Sunday, April 23, 2017

A list of college pros

Because college cons are for the weak.

  • Right at home. Best city.
  • Family and friends.
  • The mountains.
  • The teaching program with guaranteed job placement.
  • Physics is pretty swole.
  • Actually the math program might be the best of the three. But maybe not.
  • Miramontes.
  • Dat moneys.
  • The best food.
  • The canyon is really cool.
  • The reactor.
  • The people are free and sometimes naked.
  • Thesis projects sound fun.
  • Archery.
  • Fire spinning.
  • The Odyssey freshman trip things.
  • Voodoo Donuts.
  • The CSOs are nice.
  • Physics and math are pretty swole.
  • The big old name.
  • Residential colleges.
  • All the musical groups.
  • The Yale Glee Club (choir).
  • The people have so many interests.
  • Skip the easy maths?
  • Everyone is helpful.
  • The one class I saw was really good.
That's all for now.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The decision


Where do I go? I've narrowed it down to CU, Yale, and Reed. Why do I like these colleges? Haha, good question.

CU, the University of Colorado, is the home team. It would let me work close to home, and maybe live in my own house. I'm already pretty familiar with the campus, because my mom works there, so I've been visiting since I was a kid. It has the best food of the three, no question, what with the buffet and all the restaurants and everything. Even the dorm door is really good, if you're in a dorm with food. CU is pretty strong in physics, with I think two Nobel Prize winners. They've got particle traps and quantums and such. The math department is also pretty good, although it is strikingly male-dominated, more so than CU at large. The mountains are beautiful, as is Boulder in general. Speaking of Boulder, it's a great city, and although it is mainly leftist, you can always find a rightman nearby. The campus itself is also left-leaning, although less so than the city. Denver is less than an hour away, as is the DIA (Denver International Airport). A lot of my friends are going to CU, including Alici and Ellie. They have a small but strong teaching program in the College of Arts and Sciences, in which you do a lot of actual work with kids, and get a teaching license for Colorado at the end of four years. Upon graduation with the teaching program, you have guaranteed job placement. CU is the biggest college of the three, and there are a lot of extracurriculars.

Reed is the crazy one. It's the farthest left of all three colleges, and its student body is accepting and kind. There are lots of strange quirks such as the Naked Tree, which is a tree in which people get naked. Folks do drugs pretty openly, although there is no pressure to participate. The CSOs (Community Safety Officers, pronounced "sizzos") keep the campus safe, and seem to get along well with most of the students, except for one specific CSO. I forget his name. Portland is a nice city, with Voodoo Donuts and Powell's Books. Not as cool as Boulder, though. Reed physics is strong, and they have the only nuclear reactor run by undergraduates in the world. That reactor is really cool. Math is similarly nice, although a bit male-dominated. The campus is small, the smallest of the three by far, and I had it basically memorized within two hours. The dorms are nice, but difficult to get into after freshman year. I'd say Reed has the worst housing of the three. It's got a sizable art community, but no school choir, from what I can tell. It seems like a nice place to be. The "canyon" is pretty, and full of wildlife. It's also really easy to get into a grad school from Reed.

Yale is the Yale option. A big selling point is the name. Yale is famous, and a part of me feels so grateful for being admitted that I feel like I have to go. It has the best dorms out of the three, with 14 residential colleges, each with their own traditions, which form teams within Yale. These colleges have FroCos, or Freshman Councilors, who help freshies get acquainted. Students can stay at their residential college all four years, if they so choose, and most do. Students live in suites of anywhere from two to five people. Really, the residences are a lot of what attracts me to Yale. The classes are probably pretty great, given the big names that Yale hires. Physics is actually a pretty small program, with only about 20 students. Mathematics is even smaller, as nobody I asked even knew of a math major. This of course means I'm likely to get all sorts of attention. The Peabody Museum is amazing, and is a place I would love to work. There are lots of music groups, mostly a cappella, and the Glee Club (which is the Yale choir) also seems very fun. Yale is where Jackson went, although that's not really helpful information. New Haven is okay, I guess. It didn't seem too interesting, but I didn't really go many places. Still, I really love Yale.

