Archive | December, 2011

The Postman Cometh

16 Dec

I heard her running down the hall, her slippered feet slapping against the wooden floor.

“Is the postman here?” I inquired.  But I already knew the answer.

She nodded, her face tense, and we both race to get the mail.  Stuck amongst my copy of Poets & Writers, our local newspaper and junk mail was a priority mail envelope with Barnard College’s return address.  This was it.

She tore open the envelope, took out a black folder with the name of the college printed in large, white letters on the front.  With nervous fingers, she opened the folder and her eyes anxiously scanned the letter:

“Congratulations!  On behalf of the Committee on Admissions, I am pleased to inform you that you have been admitted to the Barnard College Class of 2016.”   

Screams.  Hugs.  Jumping up and down.  Phone calls to family.  Phone calls to friends who have walked alongside us through this long process.  Email to guidance counselor.  Texts to friends.  No dinner.  Takeout night.  Facebook.  Accepting everyone’s good wishes.  Savoring the moment.

From the start she was attracted to Barnard.  In the middle of the campus tour in August of 2010, she leaned over to me and whispered, “I like this school.”  From then on, every college we visited was compared against Barnard.  She likes the small liberal arts atmosphere of a women’s college with access to Columbia University’s classes, professors, and resources.  The curriculum allows her flexibility to explore different disciplines without having to take required core courses.  The New York City location allows for plenty of opportunities for internships and volunteering.  Columbia University’s Chinese language courses are known to be rigorous and thorough.  For her, it made complete sense to apply early decision.

In case anyone is wondering, I plan to continue with this blog in the new year and write about the rest of the journey from acceptance to matriculation from the point of view of a parent.  I remain fascinated by college admissions and all things higher education, so I hope that you will continue to walk alongside me on this journey.

Thanks, and have a merry Christmas, a happy holiday, and a joyful new year.

Waiting for the Postman

15 Dec

My daughter’s First Choice College has mailed out its acceptance and rejection letters so it all falls on the trusty United States Postal Service to deliver good or bad tidings to our house.  Any day now.  The College has been cagey about when it mailed out its notices, only saying that everyone will hear by the end of this week, which could mean Saturday.  Not for the first time I complain to anyone who will listen, “That’s so 20th century.  Why can’t they do it like everyone else, electronically?”  I suppose they are trying to help the Postal Service stay in business.

Since last Thursday December 8, several colleges have notified their early decision applicants, mostly through their websites.  Thursday was Cornell University and Columbia University; Friday was University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth College and Washington University in St. Louis.  This week, more students found out their fates: Brown University, Duke University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Vassar College, Georgetown University, Tufts University.  To those who got in, hearty congratulations, and to those who did not, please believe that you will end up where you are supposed to be.

It’s been fascinating to watch how news of acceptances trickle out, or rather, in this social media age, how with one tap of the “Return” button, information gets blasted out into cyberspace for all to see at once.  No more calling up your friends to tell them – that’s so 20th century.  My daughter keeps her Facebook page on while doing homework and refreshes it periodically.  Ever so often she yells out to me: “So-and-So got into Such-and-Such!”  Friends then post their congratulations on the admitted student’s page.  By contrast, the pages of the ones who did not get in are silent.

Meanwhile, we are keeping an eagle eye out for the postman this week.

Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University – Public Option Part 2

13 Dec

If NYU was the “hot chick” whom Monkey Son had long admired from afar, Rutgers was the girl Monkey Mama kept nudging Son to meet, and just “give her a chance.”  That chance came with a visit in early fall.

Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers has one of the most prestigious and selective Acting B.F.A. programs in the nation, among its numerous degree programs in visual and performing arts.  This program includes a mandatory junior year at the Globe Theatre in London.  Some famous alumni include Kristin Davis and Calista Flockhart.

The program is rigorous and intense, as Michael our graduate student guide, explained: “No time for football games.”  Monkey Son’s appetite was whetted by the news that Mason Gross students did not have to fulfill a math or science requirement, and that, in Michael’s words, “we don’t care about your grades” for admissions.  Admissions are almost exclusively determined by auditions, which entail two monologues, one classical (Shakespeare is recommended) and one modern (i.e. post-1911).  Both monologues cannot exceed four minutes combined.  Close to 800 aspirants audition for about 16 places in the program.

Although they do not have an explicit “cut” system, only 10 students are expected to complete the training.  Most students leave voluntarily, after determining that they want a more varied, less grueling, schedule.  Sometimes students may be nudged in a different direction if they show insufficient dedication to their craft.  The final year at Mason Gross focuses on the practical aspects of life as a professional actor, including acting for film, auditioning techniques, and a showcase performance in New York.  Almost all students have agents by the time they graduate.

