarters of The New York Times, which came to me as no surprise. The atmosphere was elegant and décor was modern and sleek. After I signed in, I went into a spacious waiting area, where two Brown alumni led a very insightful Q & A session. One was a lawyer, while the other was working as a venture capitalist. Fancy.

They were very reminiscent about their time at Brown, and had nothing but enthusiasm for their alma matter. Most of the alumni I talked to mentioned having only positive experiences with Brown. At some points, one speaker actually slipped out a curse and even brushed upon some touchy topics. The conversation was all very open and relaxed. Overall, they were warm, sociable, and personable, and just exude happiness. 

Within the room, there were also about 60 other applicants – although I believe there were many more, as I arrived close to noon and the event started two hours earlier. And wow was I underdressed! I saw one boy outfitted in a full suit and tie ensemble. Most of the other students were very chic and stylish. The girls wore trendy dresses while the guys wore neat slacks. I’ll be sure to take notes for my next college interview.

And of course, there was no shortage of accomplished students. The alumni made us go around in a circle discussion our interests and activities. Many students played musical instruments (violin mainly), some  played soccer, one girl did poetry slam, and then another wrote a paper of femininity. These kids are going to go far! I know they will. The boy I was sitting next to was taking copious notes during the Q & A session. The speakers were quite impressed.

I was the only student who wanted to “concentrate” in French Studies, while the overwhelming majority of other students expressed interest in biology, economics, engineering, and political science. Two others were interested in literary arts and English.

Where it all begins!

In the interim, we were also served coffee and lots of sumptuous food — munchkins, bagels doughnuts, and other desserts. You could tell a lot of money and resources were funneled into the event. Brown definitely likes to keep its alumni connected.

Anyway, about an hour and half later, I was called in for my private interview.  There were interviewers of all ages/graduation years at the event. Mine had graduated several years ago, and studied American and Latin American History. She was a true scholar, on her way to earning her PhD to become a professor. I really liked her. To use an SAT vocabulary word, she was erudite.

I’m pleased to say that our conversation flowed like water. She was impressed that I wanted to major in French Studies, and proceeded to inform me about all the professors who would be of benefit me. We talked about immigration in France, affirmative action in the French constitution, literature, and Paris. We had a lengthly conversation, and sometimes she went off on intellectual tangents (it was entertaining!). She was hyper enthusiastic, and definitely exemplifies all the qualities of a Brown graduate.

I’m glad I met her. At Brown, she most appreciated her accessible, caring professors, and expressed admiration for Mrs. Ruth Simmons, the former president of the university.

Brown has a completely “Open Curriculum,” meaning that students can take whichever classes they want outside of their “concentration.” She said that the curriculum could be a potential drawback to students, as it could be too unrestrained. She ended up having to learn statistics/other mathematics at her current university. She then explained to me that at Brown, many of the students were from upper-crust society, and she was happy that the university was moving towards more diversity.

Providence, Rhode Island – Brown’s Hometown

In the end, I fell in love with Brown. Despite a few drawbacks, it sounds like a very positive, upbeat, and open institution, and I’m sure I would enjoy my experience.

True That

My Literary Paradise

A Favorite Quote

Greetings to all! The following post is my official college essay. It took months of perfection, and I hope you like it!

Common Application Topic: Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?

Within ten minutes walking distance of my home is a sanctuary – a place of solitude, abundance, bliss, wonder, and repose. It is brown-and-white brick and “read” all over. And throughout the years, I – regrettably, yet for good reason – have contributed no less than one hundred dollars in penalties. Housing over one thousand books and tomes, that spot is my local library – a literary safe haven of my very own.

Almost since the day I was born, I have cherished the written word. I found joy in my mother reading aloud to me – anything from the story of Heidi to Judy B. Jones. With the turn of a page, I have voyaged 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, stayed In Touch with the latest celebrity gossip, and savored the haute cuisine of Eataly.

At the library, I am surrounded, swimming in a sea full of literature from five-thousand BC to the twenty-fifth century. But not only is the library a figurative escape from my everyday life. The books contained are timeless, powerful tools of change. They have been my outlets to adventure and shock. They have been instruments of transformation within my personal beliefs. Thanks to its sheer diversity, the library has allowed me to discover worlds unstudied and unknown, to expose me to the harshest realities that I seek to change. I carry what I’ve read throughout this journey of life.

I’ll never forget one day walking through the stacks, and stumbling into a section of food-and-drink. I scanned the selection, making sure to pick up The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Fast Food Nation, and even Eat This, Not That. Little did I realize that this seemingly random assortment of books would impact the way I eat, shop, think, and reflect. I quickly unearthed a horrifying reality.

I traced the journey of a fast food meal from farm to plate. I uncovered the plight of agricultural laborers, the treatment of livestock, and so much more. I discovered the hidden underbelly of the American food industry, a reality that I wished to change with my lifestyle. I began to shop and eat with a conscience, implementing the knowledge gained at trips to the farmers-market and grocery store. And thankfully, this change can all be attributed to the diversity and adventure of my local library.

