Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Rise of the Phoenix

I’m pleased to say that I was able to start off my day at a reasonable hour this morning, waking up energized and well-rested at 8:20 AM. After getting ready, I proceeded to make my way to the hotel lobby, Tamilyn and Rochelle in tow. Once everyone had gathered within the lobby, we set off, stopping by Starbucks for a quick breakfast of breakfast pastries and Frappuccino’s along the way.

With breakfast finished with, we decided to pass the afternoon enjoying Navy Pier. After taking in the view of the Pier’s majestic shoreline, we went onto explore Navy Pier’s adjoining amusement park and it’s various attractions; first, we took a ride on the pier’s 150-foot Ferris wheel, followed by a ride on a carousel, and lastly, a walk through Navy Pier’s indoor botanical garden, the Crystal Gardens.

At 12:30 PM, we hopped on the bus towards to our next destination—the University of Chicago. We proceeded to check-in within the University of Chicago’s Office of College Admissions, Rosenwald Hall. Upon arriving at Rosenwald Hall, we found out that we had arrived early, and so we chose to take advantage of our newfound free time by taking lunch break, selecting one of the University’s three dining halls as our eatery of choice. I was surprised to see the wide selection of choices being offered to student body, with over a dozen different restaurants being packed within one small corridor. Eventually, I settled on a small platter of assorted sushi. In the meantime, we also passed some time inside the University of Chicago’s student store, browsing and purchasing as we pleased before finally returning to Rosenwald Hall. Although the information session had still yet to commence, we were able to briefly meet with one of our dinner guests, Callie M. Brown, who welcomed us to the campus and kindly gifted us with free University of Chicago T-Shirts.  

After a few more moments, the information session finally began and we were quickly ushered to the school’s nearby auditorium. We were given a charming presentation that was both witty and instructive. The University of Chicago’s admissions process utilizes a holistic approach that takes an applicant’s entire academic career into consideration. Admissions officers take great care into judiciously reviewing each applicant’s transcript, personal statement, extracurricular activity history, and test scores. However, they stressed the point the most important part of the University of Chicago’s application are their supplement al essays, which  open, enigmatic prompts, such as “Where is Waldo?” and “Find X,” that allow applicants to fully display their creativity and writing capabilities. As such, it is the portion of the application that receives the most scrutiny.

The school year at the University of Chicago is divided quarterly, with students taking an average of three to four courses per semester. Because of the ten week academic periods, classes are somewhat faster paced and accelerated when compared to those of school who use a semester system. Classes within the University of Chicago are split between three different categories; first there is the Core program, which consists of prerequisite courses from various academic disciplines such as mathematics and social science; then there is the major category, which are the courses a student needs to complete his or her major; and finally there is the elective category, which includes classes that may not count for a student’s Core or major requirements, but they are nonetheless still interested in taking.

We learned that it is mandatory for incoming freshman to live on campus and partake in the school’s meal plan, with the two services becoming optional in their later years. In addition, the University of Chicago emphasizes the importance of communal living, as seen through their housing system. In short, dormitories are divided into multiple groups, dubbed “houses.”  A dormitory can consist of one to ten houses, which in turn include about several dozen students per each. Houses are organized by randomly, thus ensuring the integration of variety students regardless of their year, major, ethnicity, region, or gender. Roommates, on the other hand, are chosen through the use of a survey, therefore increasing the compatibility between roommates.  

Our information session was immediately followed by a tour of the campus. The University of Chicago, whose incorporates both gothic and modernized elements of architecture, spans a five block radius and consists of over 210 acres of land. Due to its large size, we were unable visit the campus in its entirety, but we were still able to a sizable portion of the campus, including the school’s courtyard; Max Palevsky Common House dormitory; and one of the school’s research centers, the Gordon Center for Integrative Science. I really enjoyed my time spent at the University of Chicago, as I found both its programs and systematizing to be very appealing and the school as a whole to be supportive of the student body. Following the conclusion of the tour, we returned to the hotel to prepare for our first Ivy League Connection Dinner.

Tonight we had the pleasure to dine at Perennial Virant, an upscale restaurant that prides itself in its usage of fresh, local ingredients. Accompanying the Cornell Cohort were Callie M. Brown and Trot A. Carlson, two Admissions Officers of the University of Chicago and Mario Gage, a current University of Chicago student who was accompanied by two of his fellow schoolmates. While I was unable speak with either of the Admissions Officers, I still had a pleasurable time chatting with Mario, who eagerly gave me a detailed account on the school life of the University.

For dinner, we enjoyed a shared course of appetizers consisting of asparagus, rice cakes, and ravioli. Afterwards, we dined on our respective entrées, though most of the dinner party had ordered the Grilled Slagel Farm Beef Loin, myself included. The meal was concluded with a shared round of desserts, which ranged from gourmet cook cakes and cookies to less conventional desserts such as goat cheese balls drenched in honey. Overall, it was a lovely dinner, filled with delicious food and delightful conversation. 

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