Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hercules Student Succeeds at Cal

Thanks for your patience. I recently just completed an externship with KCBS, the #1 Bay Area news radio station. I had an incredible opportunity to shadow the director for a few days and learned firsthand the inner workings of a well-established and well-respected broadcasting newsroom. From live on-air reporting to following reporters performing their expertise as they report and interview on the scene, I had an amazing opportunity to be surrounded in a positive environment with such great energy. All the staff were surprisingly stunned when they discovered that I was only a freshman, but this only reassured me that I was in good hands--learning from the people who are experts at their crafts. This externship left me with indelible memories, and I am incredibly glad that I sought other extracurricular opportunities instead of just limiting myself to resources in University of California, Berkeley.

Though I first found out about this opportunity through the career center, it is solely up to each student to seek these resources and to follow through with the application process. One of the virtues of being a college student is the large number of opportunities available that can better help you find your career path and narrow your options. Before taking on this externship, I had such a strong focus on print journalism. However, I am considering to tap into the broadcasting realm now.

On a different note, my second semester is about to start in about a week or so. I personally found that my high school did a pretty adequate job of preparing me for college-level material. Some of the courses I took back in high school were of course more rigorous than others. Like the saying goes, there is always room for improvement. In my first semester especially, I had a few writing courses. You soon will realize that it is of your benefit to go to office hours and to discuss your essay and the direction you plan to go off from with either the professor or the reader/TA, depending on who will grade your work. Aside from presenting material that is in line with either the professor or reader's vision, you extend your learning twofold because questions will arise that prompt you to reflect and look at the material closer, but most importantly, they challenge you and are great conversation starters.

I've noticed that other students focused more on study habits and such. I hope I have provided a bit of diversity into my reflection piece. I would be more than happy to answer any questions from Cal prospectives.

Thank you for your time and Happy New Year.


Stacy Chan

Reflections from Hercules High Student at Cal

I have only one word to describe college: refreshing.

In the classroom, it is refreshing to see students attending of their own volition, rather than under pressure of an attendance count. Back in high school, the common state of thinking included, “I have to go or else I’ll get in trouble.” Here, they know they will need the information for the future, or they actually enjoy the subject. It is pleasing to freely discuss academic subjects without being interrupted by exclamations of “You’re such a nerd,” or “Why do you like that?” All the students here value most of the material offered to them in the classroom. If not the knowledge, then they pay respect to the importance of actually attending class for a satisfactory grade. If not the important of attendance, then they understand the sacrifices they or their parents made to pay the money for these classes. In any situation, the students here are motivated, and their drive helps to fuel my own drive. I feel constantly challenged in the Berkeley setting. Although it can be daunting at times, it allows me to push myself and truly grow as a student, which I do not feel I was able to do as a high school student. Though I fear the amount of work I must endure, I welcome the knowledge and self-improvement it will provide me.

In the dorms, the independence is refreshing. I fare better at taking care of myself in college than at home. Living in a residential hall can teach a student how to live and survive outside of his or her comfort zone. In my case, I found myself cleaning more, becoming more aware of my living habits, and disciplining myself. At some point during the semester, prioritizing stopped being a struggle - it is easy when being surrounded by the university and by so many focused people. Furthermore, I was able to maintain a social life while staying on top of my work and sleeping enough. Once I settled into the rhythm of college life, time management became much easier.

But that isn’t to say that I never struggled in that area. The interesting aspect about the pace of college life is that it is not only quick in itself, but quick in its transitions. If students doesn’t look ahead, they will find themselves missing the change in pace and falling behind. It is vital for a student to learn how to adapt – in time management, but also in living with other people, living away from home, and living in such a free environment. If a student walks on campus with obstinacy, whether it is about living habits or perspective, then he or she will not be able to progress in college. The adjustment to the college pace was the most difficult for me, but I learned from my mistakes in time and am determined to do better in the future.

With so much to think about and to be concerned with, I am pleased with how my first college semester turned out. Stepping out of the high school world and into the university universe has been a true challenge, but it is safe to say that I survived and am ready for next semester.