But not only have the joys of books served to change the way I eat; they’ve also aided in my connection with relatives and friends. Nicole Kraus’s The Nanny Diaries is a hilarious favorite. My cousin Linseigh saw me reading it, and ended up devouring the work herself. And then there’s Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman, a novel about the art of French parenting. I shared it with my beloved French “professeur” Madame Zuclich – and we often bring up the title to enliven our class discussions about French culture. I bond over books, and the many works I’ve discovered at my literary paradise have only served as sources of friendship, inquiry, laughter, and joy.

Above all, my favorite part of the literary hideaway is the travel section. So far, at the library, I have journeyed to the almost all two hundred nations on the planet. Through my beloved travel guides – from Lonely Planet to Berlitz – I’ve voyaged from Greenland to Antarctica, India, the Cook Islands, and ever beyond. I have discovered my favorite New York City restaurants – Burmese “Mingala” and Ethiopian “Awash” – thanks to a dogeared copy of Zagat. And issues of Time Out New York have driven me to visit the city’s dazzling array of art galleries and museums. I love to globe-trot and explore, and the library – with its infinite range of books and periodicals – piques my constant curiosity and rouses my desire to sightsee and travel.

The books of the literary hideout are outlets for my adventurous soul. No matter what the season or where I go, the written word is my mainstay, my second home.

Butler Library at my dream school Columbia University

And the College Application Process Comes to a Close….

Beebe Lake, Cornell University

Greetings to all my readers! And a Happy New Year!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday! The past two weeks have been a whirlwind. I’ve been exploring New York City endlessly and enjoying the Christmas festivities, as well as finishing up my many college applications (which is what this post is all about!).

I submitted my college applications last night to seven extraordinary institutions (amongst others earlier) – and I’m thrilled with them all. I feel that the college application process is simultaneously daunting and fun. I generally love to write, but sometimes, it can be a struggle to come up with an articulate response to a question – and the word limits aren’t helpful either. But in the end, I was happy with what I produced. My essays are genuine and sincere, and they reflect who I am as an individual.

Columbia University – The Prettiest Campus Ever

I learned a lot about myself throughout this process. I figured out my loves, likes, and dislikes, along with what I really wanted to study. I actually kind of enjoyed it, dare I say.

Picturesque

At first, it was a struggle to write the main Common Application essay. It requires enormous amounts of time, editing, opinions, and precision. I think I wrote a total of three Common App essay samples, and I ended up submitting the one that was the truest to my heart. I first tried to rework a philosophical “Walden” paper that I wrote in AP English during my junior year, but it needed more personality, depth, and oomph. Then I wrote about my weight – but a few people, while telling me it was overall well-written, warned me that it may come across as cliché and a bit insignificant, shall I say.

Scenes from Cornell

I finally settled on a topic that was near and dear to my heart – reading. Yes, I wrote an essay about how much I liked going to the library. It’s my place of bliss, joy, and satisfaction. But I also talked about how books are a huge part of who I am today – how they’ve aided in my personal growth and developed my interests, and how they’ve helped me to connect with others. I knew that this was the right choice. So, I ended up submitting my library essay to my colleges. And I’m fully satisfied with it. It was simple; it was me.

A College or a Postcard?

I also had an overwhelming number of supplements to write – maybe about 20. Some short, one-sentence responses and some fleshed-out 650-word essays describing my intellectual interests. But in the end, I actually enjoyed the process of writing them. It took lots of rereading, rewriting, and editing, but ultimately, it was fun to express myself in new ways. I worked tirelessly on these things, and hopefully those admissions officers like what I wrote as much as I do.

An Image of Honfleur, France – To represent my major in French!

I her back from colleges in late March, and I have decided that I am going to wait to open all my application letters at the same time. I applied to a total of around 13 splendid schools, and I could see myself attending them all. It’s going to be hard to make a decision (provided that I get into my top choices, of course). Finding out where I get in is going to be a moment of shock and pure joy, and I want my friends and family there to watch and cheer, support and console.

I’m excited to hear back. I gives me chills just thinking about it. The waiting period should be the easiest part of this process, but I’m still agonizing at the same time. I guess I’m just going to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

Stanford University – So Pretty I Didn’t Apply

P.S.

After I submitted my applications, I danced and danced and danced. I celebrated. I partied to my favorite songs. This is the song I listened to immediately as I was done. It’s called  “We Found Love” by the Palma Violets (hailing all the way from England). I love indie rock. And you should hear it. Here’s my favorite picture of them:

Palma Violets

 Au revoir et Bonne Année!

Lake Waban

 

Columbia University – An Official Essay

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Topic — Please tell us what you find most appealing about Columbia and why

Tucked away in quiet Morningside Heights is a little green haven I would like to call home for the next four years: Columbia University. Since my junior year tour, I have had a love affair with the institution, especially for its world-class academics. The Core Curriculum, the most celebrated aspect of the Columbia experience, provides the best mechanism to produce a diverse, well-rounded individual. And the ability to explore multiple disciplines in courses like “Frontiers of Science” and “Art Humanities” — even if they do not pertain to my major — is immensely appealing.