Monkey Son’s theater mentor received her M.F.A. from Mason Gross, after studying with Sanford Meisner in New York.  Mason Gross utilizes Meisner’s techniques in their conservatory, which might give Monkey Son a partial boost since he is familiar with basic Meisner principles.  Nevertheless, the competition is fierce and his prospects remain slim.  Monkey Mama remains optimistic that any school whose representative shrugs and says “we don’t care about your grades” has to be a decent fit for her cherished first-born son.

Welcome | Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

8 Dec

Acceptance letters have come a long way.  This is what my daughter found in her inbox today:

Welcome | Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

 

Correction

8 Dec

I have to correct something I wrote yesterday.  My husband informed me last night that he did not check off the Asian box when he applied to college because he did not want to be evaluated against other Asian Americans, not because he considered himself Caucasian.  He did not check off the Caucasian box.  My bad.

Asian: To Check or Not To Check

7 Dec

When I read Jesse Washington’s revealing article “New Asian Strategy: Don’t Check ‘Asian,'” I found myself nodding with a sense of recognition.  He writes that many Asian American college applicants, especially those from mixed heritages, are declining to identify themselves as Asian on their applications for fear of being discriminated against.  In the story he interviews some applicants who chose not to check off the Asian box because of a pervasive belief among Asian Americans that they are not being evaluated individually but against each other.  Studies have shown that Asian Americans need higher test scores than applicants of other ethnicities to gain admission to the top colleges.

For those reasons, I advised my daughter not to check off her race on the Common Application, especially since it was optional.  Her last name is not obviously Asian-sounding either; she wrote about getting in touch with her Chinese heritage in her personal essay so it’s moot.  And when she goes on interviews, her ethnicity becomes immediately obvious.  But my motivation is the same as that of some of the candidates interviewed for the article.

My husband, who is also of Chinese descent, said that he did not check off “Asian” either when he was applying to colleges because he did not want to be evaluated against other Asian Americans.  He declined to check any boxes.

I suspect that when colleges select their class, it is a nuanced exercise.  I once heard a talk given by the dean of college admissions of an elite midwestern university, who spoke to parents at our high school about how top colleges put together a class.  Because there are many more eligible candidates than there are spaces, a college has to do the hard job of paring down the final list of acceptances.  He gave an example: if there were too many football captains in the pool, they would cut a percentage of football captains and put them on the wait list.  The same holds true if there were too many pianists, violinists, tennis players, or those from one region of the country and so on.  He didn’t say it but it’s not hard to imagine a college needing to cut back on the number of qualified Asian applicants to maintain the college’s vision of racial balance and diversity on campus.  As one interviewee in the article puts it: “…a lot of Asians, they have perfect SATs, perfect GPAs, … so it’s hard to let them all in.”

I’m interested in hearing from readers: what would you advise your child to do?

The Talk

2 Dec

In less than two weeks, D-Day looms for seniors who have applied early decision.  On or about December 15, colleges will send out their acceptance letters to these early applicants who have been waiting anxiously to hear about their fate since November.  Will the email or letter read, “Congratulations and welcome to the Class of 2016,” or will it read, “We regret to inform you…” My hands have turned cold with dread and nervousness just thinking about it.

By this time, some seniors have already heard from colleges, especially if they applied to schools with rolling admissions.  A few weeks ago, my daughter told me that on her way to class, she saw a girl jumping up and down and shrieking in the hallway, “I’m going to college!”   Some talented athletes have also closed the deal on their recruitment: a top cross-country runner is going to Duke University, and a gifted tennis player is heading to Williams College.  As word spreads about who has gotten in and to where, my daughter admitted that she couldn’t help but feel pinpricks of envy, all of which only seems to add to the heightened frenzy and stress of the season.

So she waits with impatience and trepidation for December 15 to arrive, wanting it to come quickly and not wanting it to come quickly.  I talked to her about what may happen that day.

“If it doesn’t work out, you know, if you don’t get in…”

I broke off, searching for the right balance of optimism and realism.  Her eyes locked on mine as she waited for me to continue.  I tried again.

“We all think the college that you applied to is a good fit and we’re hopeful that you can get in.  But you never know these days.  You don’t know who else is applying and what they’re like.  If they receive too many applications from Chinese-American girls who have lived in Ireland, play the flute and want to study Chinese…” I paused.  This was not going the way I envisioned.  I didn’t want to make her sound like everyone else.

The word “rejection” sticks in my throat and I have a hard time spitting it out.  “If it doesn’t work out,” I said, my words rushing out, “then it was not the right college for you for reasons that we’re not going to know now.  We have to trust and have faith that in God’s providence, you will end up at the right college.”

She nodded.  “Yeah, I know.  I’ve thought about that too, about what it will feel like if I don’t get in.  I’ll probably be really disappointed and sad.”

“Yeah,” I agreed, “we’ll all feel disappointed.  But you’ll have to find a way to push through it and send out your other applications.”

She nodded again and huffed out a breath filled with longing, “I really hope I get in.”

Me too.

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