Jacqueline Cuevas

Advice from RHS Alum at Denison in Central Ohio

Hello ILC!

This up coming week is the much dreaded midterms week here at Denison. I must say that coming to Denison was the best choice I have ever made. The first few weeks here were pretty scary, I felt unprepared for my classes and I was shy in approaching my professors for help. The work load was completely different than the one in Richmond High School, the material was much harder! And I must be honest I learned the hard way to approach my professors for help and to study a lot more for my tests. From these first weeks here at Denison I have learned so much that I wanted to share with current High School Seniors.

One, study, study, study! Everyone always tells you this but really, in college you can no longer leave the studying for the night before and I learned this the hard way! You must always be studying even when you have no tests coming up. This is something you guys should start practicing and getting into the habit of doing because it is really hard to do once you are in college.

Two, once your in college, really take advantage of your professor's office hours! If you don't understand something get into the habit of asking your teacher, don't be afraid to ask for help. You may feel like you are being annoying but your professors can really tell that you are really putting in an effort to learn the material, creating close relationships with your teachers and professors can only help you.

And three, learn to balance your time well. Time management is really important because part of the college experience is the course work and having fun as well, but you should really learn to prioritize, education should always come before socializing but taking a break wont hurt you either.

I wish you all luck on the college application process and one last thing. Choose the college you want to go to and really stay true to what you want in a college. If you say you want a small, liberal arts college with small class sizes don't choose to go to UCLA because you will be miserable. Don't choose the school that your parents want you to go to because you will be miserable as well. Choose the school that you think will be the best fit for you! Good luck on the college application process and enjoy your last year in high school because once your get to college you really need to put on those batteries and dedicate yourself 250% to your education.

Carla J. Ramirez
Denison University '14
Cell: (510) 734-8076

Greetings from Brown University

Sorry for the late response. These past weeks have been especially hectic with midterms finishing and finals creeping up. I think it's an accurate depiction of how one gets swept away by a laundry list of responsibilities and such, especially in the first semester.

I love Brown. I'm in love with this school and I am super sure that this is the place for me. I have no regrets about my decision. This past semester has been really different and interesting. It's a lot of freedom, lots of responsibilities.

It's been an experience just getting use to classes and the dorm situation. The class format is different and this semester has been a lesson on balancing priorities. You just learn a lot about doing what you love and not what is necessarily required of you. I continued with piano here and I'm loving it. I'm doing ultimate frisbee this semester and I really liked it. In a way, it feels like high school because you're always on the go, always doing something, but here you have a lot more freedom to do what you want.

If there is anybody that is seriously considering Brown, please send them my way! I have a million other things that I would love to tell the seniors. If anybody is applying to Brown, please let me know because I would love to talk to them. And of course, if anybody wants to visit, they'll always have a place to stay!

Cynthis Fong

From Pinole Valley to Penn

I'm sorry this reply is extremely late, but this past week has been my toughest (in terms of the work load) at Penn, and as this week is right before finals, I am finding a lot more work due than expected. I arrived back on Penn, last Sunday night, and I had a wonderful time with my relatives, and I'm kind of sad that it ended so soon, but I get to go home really soon. It's really awesome that Penn is a school some Ivy League Connection students next year will get the chance to attend, and I would not mind speaking with them.

Penn and my high school experience are different. One of the main reasons I chose Penn was it was big enough where I be anonymous if I wanted to, but have small enough class sizes where I feel I could learn more from the professors. Out of four classes, I have the best of both worlds. My math and bio lectures are close to 200 hundred people, but the recitation and lab are about 20 people. My writing seminar is 16 people and my Spanish class is 18 people. In high school, these class sizes would have been completely unheard of, and the instructors do provide individual attention. One thing I did not like about high school was that people treated me like a toddler, because of the bad examples set by some of my fellow peers, but at Penn, and I'm pretty sure at any college, they treat you like an adult. And even when you ask for help, they'll still treat you like adult. One thing that I've noticed since coming here is that if you ask for help, people will help you. In terms of academics, professors and TAs doors are always open, and if you can't make their office hours, you can email them and ask for a different time meeting. I'll admit, it's definitely a change from getting nearly straight As throughout high school to struggling with subjects that seem very easy to your peers, but it's completely fine to go ask for help. There are resources for help, especially if you look hard enough. My current professor for bio was actually complaining that she wasn't "getting enough customers."