Another course I am eagerly anticipating is “Literature Humanities” – which typifies Columbia’s celebration of the art of literature. As an avid reader myself, I realize that at Columbia I would have the opportunity to not merely read some of history’s Great Books — Don Quixote, The Illiad, and more — but to engage in the incredible experience of discussing these revolutionary texts with a like-minded student community.

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One of my prospective majors is “French and Francophone Studies,” and I believe that there is no better place to hone my language skills than Columbia University — a microcosm of the world! Columbia’s student body is bursting with international flavor, making it an extra special place to study a language. With Columbia’s emphasis on studying abroad, I would even have the option to perfect my skills at legendary French institutions, including the Sciences-Po or the Sorbonne — or on campus in unique courses like “Poesie Francophone D’Afrique.” And outside Columbia’s urban campus, the opportunities for French cultural interaction are endless at lectures, film screenings, and exhibitions at La Maison Française or the Alliance Française.

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With Columbia University’s focus on structured learning, I know that I would graduate as an insightful, well-versed individual, equipped for life’s challenges. Columbia is truly an otherworldly institution, and I would be delighted to call it home for the next four plus years!

The Search for the Perfect College

There is a myth that senior year is supposed to be fun, relaxing, enjoyable, and carefree. Well, that myth that needs to be demystified. So far, senior year has equated to nothing but stress, agitation, piles of homework, sleep deprivation, and most importantly, an endless series of college applications. Senior year, for me, has been full of fear and worry about college. I fear rejection and failure, although I know I’ll end up somewhere I like.

Part of the reason I’m stressed is because I’m taking a whopping five AP courses. AP Biology, AP French, AP Microeconomics, AP English Literature, and AP Calculus AB. AP French is my favorite, and I have officially chosen French as my college major. There’s nothing quite as engrossing as learning a second language. AP English has been light and enjoyable, as I have always loved reading. AP Calc is difficult, and I have to study for it more than any of my other AP courses. But thankfully, I have a great grade in the class. I’m lost in AP Microeconomics. It’s pretty much all mathematics, and I had no idea that’s what I was signing up for. And then there’s AP Biology, the bane of my existence. I came into that class wanting to be a Biology major, and now, I have emerged as a French major. Quite a different path. This year, I have come to the realization that I do not like the sciences. Before, I wasn’t too sure, but now having studied biology in-depth in this course, I definitely do not like science. If I’m going to study one subject for the next four years, it better be something that I love.

Speaking of college, I have been working nonstop on my college applications since August 1st, the same day that the new Common Application was released. I rewrote my Common App essay two times, and even some of my writing supplements. I applied early decision to Columbia University (where I have been wanting to attend for several years) and every day, I am plagued with thoughts that I should just withdraw my application. Every day, I wonder if my essays could just be a little tighter, my SAT score a little higher. But I know Columbia University is my first choice of college, and I should just go for it. Columbia is a dream come true.

I’ve also planned on applying to Princeton, Yale, Harvard, Dartmouth, Cornell, and the University of Pennsylvania. Too much choice. In addition, I will apply to Hunter College in NYC, CUNY Macaulay Honors program, New York University, University of Connecticut Fordham University, Drexel, UC Berkeley, and Stanford. I know I have way too many colleges on this list, but the thing is, some of the essays topics overlap, and I need to make sure I have enough safety options.

I quite like my Common Application. I’m extremely happy with the extracurriculars I’ve pursued, and I think that they highlight my passion for writing, journalism, dance, and health. I am slightly dissatisfied with my SAT score, but I can retake it in December (and the ACT too). I was torn between two main essay topics, but I think I went with one that was a little more touching and personal. I have completed many of my writing supplements, but not most. I still have a little more to go.

I’ll make sure to keep you updated on my college search. I’m going to hear back from Columbia on December 15, and I am praying for a positive result. Hopefully, you will be able to find me on 116th and Broadway real soon….

P.S.

On a super random note, I would like to tell you how I destress. I love listening to music, and right now, my favorite musical acts are Pearls Negras (an all-girls rap trio from Brazil), F(x) (a Korean girl group), Beach Day, and Kiesza. I beg you to listen to them all!

Drexel University

image    I have yet to visit a college that I dislike. From Connecticut to New York City to Pennsylvania, each college that I tour has its own unique offerings that greatly detract from any potential flaws. Drexel University is just one of the many colleges that I am visiting this summer on my grand Northeastern tour, and it has certainly been one of my most memorable experiences to date.

Drexel University is a fast-paced urban academic institution of higher learning, situated in the heart of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, an utterly charming city. Its student body comprises over 26,000 students, including 14,800 undergraduates, 4,600 graduates, and another 5,000 online students. It is a huge, thriving university. Approximately 200 degree programs are offered by the institution, and there are over 15 individual schools distinguished by the student’s choice of major. Almost every major under the sun is available for study at Drexel, but perhaps the school is most notable for its prominent science and engineering programs.