Then there's the issue of money. It's kind of separate, and it's hard to say how much weight to put on cost. Still, there it is. CU costs about $25,000. Reed costs about $55,000. Yale costs about $70,000. If I go to Yale, we're thinking I'll owe my parents $10,000 a year, which I think is reasonable. So that's also information. Which factors into the decision.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Andres goes to Yale

Man, I really love Yale. Man. Okay. We got to Yale a bit after 8:30. I got a bagel for breakfast. I again forgot to hashtag my breakfast. Then, I took a tour of campus with a man named Phil. It was pretty cool, but it wasn't anything to right home about. The Yale campus is still the boringest of all four. When the tour was over, dad and I went to the Science and Engineering Forum, where some students talked about science and engineering. It's pretty sweet. I later found out that it's pretty small, too, though. There are about 20 students majoring in physics.

Dad and I had brunch in the Branford dining hall. It was pretty good. I think I put Yale second for food on my list, after CU (which is amazing) and followed by Reed and JHU. After brunch, things really heated up. The Peabody museum was great. I would love to work there. And maybe to put gnomes in the exhibits. Only time will tell. Anyways, that museum was the first big selling point for Yale.

Then, we went to a Residential College Life Panel at Hopper. This was when I realized that Yale was a place where I would really fit. I think it would do great things for me. Just seeing people talk about it, and the way they got along, made me want to go there.

Anyways, then I took something called a Master Class, which was basically a lecture delivered by a professor which condenses a semester into an hour. The Master Class I took was Sex, Evolution, and Human Nature, taught by Laurie Santos. It was a really well-put-together lecture and, of all the sample lectures I've attended across four colleges, it was the only one to hold my attention for the entire time. And this was after a whole week of colleges, which makes it even more impressive. So, that also made me want to come to Yale.

Then all the admitted students went into a theatre to see the Dean's address, and then to watch several musical and dance groups perform. All was cool. I especially liked the spoken word poetry and the final a cappella group. The whole thing made me want to stay even more. Then I had dinner. Alone. I didn't know where anyone was. I just ate my burger. It was a nice burger.

The burger eaten, I joined my dad and we went to get some loot from the Yale bookstore. We got a hat. Then, I went to have pizza with the Yale Glee Club. They didn't actually have pizza, but it was still fun. We sang some songs, and I almost succeeded at some parts. They have a really cool program, where they go on tours and everything. Next year's big tour is in Mexico, which is great. So good. Also, I was interviewed by one of the Glee Club members, who also works for the Yale newspaper.

That was all I really wanted to do for the program, so I joined my dad and we went to see a concert. Pitches and Tones is an a cappella band at Yale, and they were really good. Like, I'm aware that I'm using way too many praises in this post, but still. They were great. My favorite song was Lights, which was originally a pop song by Ellie Goulding, but somehow Pitches and Tones managed to make it sound haunting. What a group.

Then, we headed to the hotel. I really don't know what to do. I don't know who to choose. As it stands now, here's what the Cosmic Collective has to say: Order votes for Yale, Chaos votes for Reed, Conformity votes Yale, Subversion votes Reed, Logic really requires more information, but recognizing that this vote is simply to see what the playing field is like and not to make an actual decision, she votes Reed, and Instinct votes Reed. So, at this point in time, Reed wins, it seems. I'll write a bigger post about it eventually. For now, it's 12:24, so I need to sleep.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Andres goes to New Haven

This one will be short, because we did almost nothing today. We did almost nothing today because it's Good Friday, so there's no school. Dad and I got up and had breakfast at the Shake Shack, and then walked around campus. Nobody was there, and I was struck by how uncampusy it looked. Unlike Reed, CU, and JHU, Yale looks like just more city. It kind of threw me off. Anyways, nothing was happening, so we went back to the hotel. We looked in a fancy library, but didn't really see anything. Then we went home. We had dinner at Louis Diner, where the hamburger was apparently invented. They had really good burgers. Then we came back to the hotel again. The end.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Andres goes to Johns Hopkins

Johns Hopkins is a good school. It’s also the second stop on my tour of colleges. I was technically supposed to arrive on Tuesday and stay two nights, which caused some complications, but it’s all good.