College is definitely different from high school in the sense that you can really only rely on yourself. Honestly, I would say that college is a bit easier in the sense that you're taking less classes than you're taking in high school at once, and you do meet less often (1-3 times a week). You've just really got to learn how to manage your time, because homework is due less often, and most of the time you can't complete whole assignments in just of couple of hours, especially if you don't know how to do something and you have to go to your professor's or TA's office hours (which usually do not occur in the early hours of the morning when work gets done). You also get to take classes you like, I mean sure, there are requirements, but there are so many classes that you're bound to take something that interests you and fulfills requirements. For bigger lecture classes, professors put up their lectures online. You can skip classes without being noticed, but I strongly advise against this because sometimes the recording equipments fails, or the professor gets busy doesn't upload the lecture that you need before a test or homework is due. Also, you will probably procrastinate on watching the actual videos until its too late.

Most people think that students at an Ivy League School would be snobby, but Penn is not like that. I've found that most of the people in my classes are approachable once you start talking to them. Penn does not have as much diversity as Pinole Valley High did, but I can guarantee you can find people eerily similar, in terms of personality, to people at Pinole.

Because schedules are different at Penn everyday, you really have to plan ahead. In high school, days were always the same in terms of classes, but now you have to sit down and think about what you're going to do at a certain time. Basically, weekends have never been worth so much in terms of resting, and do not forget to rest. You will go crazy if all you do is work and study, so take breaks.

Right now, my classes are mostly review from classes I took in high school, such as biology, introduction to calculus, and Spanish. I really enjoy my Spanish class, and I feel that I'm improving and sometimes I catch myself starting to think in Spanish, which is awesome. My calculus class really is review, and I must say I'm glad that my high school calculus teacher was great at explaining everything, because sometimes I don't understand what my professor is lecturing about until we get to the last step. His explanations are good, but I think they're more oriented toward why we do things, instead of how. My biology class I would say is giving me the most trouble, and I think that's just from the fact that I'm not studying enough, so I know what I'll be doing during the Reading Days before finals. Labs are pretty fun to do, especially working with equipment we never had available in high school. My writing seminar is going well, my final portfolio for the class is due tomorrow, and I'm done with the writing requirement, and I must say that when the professor takes off points from my essays, it encourages me to do better. I can definitely see my growth as a writer since the beginning of the year.

My roommate is really great. We have classes at similar times, so our sleeping schedules aren't radically different, and we don't annoy each other. Her family is also really nice, they took me and another one of our hallmates out for some dessert when they came to visit my roommate for Thanksgiving. My hallmates are acutally a really nice and funny bunch, most of the arguments I hear are just about when music is too loud.

I guess you could say that I'm okay with my choice in Penn. It's a really good school, and I love my classes and learning, but sometimes I just get really homesick, and want to see a familiar face.


Richmond High Alum at Santa Clara University

Well now that I have lived through my first quarter at Santa Clara University, I can summarize these past 10 weeks as simply amazing. There were days when I was stressed over midterms, papers, finals, personal problems, but overall it has been great. It is difficult to adjust to living with other people and not having anyone constantly reminding you to do your homework and stay on track. For those that are still in high school, you should definitely try your best in high school and get the best grades possible because it will only get tougher in college.