Drexel especially emphasizes the participation of the student in scientific research, as it pertains to his or her major. Over $110 million is donated in sponsor support each year toward research. This facet is just one of the highlights of the university’s offerings.

My Drexel University information session was led by an articulate and persuasive education major who was currently employed in Drexel’s admissions office. He demonstrated nothing but passion and enthusiasm toward his alma matter, which certainly left a positive impression upon the audience.

Firstly, Drexel offers top-notch academic programs that provide the student with hands-on learning outside of the classroom walls. Perhaps Drexel’s most notable program (which encouraged me to visit the university) is the co-op, a term that stands for cooperative education. A co-op is basically an internship opportunity available exclusively to Drexel students. The co-op can be paid or unpaid, depending upon the specifications of the companies at which the students intern. For companies such as MTV, there are just too many interns working that payment cannot be provided, whereas at smaller firms, payment is usually possible. Most internships average around $15,000 to $16,000 per year, which is quite a good sum of money for a college student. All students are required to participate in this particular program, which extends the traditional 4 years of college into a total of 5 years! I find that this is the ultimate educational experience, especially for someone who is looking to network in college to attain easier connections to jobs.

All Drexel students are required to co-op at three different time periods during their years at the university. The co-op will typically pertain to the student’s choice of major, so as to gain the student some experience in that particular field of study. For example, a pre-law student hailing from California spent her first year interning in her home state for Jails to Jobs, a pro-bono service that helps former prisoners in the search for employment. Another student (my tour guide), who was studying criminology, was taken by her professors to grisly crime scenes (a la CSI), murder trials, and even a functioning jail. After that firsthand experience, the student later traded criminology for the much less ghastly communications. This hands-on experience that Drexel University provides to its students is indispensible to helping students decide whether or not a certain major or career is right for them. It is this direct experience that urges me (and hopefully you too!) to apply to the college.

There are myriad subjects to study at Drexel University at each of their 15 individual colleges. A few of the institutions include the Center for Hospitality and Sports Management, the School of Education, LeBow College of Business, the School of Law, and the College of Medicine, amongst several others. I found that Drexel’s academics were comprehensive and diverse. Just imagine the cross section of people you will meet and the uncontrollable spread of ideas that will flow between you and other Drexel students! The possibilities are endless.

According to The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges, there are about 136 extracurricular activities offered by Drexel, and of course, students can always start new ones (as long as they garner interest). The most popular activities at Drexel are the ones involving the fine arts: band, orchestra, dance, and musical theater. Music and dance are offered only as minors by Drexel, and theater is not offered by the university for study at all. But don’t let that stifle your creativity! Drexel’s extracurricular musical theater program is quite distinguished, and goes well beyond the college level. In fact, all fine arts professors and organizers are professionally trained in their fields. Students have even traveled as far as Singapore to perform in concerts, festivals, and shows!  

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According to my tour guide, most sports offered by Drexel revolve around the school-wide intramural level rather than a national level. As I stated several times before, Drexel is mainly a science school, and most of the extracurriculars will revolve around that subject or the fine arts. Currently, Drexel University does not have a professional football team, but they do have most other sports, including cheerleading, basketball, and rowing. Athletics is not something emphasized by the institution, as it may be at many other colleges.

My final part of my Drexel adventure included a tour of the campus led by the aforementioned communications major. In truth, the campus is not exactly spectacular. There is no style of architecture unifying Drexel University; it’s more of a conglomerate of random buildings grouped together into one entity. The biology building was absolutely stunning, however! It was newly constructed and very contemporary, and featured a spiral wooden staircase modeled after DNA.

I had my first ever opportunity to visit a college dorm room, which was certainly eye opening. I had no picture in my head of what a dorm looked like, but it was quite small. Again, as with the university, the dorm rooms have no similar architectural structure. Roommates can be grouped my major, amongst other credentials. The particular dorm room that I visited was for honors students only. It was in a skyscraper-like building that provided for pretty fantastic views of Philadelphia! Overall, I felt that the dorm rooms were very basic housing arrangements. The showers were the size of a small closet, and the actual room was tiny. But I do understand that this is all a part of college living, and I’ll stay open-minded.

Despite its select drawbacks, I really do like Drexel. I still hold my views that their academics are top-notch, and will provide me with the tools that I need to hopefully become a registered dietitian. I like the idea of the co-op program and the invaluable firsthand experience that I can obtain outside of the classroom. The fact that there are over 15 schools at which I can study is enough for me to apply alone; there is much diversity in the academic realm. Drexel is a solid college for all students, because there is something to suit each and every person who applies. You can most definitely go above and beyond with your Drexel education.

For more information, visit http://www.drexel.edu.

