Tag Archives: Brown University

Views of Brown University

16 Feb

We visited Brown University last April. As you can see, it was a beautiful spring day. I thought I had lost these photos so I’m delighted that they have re-surfaced. Hope you enjoy the views of this Ivy League campus in Providence, Rhode Island.

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.

Congratulations to the Class of 2011

23 Jun

Today is graduation day for the seniors at our high school and they are to be much congratulated on their accomplishments.  Most of the class of 2011 will be going on to colleges where they will receive a first class education.  From what I could piece together from different sources, here are some highlights of where the students will be going.

Of all the graduating seniors in the class of 2011, 350 of them chose to disclose where they are attending college in the fall, a substantial majority.  Thirty-two of them will be heading to Ivy League colleges, with nine going to Cornell University, six each to the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University, four will go to Princeton University, with two each attending Harvard University, Yale University, and Dartmouth College and one going to Brown University.  The co-valedictorians this year will attend Princeton and Georgetown Universities.

By far the largest contingent of students will be heading to Rutgers University, 17 in all.  The University of Michigan also appears to be a popular destination, claiming 15 students.  Other popular colleges include Syracuse University (14), New York University (10), Boston University (8), Colgate University (8), Indiana University (8), Pennsylvania State University (7), the George Washington University (6), Muhlenberg College (6), and Washington University in St. Louis (6).  Two are even heading north to attend McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

By all accounts this was a difficult year for admissions, given the sheer number of applications.  The Common Application folks reported that over 1.8 million applications were filed this past year and the number of applications filed on December 31, 2010 set a one-day record.

As these students leave adolescence and childhood behind and head off into adulthood and bigger horizons, they take with them our hopes and best wishes for a fulfilling, productive, and happy life.  Congratulations to the Class of 2011.

Book Review: The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose

19 Jan

For this week, a change of pace.  Some of you know that I love to read and write book reviews.  I stumbled upon this appealing memoir by Kevin Roose who wanted to experience Christian college “with as little prejudgement as possible.”  So he went undercover as a transfer student at Liberty University, founded by the late Jerry Falwell, controversial leader of the Moral Majority.  From his experiences at Liberty, he penned The Unlikely Disciple-A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University (Grand Central Publishing 2009).

It is a journey into the heart of the southern, mostly white, conservative evangelical sub-culture, a culture almost as foreign to Mr. Roose as another country.  Then a sophomore attending Brown University, Mr. Roose could not have picked a college more different than Brown, a liberal Ivy League university.  Liberty bills itself as the world’s largest Christian university with 29,000 undergraduates with strict rules prohibiting drinking, dancing, and physical contact between the sexes: “Liberty was founded as a conservative Christian utopia, and by those standards, Brown, with its free-spirited student body, its grades-optional academic scene…is a notch or two above Sodom and Gomorrah.”

Throwing himself completely into Liberty’s academic and campus life, he joins a 300-person church choir and takes Liberty’s core curriculum classes like Evangelism 101, Old Testament Survey, and History of Life, a creation studies course.  He gives up cursing – “Without cynicism and cursing, what will I say to people?” – and drinking – “My mind is razor sharp, and my eyelids are defying gravity” – to fit in.  He prays and adopts the evangelical jargon.  He even ventures on a mission trip to evangelize to beach-going, hard-partying college students in Florida during spring break.

What emerges is an entertaining, thoughtful and even-handed chronicle of his semester on the other side of the God Divide.  He befriends his fellow students and dorm-mates, many of whom he finds to be warm, genuine, funny, and intelligent.  While he admires them, he laments that “Liberty is a place where professors aren’t allowed to take chances with their course material…where academic rigor is sacrificed on the altar of uninterrupted piety, where the skills of exploration, deconstruction, and doubt…are systematically silenced in favor of presenting a clear, unambiguous political and spiritual agenda.”  For the sake of its students, he’s “praying for a turnaround.”  His prayers may be answered, as the new leadership at Liberty appears to loosen up some rules.

In the end, the friendships Mr. Roose formed from his time on campus left the deepest impressions: “…I had experienced immense spiritual growth at Liberty…the warmth of my…Liberty friends had been a better apologetic device” than any sermons or class lectures.  His maturity and skillfulness as an engaging writer are evident as he portrays Liberty students, faculty and administrators as complex, multifaceted human beings and not one-dimensional caricatures of fire and brimstone Bible-thumpers.  Even his views of Rev. Falwell undergo fine-tuning as he conducted the last print interview of Mr. Falwell and witnessed the outpouring of grief on campus upon the death of the Liberty founder.

While he does not buy into every aspect of the Liberty ethos, Mr. Roose’s book offers hope that personal relationships can bridge over troubled waters of any cultural divide.  The Unlikely Disciple is a fun read and the author’s capers on campus will suitably amuse readers.

 

An Early Decision Acceptance

9 Dec

The phone rang, shattering the quiet air.  I picked it up.  It was my mother-in-law.

“Katy got into Brown!”  She announced excitedly.  Katy (not her real name) is my niece, who had applied early decision to Brown University.