So, after I wrote the previous blog post, I immediately fell asleep. I woke up at about 10:00 yesterday and went to Johns Hopkins with my dad. When I arrived, there was some confusion because I hadn’t checked in the day before, but after that was sorted out we were sat in front of some people who talked. I learned that there are 8 or 9 STEM education student groups, that you can text dining, and that you can go to PILOT for tutoring.

Then, dad and I separated, and I went to the “faculty spotlight.” This involved a madman trying to explain to us students how to properly open a short story. Apparently a good opening has a hook, introduces the characters (usually three), sets up the setting (usually vague or liminal), establishes the tone, and leads to the rest of the story. It was a fine lecture, if a bit barmy.

Then there was dinner, in which I met two interesting characters. One of them was named Richard, and the other I don’t know. Richard was an applied math major and the other one was a physics-math-engineering major. In retrospect, it’s pretty clear that they were not actually supposed to be in the program, but instead somehow got some SOHOP shirts and tried to blend in. They told me, among other things, that some of the vending machines are broken so you can get free drinks with any magnetic key card.

After dinner was the Hop Culture Show. I went with Alex, a boy whom I’d met during dinner. We had an excited discussion about relativity and quantum mechanics before the show started. The show itself was fabulous. Really, in my opinion, the highlight of the trip. There were so many acts, and quite a few were very polished. The Jaywalkers and Slam were my favorites.

After the show ended, I met my host for the night, Uhuru. He was very nice, especially considering I had stood him up the night before. He introduced me to Frankie (or maybe Freddie), the other person he was hosting. We stayed and attended a panel with a group of Hopkins students, who were mostly women of color. (By the way, I learned that they usually refer to the school as Hopkins rather than Johns Hopkins.) They did a pretty poor job of selling the school, explaining how the housing was bad and the people were dull. They seemed to love the school, though, mainly because of its academics. I'm reminded of what some girl said later that night, when I was walking east with Uhuru and his friends: "Come to Hopkins. It sucks but it's awesome."

The scheduled night ended with a party. There was cake and music and a bouncy obstacle course, and there were games which you could play to win prizes. I did not play any of the games. Instead, Uhuru and I (Frankie had vanished) got in line for the obstacle course. Uhuru introduced me to a lot of his friends, most of whom I’m sorry to say I have forgotten. The one that I do remember is Jake, from the far-off land of Britain, who was host for a boy named Glen. There was also another Jake, I think, because Jake was sometimes called British Jake. Anyways, Uhuru and I competed and the obstacle course and tied, which surprised both of us, because we had both expected the other to win. Because we tied, we got double the tickets, and after a friend of Uhuru’s gave me his tickets, I had enough to buy a new set of earphones. They are really high-quality earphones.

We left the party after a group picture (of Frankie, Uhuru and I) and a swindling operation (Richard had purchased a lot of tickets, the same kind as were being exchanged for prizes). We left for AMR1, the housing complex Uhuru lives in. It seemed like a tight-knit community, but it was also very welcoming. I liked it. Then we headed out with Jake and Glen (also in AMR1) for ice cream and a tour of the East side of campus. That was nice, but by this time it was past midnight, so I’m not sure how much I actually absorbed. Oh, hey, it’s after midnight again now. 12:04. I think I’m getting used to it.

Anyways, I was tired and we all headed back to the dorms. Frankie was already asleep, because he needed to leave at 4:00 in the morning (!). Noticing that I did not have a sleeping bag, Uhuru graciously offered me the “guest bed,” which was a mattress and blanket rigged up under his bed. I accepted, and slept.

The next day, I woke up late enough to miss breakfast. Fortunately, this gave me just the spark that I needed to hashtag my breakfast for the first time. Don’t ask. Anyways, there was a welcome that I almost listened to, and then we split up for academic presentations. I went to the math one, and dad went to the physics one. The math one was pretty underwhelming, and I got the sense that math was almost exclusively used as something to supplement another major. 60% of students in math were also doing something else. Physics, on the other hand, was apparently amazing. They had handouts, first of all, and they also have opportunities with NASA and space and stuff. It’s enough to make me wish I was a physicist.