Everyone should live on-campus if possible, you get to meet great people and have to full college experience. I live in a suite-style dorm where there are four sophomores and two freshmen. Each sophomore has a single while the freshmen share a double. Don't expect to get along with everyone that you live with, but this is just something else you will have to learn to deal with. Something I regret not doing is getting a tutor with some of my classes. I struggled with a couple of subjects and was able to get a decent grade on them, but this just showed me that from now on if I feel I am behind on a class I need to get a tutor. Midterms and finals ARE intimidating. If you are doing your homework and staying on track, the tests will not be that difficult. I feel like I spent too much time worrying about the midterms and finals when I really did not need to stress too much about them. STUDY STUDY STUDY. Join clubs that interest you, that way you get to meet other people besides those in your dorm or in your classes. I am part of MeCha and SHPE. MeCha is a club for Latinos, although anyone is welcomed to join. Since the majority of the population at SCU is American, it isn't that easy to meet other Latinos like me, but this club made it much easier for me. SHPE stands for Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. I am majoring in Civil Engineering, so joining clubs related to your major can be a huge help. This club updates us on internships and scholarship opportunities for engineers, and helps us create connections with other engineers. I got to meet upper class students, which can be to your advantage for whenever you need help on a class or need a book, since they already went through what we are going through.

I have met people that I can already tell will make a great impact in my life. I have learned to be a little more independent from my parents and I feel proud of myself for being in college and trying my best to graduate in four years. I absolutely love Santa Clara University. It might be a little too late for this year's seniors, but if anyone is interested in applying to SCU next year I would gladly tell them about my experience and about SCU. Overall, enjoy the college life. Party, but not too much. Don't let little things stress you out and make sure you are on track. Best wishes to all of you regardless of where you end up next year. :)

ILC Yalie and Northwestern Freshman

Yes, I am finally back in California for the first time in three months! Being in my room and in my home with my family is very relaxing. The last two months since I last wrote to you have been hectic—in terms of weather and academics.

Temperatures fluctuated wildly, from mid 60s to low teens. This weather is probably the most different and difficult aspect of life that I’ve had to adjust to; I’ve lived in weather that rarely drops below high 30s my entire life. During reading week (I think) I experienced my first snowfall. A few inches of snow accumulated that night, and I left the library very late so I was able to run around in fresh snow with my friends. It was definitely a thrilling experience.

I already described my classes for the quarter in my previous e-mail, so I suppose I’ll write about finals now.

Spanish was actually pretty tough. I had classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. For four class periods in a row, I had four things to take care of: (1) a listening comprehension exam on a soap opera we’d been watching (2) an oral project that involved research on different Spanish cultures (3) an in-class composition, and (4) a final exam. These took place the week before and the week of Thanksgiving break. Lots of studying and lots of time at the library! After Thanksgiving break, however, I had no more Spanish classes for the quarter (2 weeks), so I feel that time was paid off.

For my Future of Gender freshman seminar class, I was required to write a 10-page research paper on the future of gender in the workplace. This was definitely tough for me because I’d never written something this long in high school (I can’t remember, at least). Additionally, the prompt was very broad (the future of gender in the workplace), and I had a tough time with that as well. This, again, required lots of time at the library. Thankfully, the library never closes during finals week.

My last class, social inequality, was the only class that actually required me to be there during the allotted two-hour final period. The first part of the final was a 3-4 page essay on the challenges and complexities pertaining to economic survival that the working poor face. The second part of a final had five short-answer questions, each requiring ~100 word answers. The last was a 20-question multiple choice test. This class was my favorite class, but it still required, as I’ve said twice before, lots of studying and lots of library time!!

Overall, finals week was relatively tough and sleepless, but I’m sure that’s what all college students say.

Next quarter I will be taking four classes: Evolution and the Scientific Method, Spanish, Ethics and the Environment, and Psychology and Weird Beliefs. I’m fulfilling my distribution requirements right now because I still have no clue about what career I want to pursue. Hopefully these distros will help me decide.

I’ve definitely feel homesick at times. I’ve missed my mother’s cooking (although the dining hall food here is amazing), my family, and my desk full of high school’s memories… but college is a chance for new and better memories to form and I’ve definitely been taking advantage of that opportunity.