Princeton University

imageIdyllic Princeton University, located in a quiet small town in Princeton, New Jersey, is one of the seven historic Ivy League colleges in the Northeastern United States. In fact, just this past year, the picturesque school was named the #1 academic institution of higher learning in the entire United States by the renowned U.S. News and World Report. Founded in 1746, Princeton University is a midsize college campus sprawling over 600 acres and hosting 5,336 undergraduate students. With only a 7.8% acceptance rate, it is clear that Princeton is only searching for the best and the brightest, but that shouldn’t deter any potential candidate from applying. A top-quality Princeton education will prove to be both intensely challenging and life-altering in the long run.

Personally, I would best describe Princeton University as a rural New York University (NYU). The academic and study abroad programs offered by both colleges are quite similar, and provide the student with an international experience that cannot be matched inside the walls of the classroom. Princeton University is a school for budding politicians and leaders of the United Nations. In fact, many eminent world leaders, such as former American president Woodrow Wilson, were granted their diplomas from none other than Princeton University. At this college, a great emphasis is placed upon the social sciences, languages, and the humanities, more so than many other colleges.

As expected, Princeton places a heightened accent on academics more than anything else offered at the University. The admissions officer, who led a lengthy information session about the university, cited that her own Princeton education was grueling and exhausting, but wholly rewarding in the end. Firstly, Princeton requires that all students become proficient in a language offered by the university before graduation. Some students dislike this mandatory language requirement, but as a person whose favorite subject is French, I believe that this requirement is essential to creating a well-rounded, culturally-minded student body. In fact, what made me research Princeton was an article that I had read ranking the university with one of the top 30 French major programs in the United States. Princeton University offers over 20 modern languages to study, including Bosnian-Serbian-Croatian, Russian, Hindi, Swahili, and Turkish. Undoubtedly, proficiency in a second language is vital for preparing students for jobs and everyday life in the real world. I strongly support this unusual requirement of Princeton University. For me, it’s one of the schools pros.

Princeton does not have a core curriculum as many other colleges do, but it has a distribution requirement, meaning that each student must complete one or two semester-long courses in seven general areas: Epistemology and Cognition, Ethical Thought and Moral Values, Historical Analysis, Literature and the Arts, Quantitative Reasoning, Science and Technology, and Social Analysis. In addition, all students must complete a one-term writing seminar within their first year. With these distribution requirements, Princeton encourages exploration of academic areas that do not pertain to the students’ majors, which again, will create a thoughtful, responsible, open-minded citizen. Most classes are graded on the A to F scale, while others can be chosen as pass/fail by the student.

As previously mentioned, studying abroad is encouraged and sought-after by all students alike. One interesting program offered by Princeton is known as the Bridge Year, an all-expenses paid gap year program that students can spend participating in volunteer work abroad. Only 35 students per year are chosen for this highly-selective, work-heavy program. Volunteer opportunities in the Bridge Year include teaching to international students and helping out local communities. Students are able to visit one of five countries on three continents: China, India, Senegal, Peru, and Brazil. With the Bridge Year, I feel that Princeton is pushing its students to go out of their formal comfort zones. In my opinion, nothing is quite as life-changing as travel to a foreign country, and Princeton is most definitely encouraging its students to become adventurous, unprejudiced individuals. I love the Bridge Year’s inventive, innovative approach to learning, and I would strongly consider this program as a reason for applying to the university.

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In addition, a number of classes that students select for the semester take students abroad as part of that course’s requirement! Can you imagine visiting the Louvre in Paris, France or the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia as part of your art history course requirement? What a unique and eye-opening approach to learning that Princeton is offering to its students!

Perhaps another great highlight of Princeton is its generous financial aid, offered to students of all economic backgrounds at the university. Princeton tuition is not cheap: it carries a hefty yearly price tag of $41,820 for tuition, plus $13,620 for room and board. But what people don’t realize about Princeton is that through large donations, the institution is able to provide its students with bountiful financial aid that covers both tuition and room and board. Of any university that I have visited, Princeton most definitely offers the greatest amount of financial aid to any student. If a student’s parent made between $0 and $60,000 per year, the entire $55,000 cost of tuition plus room and board at Princeton would be fully funded by the institution. It is a widely-held misconception that Ivy League schools are all overpriced and not worth their price sticker. But the reality is that an Ivy education can be fully accessible to all, due to the amount of financial backing provided by donors at the university.

Princetonian culture is alive and well throughout the school’s campus, and this is most apparent in the school’s extracurriculars and eating clubs. Over 300 co-curricular activities are offered at Princeton, including multicultural student organizations and even a campus fashion magazine. Athletics are also hugely popular on campus, with football, basketball, cheerleading, and even crew being offered on campus. At Princeton, mealtimes are social gatherings attended by all students on campus. There are three different dining plans on campus, all comprehensively detailed at the information session that I attended.

Some students choose to eat in the on-campus dining halls. This is not a hugely popular option, but many choices are offered. Other students eat independently and cook their own meals (this option is free, of course). Another choice that the university offers is called the co-op, in which students take turns preparing meals and washing the dishes. Lastly, and most popularly, students choose to join a so-called eating club. These eating clubs are not owned by Princeton, but are affiliated with and welcomed into the university’s setting. In fact, on many occasions, eating clubs host dining nights with professors. I quite like this closeness of relationship with the teaching staff.