Then, after a quick lunch, we went on some outside-the-classroom tours. Dad and I went on four: the science building was really cool (biochem get to make their own proteins!), the aquatic robots were really cool, the non-aquatic robots were really cool, and the filming building was really cool. A dude named Brian showed us around that building, and he was really enthusiastic. Hopkins is definitely a cool place to be.

However, that was it for dad and I. We packed up and drove for 5 hours to New Haven, where I am now. We went alphabetically through my songs, and got from A Little Bit of Everything all the way to Champagne Taste. A while later and I’m here. As a final thought, I’d like to leave my response to the survey Hopkins sent me, in which I told them that I definitely won’t be going to Hopkins, because I definitely won’t. Take it away, me.

“Look, it's a wonderful place. I just don't think it fits me. I don't like the whole vibe of see-sawing between working a lot and not caring. I've done that enough. If I was planning on doing research, or becoming an engineer, then I think my decision would be different. But I'm not, so it isn't. Another factor is that it doesn't seem like Hopkins has a particularly strong program for pure math. Math seems to mostly be used to accentuate other majors, like physics or engineering. As an aspiring mathematician, who is also interested in physics but not as much, it didn't really stand out to me. Again, this is a personal problem. I wish you guys the best.”

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Andres stays at Reed

No, I’m not committed to Reed. Don’t trust the title. I just went to Reed Admit Day (RAD) and stayed the night. So. Transition!

I started the day eating hotel food from the Quality Inn we were staying at. Then we drove back to campus and signed ourselves in. Some faculty welcomed us and said some words. What I mostly got out of it was that there isn’t much political diversity, there is a “stress culture,” and students sometimes deal with stress using fire. That last point is a good thing, in my opinion. Anyways, dad and I used this time to come up with a game plan: I would do a math session, the reactor tour, lunch, the canyon tour, the library archives tour, and the physics information session, in that order.

At first everything went according to plan. At the math session, some profs talked about the math department. It’s pretty small, but I think that’s just because it’s a small school. There’s 6 math classes, 2 computer science classes, and a few stats classes. Calc AP would let me skip intro calculus, which I think would be nice. Their thesis project is to write a paper which explains a math topic in a simple way. So, like, the math IA. Dual math-physics majoring is pretty easy. All in all, it’s something I think I’d like.

The reactor tour was really cool. Not quite amazing, but still really cool. Reed has the only nuclear reactor managed by undergraduates in the world. You can start applying as a freshman, and they certify 15 students a year. After that, you are certified to operate any nuclear reactor in the world. It’s pretty rad. Also people use it for experiments and things, so that’s cool too. Mostly I just want to work there.

Then we had lunch. I had a club sandwich with Giancarlo (as I now know it is spelled) and his brother, who is a Reed alumnus. Giancarlo’s brother and I discussed Reed, and how it was better academically than most other colleges, and that it was really easy to get into a graduate program from Reed. An advantage of Reed over, say, Yale or Johns Hopkins is that Reed is completely focused on undergraduates, as are all of its resources.

Then, Giancarlo’s brother revealed that he had a class schedule dniaunsaainfine me use it to find a math class to break into. I chose Discrete Structures, which sounded promising, and Giancarlo and I went to the library to attend. Unfortunately, the class did not exist, or else I misread something. Either way, Giancarlo and I got tired of waiting, and we went into a neighboring office to ask for help. The teacher their was very nice, and he looked up a class for us to go to. We sat in on a statistics class, in which students use a free open source program called R to analyze data, while understanding what’s happening. It was a pretty standard lecture, with a bit at the end about the Challenger disaster. I think it was nice.

When we left the library, I went back to “base” to attend “living at Reed and in Portland.” Previously, I had planned to do the library archives tour at this time. I was late for both, and so went on a tour of campus instead. At first I thought I wouldn’t really get much out of it; I had basically memorized the campus already when I had spent two hours walking around it on Sunday. Actually, it was pretty cool, a kind of general information tour. I learned that Reed has a paid outreach program where you go teach science at schools around the area. I learned that the rond is a sanctuary for salmon, so it’s all sorts of important for agencies and things. I learned that the biggest dorms are in the Old Dorm Block. I confirmed that Reed has an archery class, and learned that it has a fencing class as well. It was cool.