What helps me from feeling homesick is Northwestern’s surprising resemblance to the bay area—excluding the weather. There’s a huge body of water located near by (Lake Michigan) and it’s only a short walk away from my room, and there’s also a huge city nearby (Chicago). This reminds me of home and San Francisco—and whenever I feel homesick, I think of these similarities and feel calmed.

On a non-academic note, Northwestern is so much fun! There’s always free food somewhere. And I love food.

A few weeks ago, I visited Millennium Park in Chicago, where Dr. Oz made an appearance. I don’t really know who he is (I know he has a TV show), but he’s famous! That’s one awesome thing about Chicago: famous people. I’m sure celebrities are everywhere, but Chicago is just one of those big, well-known cities.

That pretty much covers my last few months! Have you picked out the next batch of Yalies yet? Oh, and don’t forget to encourage students to apply to Northwestern because it’s awesome!

Stephanie Ny
ILC Yalie 2009

Greetings from Yale

I apologize for taking an eternity to write my response, but I really wanted to expound on it, so here it is:

When asked by any of my friends or acquaintances, “How’s Yale?” I simultaneously feel pangs of pleasure and displeasure. The pleasure derives from my love for my school and the nothing-short-of-extraordinary experience I have had so far as a student there; the displeasure derives from knowing that I can only respond with “Intense, yet incredible,” unless I wish to run the risk of detaining the inquirer for over an hour as I chatter on endlessly and enthusiastically on the subject. I will now share a fraction of what I constantly wish to convey.

As of last Tuesday, I have officially completed one-eighth of my time as an undergraduate college student at Yale University. It shocks me immensely to think about how quickly time has passed, but reflecting upon it, these past few months constitute the most life-changing, intense, stressful, wonderful, and sublime moments I have ever experienced in my just-shy-of-eighteen years of existence. Assuredly, this same statement could be promulgated by any other current college freshman, yet I feel like sharing a detailed account of my personal adventure, rather than talking about college in general, is a much more informative and entertaining read.

One thing (of the plethora of things) students at Yale love, is the leniency of the college’s required classes. Instead of having general education classes that are mandatory for all freshmen and/or sophomores, Yale has distributional requirements. This means you can take nearly any course in the Blue Book that your heart desires, as long as you balance among writing, critical reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and foreign language classes throughout your four years. For clarification, the Blue Book is the Yale catalogue of classes that students brutally attack with pens, highlighters, and tabs during the first week of classes. Another neat thing is that the first two weeks of each semester is “shopping period,” meaning that you can visit any and as many classes as you feel like plus you do not have to commit to a schedule till the end of this period. Despite this system of classes that I do embrace, I chose to spend my freshman year doing the opposite of indulging in the liberality of my school’s course system by taking Directed Studies. Why, might you ask? Many peers, even extremely studious upperclassmen, ask me “Why?” as well when I mention that I am a DS student. Directed Studies is a selective yearlong freshman program that is comprised of classes in Literature, Philosophy, and History/Politics that focuses on the Western canon from the Ancient Greeks until the 20th century. Students read three books (the likes of Homer, Plato, and Dante), attend two sections and a lecture for each of the three subjects, and write a 5-page paper each and every week. It is quite an overwhelming—verging towards masochistic—program, yet I have several reasons for why I am a DS-er. First of all, I love the course material. Ever since wanting to understand classical allegorical references during high school, I have wished to study classical texts, but I never had the self-discipline to do so. In DS, we plow through roughly three of these texts each week, which, in addition to caffeine-fueled nights of finishing reading assignments in a gorgeous Hogwarts-esque library, translates into six dynamic weekly discussion sections. Each DS discussion section consists of sixteen or so students—who are some of the most eloquent and insightful people I have ever encountered—facilitated by one of the eighteen professors in the program. Another incredible thing about the program is that the professors in DS are all distinguished Yale faculty who, outside of DS, teach some of the most popular courses at Yale (Professor/Ambassador Charles Hill is leading a history DS section next semester!). This reflects another policy that strongly influenced me to choose Yale in the first place: all Yale professors are required to teach at least one undergraduate course. This requirement truly caters to the undergraduate student experience. Unlike many other schools (ahem, Harvard), from the very first semester Yale students have easy access to taking classes with professors—rather than TAs—and interacting with them in small seminar settings. Going back to DS, I just want to say that its curriculum is that of the very stressful variety, but it is united suffering (you have 124 other peers experiencing the same thing who are some of the most supportive and interesting people to “suffer” with) and the knowledge I have gained from it is priceless. Rather than other classes, which emphasize memorizing data, like other humanities classes (which I highly advise everyone to take!), DS has changed my perception. It has not made me believe certain dogmas, rather, it has made me realize that life is a never-ending journey of learning and it has only just begun for me.