Each eating club represents a different personality of the student. For example, the Tiger Club is most frequented by those involved in athletics. Eating clubs can be sign-up-and-join or “bicker.” A bicker club is much more exclusive, as students must go through a selection process to join. On a bicker night, a student goes out to the eating club of his or her choice, and chats with the members at a sort-of welcoming party. Then, the members will decide if they’ll accept the student or not. I think that bickering sounds a bit silly, but it may be a fun, traditional part of Princeton life, and provides an excellent opportunity to socialize with students and professors.

A walk around the bucolic campus certainly motivated me to apply to the university. By far, Princeton is the most attractive college campus that I have had the chance of visiting. The location is spacious and inviting, and the atmosphere of the campus is relaxed and open. At the entrance of Princeton is a serene little lake that leads to the university’s main buildings. The architecture of Princeton is of a charming gray Gothic style, that resembles a medieval city center instead of a typical college campus. The many ivy-covered buildings incite nothing but visual appeal and delight, and provide the finishing touches to the benefits of a Princeton education.

As aforementioned, Princeton is situated in a pretty rustic area of New Jersey. At first, I myself was hesitant about even visiting Princeton, as I had believed that it was in the middle of nowhere. On the drive over, all I noticed were Target stores and a little cinema. But have no fear! Princeton is right in between New York City and historic Philadelphia. A one hour journey by train will land you in Manhattan, while an hour-and-a-half train ride will land you in Philly. Students can choose when they want to be in a citified part of the world or bucolic little Princeton. But of course, there is so much to do on the Princeton campus itself, that it is likely that you will never be bored. Student life is vibrant and highly active. And I’m pretty sure work will keep the students busy.

I changed my mind regarding Princeton after visiting the New Jersey campus. The location of the school isn’t so bad after all. The rural campus allows for college life to be in full bloom, and the urban world is only a train ride away. I also appreciate the international education that the institution promotes and provides at an affordable price, as with the Bridge Year Program and the emphasis on linguistics. The school isn’t too big, as it only welcomes 1,300 incoming freshmen per year. At this size, I should be able to get to know the student body along with my distinguished professors. I truly cannot think of a flaw at Princeton, and I urge everyone to keep an open mind and take at look at this illustrious institution.

New York University

imageNew York University – also known as the school with the most impressive tour and information session ever.

NYU is legendary. Located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York, NYU has much to offer its students both on and off the campus. Museums, boutiques, the ballet, Broadway shows – the opportunities for fun are aplenty.

Around 1 o’clock p.m., I entered into NYU’s Jeffery Gould building on the Lower East Side for an hour-long information session, led by an enthusiastic female admissions director. The NYU introduction began with a 15-minute, professionally-filmed video that detailed the university’s curriculum, study abroad opportunities, and diverse student body. It was wholly impressive and immersive, and opened my eyes to the opportunities and benefits of an NYU education. Never have I been to a college tour that featured a professional video and such a comprehensive overview of what the institution had to offer.

NYU includes three main campuses: one in Abu Dhabi, one in Shanghai, and of course, one in the city of New York. To which college you will apply is up to you – or if you’re really ambitious, you can apply to all three and see which one will accept you! For me, the highlight of the campus visit was the New York City location. After all, the university is located in the heart of the city and features myriad programs of study – even more diverse than the China and United Arab Emirates campuses, which are a little more particular in their major offerings.

For example, the Chinese campus places more of an emphasis on economics, and of course, the Mandarin language. Half of the student body is required to be Chinese, as stipulated by the county’s government. Meanwhile, the Abu Dhabi campus is quite small (it was established in 2013) and places more of an accent on the humanities. Although I would like to remain in NYC, I love how NYU has a very international feel. The school actively promotes globalized learning and has an international flavor.

Each major at NYU has its own specific school of study. Tisch School of the Arts is a place for creative types. And that list includes the theater, dance, and music majors. Stern School of Business specializes in training future financiers and CEOs of Google. Steinhardt is for those who want to become involved in the fields of education and dietetics. And the College of Arts and Sciences is for those interested in the general humanities. Inter-school study is encouraged and entirely feasible for all. For example, a dietetics major at Steinhardt is automatically eligible to be granted a minor in any program of study at the College of Arts and Sciences. As NYU has a core curriculum required for graduation, students are still able to study English, calculus, and several different foreign languages – even Turkish! I like the idea of a core curriculum. I am able to dabble in different subject matters before I even graduate with a degree.

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One benefit of the NYU experience is the small class sizes. Most classes have less than 30 students each, which could mean more individualized attention and class participation. Plus, there is a much greater opportunity to actually get to know your professors. You just may see your professors in cafés, libraries, and in Washington Square Park. In fact, the admissions lady even saw one of her professors at the local gym! And did I mention the acclaimed, distinguished teaching staff at NYU? Professors have won awards such as Oscars, Grammys, Tonys, and even the renowned Pulitzer Prize. Professors at NYU are knowledgable, intellectual, trained, and highly experiences. Which is precisely what I want – a top quality education taught by an acclaimed staff.

