Our morning started earlier than yesterday, around 5:45 AM. The plan was to catch a train to go north to Kingston to visit Bard College. Everything ran smoothly and we were able to depart on the train on schedule.
When we arrived at our destination, there was a van waiting to take us to Bard. They gave us a private information session because of the tight schedule we were on. We met with a woman from the scholarship center that gave us a brief overview on how the college worked. The first main thing we had to understand was what exactly a liberal arts college was. She explained that is was different from other schools, in that you had to take a broad range of classes. As long as they fulfilled the requirements Bard set, you could take those classes. They require you to take one class in each of the 12 subjects required and after you can chose to take whatever classes you want or ones that will go along with your major.
Bard felt to me like a more strict school that I thought a liberal arts college was. Everything there is outlined and has a certain order to follow. There are many graduation requirements, like 3 workshops you must attend before you start freshmen year that are meant to make you comfortable with the campus and meet new students. There is also Moderation which is declaring your actual major, and it must be approved by a board of faculty members after you present them with 2 essays on classes you have taken and how you felt about them as well as why you have chosen that major. Then you must complete a senior project that can be whatever you want. It can be building something or starting an organization, but it has to relate to your major. The admissions process was almost like every other school. They wanted to see your transcripts, activities, and letters of recommendation. They do not require you to submit any test scores because they don’t believe in standardized testing.
For me, Bard is not a college I would like to attend. It was very uptight for a school that is supposed to let you decide what classes you take and is supposed to allow you to explore academics. The college campus was very spaced out. Also, it is far from a city, which also made me not like it as much. The atmosphere that I got listening to the tour guide and the information session was not as personal as I would have liked. When I was there, it seemed like I was out of place, that I didn’t belong.
|FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt|
After visiting Bard, we drove to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s home about 15 minutes away. We didn’t have enough time to take a tour and the library and museum were closed because of renovations. First, we went to the gift shop (called the New Deal shop, which I thought was pretty cool) and bought some souvenirs. We then visited the house that FDR lived in. Interestingly, it was actually his mother’s house, which he and Eleanor had lived in with their children as well. They even had to add on to the house to make sure the family had enough room to live comfortably. The property was gorgeous. There was green everywhere and beautiful outdoors, which was mostly why FDR loved the home so much because he loved the outdoors. Then we moved on to visit the rose garden where FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt were buried. It’s amazing to think of all of the important figures in our history that have stepped foot on that property. This was the home of the man that helped end the Great Depression and was loved by the American public. This is what the course we are taking at Columbia is all about: the great leaders that our country has had.
Vassar was the next stop on our trip. It was like Bard, but way more relaxed. They had graduation requirements, but not as many as Bard. They looked at test scores and transcripts very seriously and I felt they were more serious about the application process. They’re looking for students that would make the most out of what Vassar has to offer. What I thought was interesting and stood out about the college was the fact that for the first 3 years, you live in the same dorm with the same people. There are no fraternities or sororities or themed housing. Then for the 4th year they live on the edges of campus in a single apartment.
I liked Vassar more than Bard. Honestly, after visiting these colleges I’m not sure if a liberal arts college is for me. I want to be directed more into what I plan on studying, not over a broad range where I might get confused on what I actually want to major in. They were also very small compared to the other universities that I had been planning on applying to. They are not focused enough for me.
Back in New York, we met two current students from Columbia, Matt and Andrea. Andrea sat at my end of the table and talked to me the most. She was so enthusiastic about how much she loved Columbia that it made me really excited to move in this Sunday. She told me everything I needed to know, from food, to clubs, to places to visit. She also gave me her phone number so that if any of us need advice or have questions on where to go, she can help us out. It’s really cool to be able to communicate with students that are close to our age and are willing to help you with your experience at Columbia. They definitely made it clear that grades were the most important component for the application process. They also pointed out the differences on why they went to Columbia and not Brown or Cornell or UPENN that they had also been accepted to. They liked the idea of being in a city and the internship opportunities it offered. Columbia for them was a place they could connect and communicate with each other through all of the different clubs and activities that it offers. They also put on emphasis on how much they likes the core curriculum, which is kind of like a liberal arts curriculum but more structured. They set out the classes you must take in different areas, rather than being all over the place and not knowing where to start when picking classes.
New York City definitely needs getting used to. Most of my curiosity for the city has so far been the subway system. It is very convenient when you don’t want to walk or need to get somewhere fast and cheap. It takes a lot of time to learn how to exactly ride the subway and what stop to take. I haven’t gotten homesick yet, but I know it will come sooner or later. All these new experiences around me are overwhelming. NYC doesn’t give you enough time to really take in what is around you. You have to learn to keep up with its pace. I really wish we could have spent more time in historical sites and not have been so rushed. The East Coast has a lot to see and I’m looking forward to seeing more!