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Posts Tagged Dartmouth College

Summer

irvin-85

After endless papers, countless pages written and read, I finished freshman year. Exhausted, sleep deprived, eager and most importantly proud of what I have achieved during my first year of college, I turned in my last paper, went through the odyssey of moving out and began my journey home. The stress of finals made home appear like a an oasis in the middle of the desert. After being away for six months and after being under the most intense academic pressure I had ever experienced, home was a necessary stop for I needed to “recharge” my batteries, and as many of my professors suggested, reflect on the successes and downfalls of the year that had just ended. I thank them for their advice for I was considering taking summer courses but after some thought, I realized that that would not have been the best idea since I was mentally exhausted from six months of intense academic expectations.

College tires you out, as high school has done to those who are seniors now. You can only write so many papers and read so many books until you stop enjoying what you are doing and begin to see it as a burden and a hassle. I experienced this at one point during spring term where, when it was sunny and really nice outside, I found myself in the library doing readings for my comparative politics class. Had it been earlier in the term (and less sunny outside) I would not have been complaining about the work that I had to do. After talking to some of my friends about this issue, we came to the conclusion that at the end of the day, we are still kids (although we are older than 18) and that there is a need for us to have fun and put aside the academic pressure that piles on us. Also, we arrived at the conclusion that we need to match our determination to succeed with an approach that assures that we are healthy psychologically. If our minds are tired or stressed, we will not perform our best and thus, a bit of fun from time to time is necessary.

I know that some of us fall under the category of those hard workers that are always looking for something to do. There is nothing wrong with that since it is that work ethic that has gotten you to the position in which you are right now. But remember that you are not a machine (a fact that I tend to forget a lot of times) and that you need rest and time to relax. It is a proven fact that you learn more and are able to assimilate more material when you are not under stress and thus, there is a need for study breaks.

And so, my message in this short blog is that those who are seniors (and now high school graduates), enjoy your summer after what I am sure has been a stressful year. For those who are rising seniors, enjoy your summer as well because you are going to need to be well rested for what will be a really intense year, full of applications and essays. Have a great summer guys!

Oh The Difference It Makes

irvin-85“Don’t do what you like, do what you love.”

Those were the words of a wise senior whose name I do not remember since I heard him speak during the first hours I was here at Dartmouth. During that time of confusion, uncertainty and excitement, I did not allow the words to sink in and for my mind to discern the meaning of that phrase. The fact that I did not truly grasp the meaning of this phrase might explain why my plans of being an engineer made a back-door exit, following close by went my back up option of being a math major. Back in fall term, which to be honest seems like centuries ago, I was bursting with excitement of finally taking classes that I liked such as higher level calculus. I did not let a bad final exam grade deter me from what I thought I wanted to be since that is what I liked to do, doing math for fun. Maybe physics will be better, I thought as a way of justifying my decision to continue on the engineering track despite my bad experience with math. Physics was a mess. After hours of silent contemplation and asking myself why I was frustrated with subjects that I liked, the words of that senior came to mind. He was so right. I was doing what I liked, not what I loved. When I spoke about math, I did not say “I love math!” Rather, what I would say would be “I like math, it’s fun.”

When I was asked about how my classes were going during winter term, I would say that I hated, hated deeply my physics class but I loved my completely-overwhelming-engaging-hard writing class with a passion. Boom. Right there. It clicked. The reason behind my frustration with math and physics was because I liked those classes, I did not love them. Yet, with my writing class, it was different. Despite being time consuming and being the hardest class I have ever taken, I was not frustrated with the workload. Rather, I enjoyed it. I could honestly say that loving my writing class made all the work seem bearable and enjoyable. My hate for physics did not help at all with my frustration towards it.