The admissions director also wowed the audience with her discussion of NYU’s study abroad opportunities. NYU encourages international exploration, as it has its own campuses in Berlin, Paris, Prague, Florence, Buenos Aires, Accra, and beyond. Numerous times, the admissions director mentioned that NYU pushes its students to study abroad, no matter what their major. NYU wants to cultivate individual and intellectual growth before the all-important graduation date. Study abroad opportunities are economically feasible as well.

NYU is highly diverse – multilingual and multicultural. The institution represents over 80 different counties on nearly every continent, and there is no racial majority on campus. As a member of a minority community myself, I can use this opportunity to break down racial barriers, and maybe even get to know people of all cultural and linguistic backgrounds. I love NYU’s international flavor.

Looking for a job after graduation? An education at NYU can be wholly rewarding to a student of any major. Countless internship opportunities are offered to its students at television networks, from CNN to the Today Show. For more arty types, an NYU education can make those all-important connections needed to establish a career in the entertainment industry.

One possible drawback of NYU is its hefty cost. Tuition is around $44,000 per year, and room and board is $16,000-$17,000 per year. I realize that all colleges are pricey, but this is the most expensive academic institution that I have toured by far, and the financial aid here is about $26,000. In comparison, Princeton and Harvard can offer full financial aid if a family falls below a certain yearly salary. But in the end, I’m really not going to allow the cost of a college to get in my way of my selection of an institution of higher learning. This fact about financial aid is definitely something to point out to those who truly cannot afford the university.

At NYU, New York City is your personal playground. Students’ social lives are active and lively. The NYU experience offers its students discounted tickets to the Metropolitan Opera, Broadway spectacles, the ballet, museums, and more. The entertainment opportunities are endless. No NYU student should be bored at any moment during his or her time at the university. In fact, during freshman year, it is requires that a dormitory, along with a guide, must make treks to New York’s greatest tourist sites – all at a deeply discounted price!

Our tour of NYU was led by a quirky visual arts major from New Jersey. Accompanying me on my tour was a 19-year-old girl from Denmark, and an already-admitted freshman from Switzerland, who was beginning her first NYU semester in romantic Paris, France. And that’s what I love about NYU – the fact that students come from all around the world for a world-class education.

First, our group was lead to the student center, where we were shown inside of a basic white NYU classroom. Our guide then segued into a discussion about her unique extracurricular activities, including the Quidditch Team and the West Indian Student Society. In fact, NYU offers hundreds of extracurricular activities, so it’s students will never be bored.

I guess the only aspect to dislike about NYU is the housing. Not that that bothers me too much. Most colleges offer single or double dormitories, but at NYU, students are housed in rooms of up to five. I think that’s quite a bit much, and I wonder to myself how hard it would be to get some sleep at night.

NYU is like a mini city, with its campus sprawled across multiple streets and avenues. You feel like you are living in NYC itself. Smack in the middle of the campus is the picturesque Washington Square Park, featuring a reproduction of what looks like the Parisian L’Arc de Triumphe. In the middle area of the park is a gorgeous fountain (which also doubles as an illegal swimming pool for NYU students!). Washington Square Park is basically the centerpiece of the NYU campus, and describes the institution perfectly. It’s busy, teeming with life, globally-minded, and energetic.

NYU offers its students a top notch academic institution in the city that never sleeps. From the discussion, I received the impression that NYU cares about its students intellectual growth and development. NYU clearly wants to promote individualism, nonconformity, and freedom of thought amongst its students. I’m not sure any university is quite so perfect as NYU.

Yale University

Yale University

Ask any student around the world, and it will most definitely agreed upon that Yale University, an Ivy League institution with a 6.5% acceptance rate, is one of the top colleges on the entire planet. Yale University, situated in the city of New Haven, Connecticut, seems to be a dream school for many aspiring actors, engineers, doctors, writers, and more. The Yale experience is lively, challenging, unusual, and ultimately, rewarding. That is, if you can get in….

I visited Yale for the first time in April of 2014, and accompanied a friend (an aspiring theater major) for a second visit this past July. And let me tell you, the second visit was even more spectacular than the first.

Yale University, in one word, can only be described as simply breathtaking. Its campus features stunning gray Gothic architecture, that makes it look more like a medieval castle as opposed to an established university. Yale is what one would describe as a “college town,” as it takes up several blocks in charming New Haven, Connecticut. The institution’s campus is active and full of life, something that I am looking for in my college experience.

Before my tour, I stopped in the visitors’ center for a restroom break. There, I met a recently-graduated history major, who was just about to make the big move to New York City. Her first major job was going to be partnering with a New York Times writer for a column in the official paper! This brief chat with a real student made me realize the incomparable value of a Yale education, and the innumerable opportunities that a top school can afford to its students.