Before I end up writing about DS at a length that rivals some of the texts we read in that program, I will talk a bit about the fourth class I took in addition to Directed Studies. I had taken French all throughout high school, but I had not had the best experience with it because for odd reasons we never had consistent teachers and now I wanted to try a different language. I had visited several places in Europe with my mom over the summer and I fell in love with the culture, food, and language of Italy when we went there, thus this past semester I took Level 1 Italian. I absolutely loved it—I just want to interject here that I am a huge advocate for taking classes on courses that you feel passionate about rather than those that you feel you have an obligation to take. Some people take courses because they feel the need to rather than because they have the desire to. From observation, the people who take classes due to interest are happier long-term and they get more out of their classes because they are eager to contemplate them outside their required coursework. This does not mean “don’t take challenging classes”; try out classes in areas that you have never considered before, but do not take ones where you end up spending your time thinking about how much you detest the class rather than doing your work for it (believe me, this does happen). Anyway, my Italian class was incredible—I was luckily in a section that opened at the last minute (due to all the other sections being overpopulated) and there were only six students (two were auditors and one was a graduate student), yet we had a top-notch professor, a woman from Modena, Italy who was sweet like an Italian mother while she simultaneously and successfully ingrained complicated Italian grammar into our heads. This class made me see that you can learn so much in three months and that you have so many opportunities when you study foreign language in college—I’m considering studying L3/L4 Italian for credit in Siena, Italy this summer!

On that note, if I had to make three observations about the student body at my school, they would be: students spend all their time away from Yale traveling, they really do constitute a global community, and they are all intriguing to talk to. All the upperclassmen I have talked to go to places like China, Spain, England, South Africa, India, and Jordan over the summer or spring break for internships, to volunteer for non-profits, and for classes. I even know someone who has been to five continents in the past year! It is not the case that all of the students are insanely rich, rather, Yale has a ton of opportunities for doing things abroad and if you have a strong enough inclination to take advantage of these opportunities, chances are you can find a way for Yale to partly fund the experience for you. I really want to pursue these opportunities to go abroad, because like my peers, my education in New Haven is superb yet I believe that I can enhance it immensely amidst completely new environments and cultures. However, while at Yale, my world is already internally permeated by new environments and cultures through my fellow students, who hail from all over the world. For example, my roommate is from Florida but she emigrated from Bulgaria in 7th grade and one of my other suitemates is from Pakistan. This diversity is apparent throughout the school; the student body has students from all 50 states and nearly one international student in every suite. This melting pot characteristic allows for me to be exposed to entirely new cultures by simply getting to know my peers. Our myriad of backgrounds really pave the way for multifaceted conversations about anything, whether it be in the dining hall (I usually end up spending at least an hour eating dinner, because I get caught up in conversations with whoever I end up sitting next to), the classroom, or in a random encounter anywhere on campus.