Then there was the physics information session. Not much happened. Their physics department has laser cutters, 3D printers, a telescope on the roof, and 7 full-time faculty. Good for them. Also, of the 20 Reedies in the physics department, two went to CERN last summer. And, of course, there’s the nuclear reactor.

That was the end of RAD. I hugged my dad, said goodbye to Giancarlo, and got ready for the overnight stay. My host was named Sasha, and they also hosted a guy named William. The three of us had dinner at the cafeteria; I had a burger, two cupcakes, and a Gatorade. We discussed life at Reed, and cool things like the Odyssey program (a big camping trip), Weapons of Mass Distraction (fire dancers) and queer life (which is very nice at Reed). Then we went to Sasha’s room at the top of the Old Dorm Block, in a divided two-room dorm. The other room of the dorm was inhabited by a guy and a girl, as far as I could tell. We dropped off our stuff and headed out.

We quickly discovered than neither William nor I had thought to bring the schedule for the evening, so we didn’t know where anything was. Sasha took it upon themselves to give us a tour of campus. We started by going down to the rond, where Sasha showed us AHAHAHAHAHAHA! Nine hours of travel have occurred between that last sentence and this one. To be fair, two of those hours were because of time differences. Still, I’m going slightly insane. But I still need to finish this. Because otherwise I will forget. Because I have no memory function in my brain. I’m not even sure if I’m being sarcastic.

Right. Sasha showed William and I some islands on the rond and told us about the lampreys that come with the salmon. Then they showed us a “physics pit,” which is a room off of the physics building that has really good acoustics. Then the three of us, joined by a random schmoe who was missing his host, went to the pool room. Apparently there’s a huge social scene in the pool room, which has six pool tables to play at. We played two games with teams, Schmoe and I on one team and William and Sasha on the other. We won the first game because Sasha hit the 8-ball into a pocket, and lost the second game because Sasha hit the 8-ball into a pocket but this time in the right way. Then Sasha left to do homework, leaving us to our own devices.

We didn’t do much with our own devices. William and I played around a bit more with the pool tables and chatted about physics and stuff. Turns out he doesn’t think we really have a promising theory of everything in the works yet, and he especially disagrees with string theory. William said he was hungry, so we said goodbye to Schmoe and went back to the cafeteria, where he used his meal card on pizza and a cake (which was for some reason labeled “brownie”). We talked for like an hour, mostly about college and academics, and ridiculous physics IAs he had witnessed. It was fun. When William finished eating, we went out to walk around campus, and just sort of wandered in the dark. By this time it was 9:00, which was when Sasha had told us to text them, so I texted them.

Sasha instructed us to, and I quote, “come by the nog, that’s Griffin Mckinley.” William and I puzzled about what that could possibly mean, and made our way to a map. After a few moments of staring at the map, William pointed at a dorm building labeled McKinley. Connected to it was another dorm named Griffin. We figured this was our best bet, and headed there. Sure enough, there was Sasha, in the area between the two buildings which was apparently called the nog. They let us into the nog and, after learning a few simple fire dancing tricks (with glowy lights instead of fire), we headed for the S’mores with a CSO event, which was the only event that we remembered from the schedule. On our way there, we crossed the bouncing bridge, which bounces. By the way, CSO stands for Community Safety Officer, and is pronounced “sizzo.” Some of the students, including Sasha, don’t entirely trust the CSOs, but I think they’re okay.

Anyways, by the time we got to the event, all that was left was a little fire and maybe a dozen people. We talked and I had some toasted marshmallows. It was fun. A lot of interesting people are potentially going to Reed. The CSO seemed nice, too. Oh, and someone went into the naked tree, but it was really too dark to see them. When the fire died down, at a bit after 11:00 (although to me it felt like midnight), we went back to Sasha’s room. We slept.