The reason why I bring this up on this blog is because some of you might be choosing classes for your first semester/term of college. Think about these classes very, very carefully. Although it is true that you want to explore, make sure that you pick classes that you are truly interested in. It will make an enormous difference when it comes to studying for that class. Had a horrible experience with chemistry in high school? If so, maybe a higher level chemistry class during your first term of college might not be the best idea. Do you dislike writing papers? If so, maybe a study of Plato and Socrates might not be the road you want to take. Be careful of the choices you make because they will determine how your semester/term will go. I would like to add that there is nothing wrong with dropping a class or dropping a major all together. I did. And now I am as happy as I could be since I get to take classes that I love.

I wish there was an equation that would tell you what your passion is. Any chemistry majors out there? Maybe you guys can help!

P.S.

Those who are on summer break already, enjoy. I still have 15 days of classes, but hey, these are classes that I love so I kind of don’t want the term to end haha.

Putting a Face on Success

abigail-85Winter terms at Dartmouth (8-9 weeks) are said to be the worst time to be on campus and by week 6, I was drained and wanted nothing more than to leave. Many of my friends went to Miami or Cancun for two weeks, but I knew I had to see my family and surround myself with their positive, cheerful energy.

While I was home, my high school counselor and English teacher invited me to speak to their students about campus life, schoolwork, traveling, extracurricular activities, old and new friendships, my future plans, and everything in between. I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into but because I am forever grateful to both of them, I obliged. They told me that I would talk to a group of sophomores in the morning but oddly enough, that was not the case.

Instead of staying for an hour, I ended up staying the whole day at Sparks High. After the first group of students, one group after another came in and asked me to talk to them, and so it went on until the dismissal bell rang. Questions came at me from left and right, questions that I had never asked myself. One student asked me if I always knew that I would attend college, another student asked me what would I have done had I not enrolled at Dartmouth, and another student asked me if I believed that she or any of her classmates could one day be in my position.

It took me a few minutes to answer these questions and I figured that the students’ probably realized that I was not prepared with notes (like I should have). But afterwards, my teacher told me that many of the students said that they loved talking to me and wondered if I could stay a bit longer to discuss their individual college plans. She told me that while I may have been nervous, the students didn’t catch any of it because “success needs a face.”

Some first-generation college students leave their homes with dreams to “make it big” and regularly going back to their hometown may not fit in the lifestyle they have imagined for myself. It is a pity that those people will never realize that they could “make it big” by making a big impact on budding first-generation college students. There is an incredible amount of talent and potential in schools that are constantly labeled as “failing” and, if you have had the opportunity to attend college, it is crucial that you go back to them and show them that a college degree is possible.

Remember your roots, remember your responsibility.

Open Doors Are Always Nice.

irvin-85It has been a while since I felt sure of what I wanted to do. I wanted to become an engineer coming into Dartmouth but after a rough relationship with physics, I decided to close that door and open a new one. After talking to my Dean and to upperclassmen, the best advice that they gave me was to pursue something that you truly felt passionate about. They told me that there is a difference between what you like to study and learn (in my case, math, physics, literature, history, chemistry) and what you truly feel passionate about (in this case, literature and advocating for my Latino brothers and sisters). It was then that I realized that what I had been doing before had been what I liked, not what I truly loved.

My spring break community service trip took me to Immokalee, Florida. A place that very few people have ever heard of but that is one of the most important farming towns in the United States. Being there, feeling the weight of poverty that falls on the shoulders of my brothers, more than 90 percent of the town is Hispanic, I felt the need to advocate for those that have no voice for they live in the shadows of this great nation. Poverty, environmental issues, immigration issues, low wages, rough working conditions, factors of oppression just seemed to pile on and on. Yet, as they piled, they sparked up a passion with in me.  A passion that I would like to believe had been dormant until that moment. I realized what I would love to do. I found what I was truly passionate about. With that realization, I came back to campus, with a different mindset and a sense of assurance, knowing that I had found what I wanted to do for the next four years.

For the seniors reading this, I know that you guys have your acceptance letters and the giant task of deciding where to attend. A word of advice. Leave your opportunities open. Choose a school that gives you plenty of options when it comes to academic fields. I am thankful that Dartmouth is not just an engineering school. Otherwise, I would have not been too happy taking classes that I no longer liked. A lot of people change their interests after they get to college. Keep this in mind. Make sure that you always have a plan B because life never goes as we think it it will. Keep your door opens because you never know if the door that you are aiming for will close.