The campus, by the way, is phenomenal. The collegiate gothic architecture is a wonder to look at. Sometimes, while walking to class I stop and stare at Harkness Tower or Sterling Memorial Library because I cannot prevent myself from doing otherwise. The building where I live right now, Vanderbilt Hall on Old Campus, has gorgeous wood paneling, window seats, and granite staircases with iron-filigree-decorated handrails. The New England weather (which I am still adjusting to, though I now know that the Bay Area conception of 40 degrees being cold is a joke when having to function in 10 degree weather) only intensifies Yale’s beauty with its four actual seasons. Being in a place so picturesque not only reminds me of how lucky I am to be a student there, and it increases my drive to work hard, because I want to feel worthy academically of such a beautiful academic institution. Furthermore, many of my friends and I agree that we are truly blessed to attend and live in a place that is essentially Hogwarts—there is even a Yale Quidditch team that practices regularly on Cross Campus, complete with brooms and all.

On the note of the Quidditch team, Yale has so many organizations where people can pursue work-related, cultural, athletic, or purely recreational interests. Personally, I am a member of Kasama (the Filipino organization), the Yale Undergraduate Business Society, and Berkeley College Orchestra. I enjoy being a member of all of these groups and I even want to partake in more next semester, because I feel like in an college environment where you do not run into the same people everyday like high school, being in organizations is one of the best ways for meeting incredible people you would have not encountered otherwise. Try organizations based on things you love or things you never even gave a thought about before! You can always leave those organizations and try out new ones if you don’t enjoy them, but chances are that they will happily surprise you and in the process you will meet some of your closest and most interesting friends.

Evidently, I could continue talking about Yale and college in terms of food, traditions, residential housing or any other intelligible subject, yet I have already surpassed the length of one of my 5-page DS papers, so I will conclude here. In retrospect, I had previously thought that there were many things I wish I had known before my first semester. However, I learned these things along the way and had an exhilarating adventure of education and growth in the process, which will only continue for the rest of my time at Yale and beyond. I am more than excited to talk with anyone about Yale or college over email, phone, or food (contact me, seriously!), but in the meantime my advice is to dream big, work hard to achieve those dreams, and have an eager, open, and positive attitude wherever those dreams take you. Getting into your dream college is only the beginning; what you do wherever you go is what really matters.

Best regards and Merry Christmas!

Yohanna D. Pepa
Yale University, BK’14
(510) 965-7088

From a Cal Bear

To the new ILC students, you guys are awesome for taking the initiative of learning what is out there and what college will be best suited for you. Through the ILC I was able to participate in a Women's Leadership Institute at Brown as well as a Biological Conservation class at Columbia. Currently I just finished my first semester at UC Berkeley and I am looking into architecture as my major.

My first word of advice would be to pace yourself and manage your time. College has so much to offer especially in terms of extracurriculars and clubs. I definitely tried to sign up for at least 10 different clubs and sports but ended up having time for only a couple. The amount of time you have really depends on the classes you take, therefore asking around and figuring out which classes match your schedule is very important.

I am also a commuter student, therefore I often must leave campus earlier in order to catch the bus back home; however, I still get the "campus" life because I am taking a studio course, which requires me to be in my Studio room for quite some time. Therefore instead of a dorm, I have made a lot of new friends through the same major. (Or if you know someone in the dorms, sometimes they will let you stay over, which is very helpful when you need to stay on campus for a long time.) If you are not sure what major you are interested in though, do not worry because hundreds of other students know exactly how you feel. College is the place for you to explore all your interests. Do not think that it is bad to "take it easy" for your first semester. There is definitely a change of atmosphere from high school to college, which some people just need to get used to.

Hope you all are having a great break!

I am also willing to answer any questions if there are any.

-Jessica Tran

Responding to College Reflections

From the various student responses about college, I learned that regardless of students' personalities, they all have to transition in one way or another to the new environment in college. I can see that learning to balance fun and studies can be difficult at first, since having fun is a tempting alternative to studying on evenings and weekends. Also, the privilege of having freedom can be both good and potentially bad in that while students can decide what they want to do, they also have larger responsibilities and suffer more dire consequences. For instance, while missing a class in high school might not set a student much behind her peers, doing so in college might impact her performance on the infamous midterm and final. The student perogative is really important, not only in terms of keeping up with academics but also in terms of participating in clubs and extracurriculars, socializing with friends, etc. And for the students who have gone out-of-state, it seems that weather is something to adjust to. In my opinion, one of the best experiences about the Ivy League summer programs is the chance to live away from family and friends for a few weeks. My two summers have taught me at least some of what I should expect next year as a freshman in college, regardless of where I go.