I woke up at like 6:00 and started packing up as quietly as I could. I was really slow about it. At 7:15 I woke up William, as we had agreed beforehand. We packed up, said goodbye to Sasha, and left. We had a quick breakfast before we left: I had an “avocado toast” and he had whatever. Then I skedaddled to the airport. Dad and I finished One Punch Man and started The Story Of Math. Then we had to wait at the DIA from 2:00 to 5:30 so I wrote the first half of this. Then some more traveling happened in which dad watched the live movie of Your Lie in April and we both cried, even though I couldn’t actually hear anything. Then we rented a car but there was some trouble so it took a while, and then we drove all the way to Johns Hopkins instead of to the hotel, so we had to drive back. Then I wrote some more, and then it was now. I need to sleep.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Andres goes to Reed

Day one of Reed is over. Well, not over over, but you know what I mean. From now on I will refuse to go out. Is what I mean by over. Just want that to be clear.

So, background! I am taking a week out of my very precious school time to visit colleges. I have been accepted into four: University of Colorado, Reed College, Johns Hopkins University, and Yale University. I've also been waitlisted by some (WashU, Harvey Mudd, and Tufts) and rejected by some (Pomona and Stanford) but I've decided to focus only on the colleges I've been accepted to. This is going to take me on a journey from here in Portland, Oregon all the way to the east coast. So, technically across the country.

Anyways. How did today go? We (my dad and I) woke up at 5:00 AM to get on a shuttle to the airport (which I almost just called "plane station"). We ate McDonald's for breakfast and boarded around 7:30. We then watched One Punch Man on the flight to Portland, arrived, got a car with old-fashioned keys, and went immediately to Reed campus.

We parked in front of the Performance Arts building and started walking around. Got some food at the food court (I had french toast, a pancake, and bacon) before heading to Reed Canyon. Of course, we didn't know it was Reed Canyon, because we're from Colorado where there are actually canyons. Anyways, we thought the body of water was a pond for a while, but then found it was actually a river. A river disguised as a pond. A rond.

Anyways, after a bit of walking we found the admissions office and a dude named Wayne, who told us what's what. Then I went off on my own to explore, meeting the security officer Zeke and the prospective student Tim, who had a very loud bright yellow coat. Tim and I poked around the library (they give students their own thesis desks) and then met my dad at the Physics building, where Whatsisfase's musical metal was put on display. Both the physics building and the biology building where closed, though.

Tim and I went off on our own to see the north side of campus, which is mostly residential halls. They all look really nice, with drawings on the walls and spiky burrs to throw at people. It was at this point that it hit me how blue the place was politically, as there were some very notmypresident slogans on some of the buildings. It kinda made me uncomfortable, which is strange because I am also blue. Eh.

It was about time to go to Hawthorne, so we did. I met another prospective student named Gabe on the way there. Once we got to Hawthorne, my car group went to Blue Star Donuts, which was advertised as better than Voodoo Donuts. I tried their Orchata Glaze donut, and decided that is not better than Voodoo Donuts. Then we all went to mini-Powell's, which is like Powell's but mini. Powell's is a bookstore, by the way. We poked around a bit, and I purchased How to Fake a Moon Landing. By this point, most of the group had dispersed, so I joined Jian-Carlo and Isabel (pretty sure those are their names) in wandering around. We had some drinks (non-alcoholic) at the Cup and Saucer, which were okay. Having had about enough, we decided to head back.

Wayne drove us back, along with a girl named Mia. When we were back at Reed, I decided I had had enough of it for now, and called my dad to pick me up. On our way back to the car, we saw some Performance Arts kids taking a group picture. They did some Performance Arts things. Look like fun people. I might fit in, or I might hate it. Probably the first, I think.

We got to the hotel and set up shop. Nothing special there. Every Quality Inn is the same as every other. Then, we went to eat dinner at Kennedy School, which was really good. I got a burger with egg and cheese and tater tots on the side. We walked around the school for a bit, taking in the pictures and things, and then left. Oh, also, on the check it said our server was "Matttt." Fun times.

Then I was here again. So far, it's a nice place. I don't think Reed quite met what I was expecting, but that's fine because I'm not sure what I was expecting. Also because it was a Sunday so I haven't seen it while it's an actual college. Like, a used college. A college that's being used. You know what I mean.

Anyways, yeah. First impressions. First day of a journey. What a hoot. Now I will sleep.