Empty Pockets?

abigail-85The rapper Kanye West once proclaimed that “having money isn’t everything, NOT having it is” and when the prospect of paying for college creeps up, this quote may ring truth for many first-generation college students.

I am forever grateful for programs like Federal Aid, Ronald McDonald House Charities, and of course, CSO, dedicated to helping students finance their education and that have enabled me to attend Dartmouth College. I cannot stress the importance of applying for outside scholarships; there may be some expenses (a laptop, for example) that your scholarship may not cover and it’s better to be prepared for them rather than struggle to make ends meet later.

If, like myself, you attend a school on the other side of the country (or just a state away) from home, you’ll soon realize that you need money for that plane ticket or bus fare to go back home during breaks.  Traveling is not cheap but luckily there are other programs like Federal Work-Study that, if eligible, will help you earn a few extra dollars. Work-Study is customized to fit your schedule and the opportunities can range from cashier to library assistant. You make your own hours; drop hours if you need to study for a test and pick up hours if you need money fast. Also, college campuses are always in need for research assistants and tutors; these jobs are usually well paying and look great on a resume.

Just remember that work should never take priority over your education!

All the best and good luck!

I Wouldn’t Have It Any Other Way

irvin-85College is, in a few words, is a mixture of emotions, conflicts, successes, self-realizations, ever-increasing responsibility and many falls; these very same reasons are why I love college. As I have mentioned before, college is a continuous humbling experience, always teaching you a lesson with every instance that occurs. The second quarter that I have spent in college has been the most academically challenging time period of my life. Three classes at a time might not seem as much but believe me, at the pace that these classes go, you are gasping for fresh air every Wednesday and feel a huge relief once Friday comes around. Since everything is so fast paced, you cannot waste any time, specially if you are taking a science or math course. Physics in college is very, very different from physics in high school and I have come to realize that the hard way. Never had I felt so overwhelmed by the material of  class until I sat in a physics lecture which covered an entire chapter in less than an hour and a half. My other two classes added even more stress to the already stressful term and not to mention that the harsh New England temperatures did not help my situation. Yet,  despite the stress and the cold, snowy nights, I have to say that I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love the intellectual, and at times, even physical challenge that college poses. College tests what you are really made of and I love that. Yes, I could do without the stress and without the pressure that grows greater as the term goes on, but I believe that this is preparation of what is to come. I’d rather be challenged out of my comfort zone and grow than simply remain comfortable and not develop as an individual. I had to make hard decisions, such as deciding to withdraw from my physics course, thus changing my intended major from engineering to totally undecided. Yet, all of this is experience from which I can draw from in the future. All of what I am going through is experience for what will be the real world, stress, hard decisions, work, but at the same time, there is also great relationships that are formed along the way. I will talk more about that in the next post, but until then, seniors, stay strong! And juniors, start studying for the ACT!

A Dream Does Not Have Price

irvin-85I remember when I first saw the price tag of what used to be the school of my dreams. Beside the name “Duke University”, appeared a five digit number that seemed to whisper “there is no way you can afford this”. With the hope of finding other schools that would not require my parents to sell everything, I scrolled down the list but all I could see was an expensive price tag for every school that I was looking at. Discouraged, I limited my options to more affordable institutions, such as my community college. All of this was before I found out about financial aid and how, with the help of the institutions as well as the government, I would be able to afford going to a school that I had worked hard for.

I can summarize my feelings towards financial aid in a short sentence: probably the best thing that could have happened to my educational career. Thanks to the help of Dartmouth and as well as Federal Aid, I am able to attend this great institution. Do not be discouraged when you see an expensive price tag. Keep in mind that if an institution really wants you in their campus, they will do as much as they can to help you go there. Financial aid is like a secret yelled out loud that very few people are aware of.