Around 11 o’ clock a.m., I was directed to an information session, led by a Floridian admissions officer who had attended Yale herself. Before the presentation had even begun, a hilarious, Glee-inspired video entitled “That’s Why I Chose Yale” projected onto an overhead screen to entertain an already captivated audience. It’s little, sprightly features such as these that remind me that a Yale education isn’t always serious and exhausting. It gave me the impression that Yale in down-to-earth, open, and friendly; students are involved in myriad activities. There are so many opportunities for students both inside and outside of the classroom.

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The admissions lady gave a thoughtful, detailed talk about Yale that went beyond the surface of its Ivy League title. Yale is much different from other colleges around the world. For one, its curriculum is ingenious. Before each semester begins in late August, there is a two-week “shopping period,” during which students can have a foretaste of a class before deciding to enroll. In fact, there are around 2,000 course offerings at Yale University. There is a core curriculum, but one can definitely find a way around it with fun, unusual course offerings. For example, a male friend of the admissions officer, who was pursuing a major in film, needed to fulfill his mathematics requirement in order to graduate. As he had an intense dislike for the subject, he found his way around it with a course entitled “Movie Physics.” In this class, the student was able to combine his passion for action films with mathematics. The only homework was to analyze insane stunts in films and use mathematical calculations to determine whether or not these stunts were actually possible. It’s classes like these that get me excited about the benefits of a Yale education.

Does Yale not have your major? Have no fear! The Ivy League institution allows its students to design a major for any subject matter in the world! In fact, Yale just granted its first degrees in education to the graduating class of 2014. In one event, a friend of the admissions officer wanted to major in human rights. With the guidance of a social sciences professor, she was able to become Yale’s first-ever major in this critical area of study! My hope is to become a Registered Dietitian, and at Yale, I would be able to design my own major in food science! I would be so fortunate to have this opportunity if I was admitted to Yale.

What also impressed me in the hour-and-a-half long discourse was Yale’s study abroad opportunities. There are myriad countries a student could visit, from Mauritania to Guatemala. It’s simply unbelievable. But what makes Yale’s study abroad opportunities different is the fact that they are fully funded by the university itself. This extensive list includes accommodations, dining arrangements, and the classes themselves. The admissions officer even shared that her friend spent a two-week sojourn in Paris doing research with renowned professors – completely free of charge! (French is a renowned department at Yale with a lot of funding, in case you were wondering.) In most cases, a student only has to pay the airfare, and is able to leave the rest to the university. In this way, Yale is encouraging its students to grow not only intellectually, but globally as well.

Yale’s dormitories, of which there are twelve, are collectively known as Residential Colleges. There is a sense of healthy competition among each of the colleges, and the students are genuinely enthusiastic about where they are housed. Many times throughout the Yale discussion, the student hosts playfully argued over which college was “the best.” Yale’s residential colleges are designed to be just as diverse as its international student body. For example, if 11% of Yale is made up on international students, 11% of students will make up each residential colleges. In addition, roommates are assigned at random. I like this aspect of Yale; I feel that the university is encouraging diversity and the elimination of cultural misunderstanding. That’s exactly what I would like in my college experience.

Lastly, Yale gives its students generous financial aid. In fact, the admissions officer pointed out that Yale was cheaper for her to attend than any Floridian state school to which she had applied. Ivy League schools provide their students with fabulous financial aid when necessary, another reason why there is value to a top academic institution beyond the name. These universities have the funding that can give students generous financial aid. Yale University does not provide it students with monetary aid for textbooks and the like. So the university offers its students an array of on-campus jobs at the rate of $12.00 per hour! In the end, Yale can be entirely affordable and rewarding to students of all socioeconomic backgrounds.

The Yale admissions officer also offered some insightful, invaluable advice to prospective applicants to the university. It was a wonderful, well-planned discussion.

Before departing for our campus tour, four students came out and introduced themselves. I was simply amazed by the extracurricular involvement and diversity of the student body, not to mention their down-to-earth attitudes and cordiality. One female was even involved with tutoring at a juvenile hall! Our tour around the campus was led by a quirky music major, passionate about his studies. The campus is architecturally gorgeous. There are many libraries at Yale, each holding ancient manuscripts, DVDs, and books for research. One girl stated that in her “Women in the Ancient World” class, she was able to view ancient relics from the Yale library (such as a copy of the “Epic of Gilgamesh” and a page of the world’s first book)!

As I strolled around the campus, I noticed little things that got me excited about the Yale experience. On a bulletin board, I took note of the innumerable extracurriculars offered at Yale. Belly dancing, the Vietnamese Club, tap group, film club. There are over 450 activities available for students! The exterior of the residential halls are beautiful and very safe. Each dormitory contains an underground gym, and most rooms are doubles as well.

Maybe Yale is difficult to get into, but that shouldn’t stop anybody from wanting to apply – especially those that do have a serious chance! Look at what the school can offer to you! Over 450 extracurricular activities! Connections to future jobs, internships, incredible financial aid, and inexpensive study abroad opportunities. The list is endless. I hope one day to attend Yale. It just may be at the top of my college list….