“That’s great!  Wow!” I exclaimed and covering the mouthpiece, I turned to my daughter and told her the news.  She nodded and went back to her homework on the computer.  Something flitted across her face but as quickly as it appeared it was gone.

After I hung up the phone, I couldn’t stop marveling about my niece’s accomplishment.  She is the first in my daughter’s generation in my husband’s family to apply to college and she had done very well for herself.

“Isn’t that fantastic that Katy got into Brown?”  I gushed to my daughter.  She turned to me and said,

“I’m very happy for her, Mom, but now the pressure is on.”  I frowned a little, uncertain of what she meant until the import of her words dawned on me.  My daughter is the next to go to college and now her cousin had set a very high bar.

“You don’t have to go to Brown, you know, or an Ivy League school,” I tried to assure her.  She nodded and said,

“I know.  But still…” Her voice trailed off and she continued working on the computer.  I fell silent, not knowing what else to say.  (I’m finding that more often than not these days, I don’t have an adequate response).

Several days later, I was with another sister-in-law who had a daughter in middle school at the time (I’ll call the daughter Emily) and the subject of conversation turned to Katy’s acceptance at Brown.  I casually mentioned my own daughter’s response and she immediately said that Emily had reacted similarly.  Both girls apparently felt the pressure to have to live up to the standard that their cousin Katy had set.

Some of the pressure is self-imposed and personality-driven; both girls want to do well in school because that’s who they are.  But I strongly suspect some of the pressure comes from family, however subtle or unintentional.  My mother-in-law once remarked that among her children, their spouses and now the grandchildren, we had collectively attended all the Ivy League schools except for Dartmouth College and Yale University.  And however much has been written about rebellious teens, most teens still seek their family’s approval.  For my daughter’s generation to get into the Ivy League is pressure indeed, especially since these schools are more competitive than 30 years ago.

Of course, this kind of familial pressure is not unique.  My husband can still recall growing up in the shadow of his brilliant older sister who, incidentally, is Katy’s mother.  His teachers often reminded him that they had taught his sister and he inevitably felt himself being compared to her.  It wasn’t until he realized that as much as he admired his sister’s accomplishments, he didn’t want to be her, that he felt free to chart his own course in life.

It’s been two years since Katy got into Brown and my daughter is now looking at colleges, trying to figure out what she wants.  While life is never without pressure, my hope as a parent is that she, like her father before her, will eventually find her own way.  Isn’t that what we all want for our children?

Trip Report: Cornell University

12 Aug

Nestled in the picturesque Finger Lakes region of New York, Cornell University is the largest Ivy League university with 13,500 undergraduates and 6,000 graduate students.  Statistically it is the easiest Ivy League school to get into with an admission rate of 18% for 2010 (compare to Brown University at 9% or University of Pennsylvania at 14%).

With seven undergraduate colleges offering degrees in traditional liberal arts, hotel administration, engineering, human ecology, industrial and labor relations, agriculture and life sciences, and art, planning and architecture, you should be able to find something interesting to study.

Each undergraduate college conducts its own admissions process and prospective students can select two college choices on their application.  If they don’t get into their first choice, then they get another chance with the second college.  For some areas of study, this gives an applicant two chances to gain admission.  For example, if a student is interested in studying biology, she can apply to the arts and sciences college and to the agriculture-life sciences college.  Both offer opportunities to study biology but each college has different graduation requirements.

This can lead to applicants trying to “game” the system by applying to a college that has a higher rate of admission and then getting into another college through the backdoor.  The admissions officer at the arts and sciences information session acknowledged that this happens and says that students can apply for an internal transfer.  Usually it is not a problem if that student has maintained a good academic record.

Cornell has a reputation for being a pressure cooker, in part probably because of the rigorous academics.  My cousin, a professor in the engineering school, confirmed that “The workload is heavy here.”  Last year there were half a dozen student suicides, two of which occurred within a two-day period.  Three of those suicides took place at the bridges spanning the gorges around the campus.  The administration has since erected ugly chain link fences to prevent further attempts (see my photos).

It is no surprise then that our student tour guide specifically talked about the mental health services available to students, with easy-to-remember acronyms like CAPS and EARS.  The suicides were never brought up but it was clear she was trying to assure prospective students and parents that the university was doing everything it could.

The campus is quite large and hilly and one can easily stay in shape criss-crossing it.  There are trails into wooded areas with views of waterfalls, streams and gorges.  One can even glimpse Lake Cayuga in the distance.

Three of the undergraduate colleges are publicly funded by New York State, meaning that a New York state resident pays only $36,176 for tuition, room and board to attend the agriculture and life sciences, human ecology, or industrial and labor relations college.  This is a bargain compared to the $52,316 price tag to attend the other four colleges.

Some interesting facts about Cornell University:

  • Some famous alumni: Dr. Joyce Brothers, E.B. White, Christopher Reeve, Jimmy Smits, Ann Coulter, Bill Maher, Abby Joseph Cohen, Janet Reno, Paul Wolfowitz
  • Students need to pass a swim test to graduate
  • The largest class is Psych 101 which has 1,300 students and is taught by a popular professor
  • The university received 36,338 applications for the class of 2014 and 17,000 applications were for the College of Arts and Sciences
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