Just because you see an expensive price tag does not mean that that is what you are expected to pay to attend that institution. That price tag can be covered in many different ways such as grants, outside scholarships and federal aid. There might be a few loans here and there but, if you use your resources, you can cover those loans with outside scholarships. Apply to as many scholarships as you can. The more scholarships you get, the more you can help your parents and the more money you will be able to have to buy books and hey, even to buy what we teenagers feel is important, such as clothes and all that good stuff. (With moderation of course).

Whenever I am asked how I am able to attend an Ivy League school and how I am able to afford it, I say that the hardest part was actually in getting into the school. Paying for the school was not one of my main concerns. As I have said before, if an institution accepts you, they are willing to help you as much as they can. You just have to let them know about your situation. If you do not speak up, they will not know what your family is going through and thus they will not be able to help you. The money is out there, all you have to do is look for it. Do not let your dreams be shot down by a five digit number, realize that you dreams do not have a price and that no matter how expensive a school is, with enough effort and education, you can afford it. All it takes is awareness of the resources such as scholarship websites, your counselor in high school and even the financial aid office at the college of your dreams!

Raise the bar, raise the effort.

irvin-85I have not blogged in a really long time. The reason for this has been the incessant amount of work that this term has brought. Although to high schoolers three classes do not sound like a lot, believe me, three classes are more than enough in a place like this one. Never in my life had I felt as if I was drowning under the pressure, under the work. This was the first time ever when I wanted school to simply end or to take a break. I think it is a mixture of both the brutal New England winter and the extra fast pace of a nine week quarter.

Yet, despite the pressure, despite the desire for the quarter to end, I have to say that I am enjoying the academic and psychological challenge. It is a test of character and a test of how strong my ambition is. How bad do I want to get a degree from here and stand out from all these amazingly talented students? How bad do I want to learn as much as I can?

Every night, before I go to bed, I tell myself that I really want all of this. And I want it really bad.

A bit of advice for those in high school; be prepared to come to college and have your foundation shook. Part of the college experience is being broken down to see what you are truly made of. Despite the fact that this might hurt your pride and might change the image of who you are, it is a necessary part of your life. We cannot grow if we are not challenged, and part of that challenge is falling down and being able to get back up again and again.

Also, one more thing; when expectations get a lot higher, you have to place a lot more effort. It might be hard for some of us who were used to being able to put forth say 80% of our effort and still manage to stand out. I have to admit that it is a bit strange for me to put so much more effort that I am used to. Doing physics for six hours? I would have never imagined that I would be doing such a thing! But, like the saying goes, you got to do what you got to do!

2011

abigail-85Happy New Year!

I hope you were all able to celebrate the holidays with your loved ones and are ready to tackle on the second phase of the college admission process: acceptance letters. Some people consider this part even more nerve-racking than writing a good essay, filling out paperwork, or just completing the application, but for me, I found that this is the part that can make or break a student.

Dartmouth College was not my first or second choice school. In fact, I never even knew about it until my senior year when I received a pamphlet from the College. The school I did know a lot about was the University of Southern California (USC). I dreamt of becoming a Trojan and cheering the football team at every game. So much was my devotion to USC that I didn’t even bother to research many other schools because I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else. So, when I received the rejection letter, my reaction was…well, let’s just say it wasn’t cute. I applied to nine other schools but I didn’t pay attention to the schools I actually got into, not even Dartmouth. All I could do was question myself; why had this school rejected me? Was I not competent enough? Was I not involved enough? These questions swirled in my head and tormented me until I realized this:

I was still breathing. I hadn’t died because a school rejected me nor was my life completely shattered because of rejection; it happens. I’m not saying it’ll happen to all of you (I pray that you all get into the schools you’ve worked so hard for) but the reality is that along with many of the exciting opportunities you will be offered in the upcoming weeks, you may also have some disappointing mishaps. If one of your friends gets into a school and you didn’t, be happy for them and support them. A rejection letter is no reason to get angry or sad with others or yourself, it just means that you’ll be able to share your talents and ideas at another institution. And who knows? You may find that you were meant for that other school you never saw yourself attending.