Take care and happy holidays!!

Yueming Wang

Response from Richmond High Senior

After reading the responses from previous Ivy League members, I have
learned that it will take time to really adjust to living on your
own—especially if you are far away. The biggest lesson I have been
able to grasp is that I need to study a lot and continue doing my best
in high school. It only gets harder as the years go by. Finals and
Midterms sound stressful, but I have seen they all have managed to do
well, which really encourages me. I will definitely follow their
advice to get a tutor and spend a lot of time studying at the library
before a test.

All the students seem to be really enthusiastic about the material
they are being taught. I really loved Yohanna D. Pepa’s enthusiasm in
her DS class. I hope to share the same joy when I am in college. They
all have made me really anxious and excited about going to college;
they have provided me with excellent advice! I really appreciate that
they took time to write to us about their experience. Thank you for
the good reads Mr. Ramsey and I apologize for my late response.
-Lucero Perez

From a Stanford Sophomore

Sorry for the late reply. I just checked this email today, and I've also been on vacation for the past week. This is in response to both of your emails.

So I am now a sophomore at Stanford, with a year of college experience under my belt. How do I feel so far? Absolutely fantastic. What is the difference between high school and college? I would never want to relive high school again. However, I wouldn't mind a second shot at being a freshman in college, if that means I can stay here longer.

It feels great to be a sophomore. I am better acquainted with the campus and its rhythm, and the systems and routines of Stanford. I think that is what freshman year is all about. Everything is fresh and new; being truly away from home for the first time, meeting new people and making new friends, exploring everything the institution has to offer. Nobody goes into college knowing exactly what it is going to be like, and that is actually really important to remember. Sometimes, it seems like your peers are so much more knowledgeable, much more poised and sophisticated, absolutely immersed in college life after just a few weeks, but a lot of the time, they are just as confused as you. For me, freshman year was a chance to just make a niche for myself in the school. I now realize as a sophomore that there was so much more I could have done, so many more programs and resources I could have taken advantage of, but I do not regret anything. While those who wanted to overachieve (more power to them!) and participate in a bunch of clubs and even declare their major, I decided on a more slow-pace schedule, although I did have crew as well, that suited me.

I just got back from a week in New York, where I actually visited Malcolm Carson at Columbia University. His college story so far is a lot different from mine, and that is the way it should be. I think that is the one thing to remember for those who are about to finish high school and start the journey of college. Freshman year is a chance to start a fresh foundation for your story. Don't be afraid to be unconventional. Ask questions. Abuse your RA or advisor with them. Join a student group that excites you. If you don't know what you want to major in, take classes that interest you - that is what I did my entire freshman year, although for me, it seems to have backfired as I am now interested in so many things I can't seem to decide on just one (I did decide, however, to minor in education!). My favorite quote that fits nicely here is, from Herb Cohen, "If you don't know where you are going, you can never get lost." That has been my philosophy for college so far. I may not know exactly what I am doing, what I am majoring in, what truly is my passion, but I have been paving a road for myself this entire time, and I know I am on my way somewhere, unknown but not at all lost. Some of you will be like me, very confused, and others will be more sure of yourselves. Either way, freshman year is the time to start letting it all out, working hard and playing even harder. Good luck to the Class of 2015, at whichever school you are going to!

Jennifer Kuang

Hercules High Senior Responds

I've been really enjoying reading all the emails from the current college freshmen and former ILC members. They provide helpful advice about the transition from high school to college and what to expect there. I am getting the gist that it is definitely much different, as I've experienced myself in Cornell, and that the transition from straight A's to passing grades is difficult as well, as well as that asking TA's and teachers for help is vital, which, after Cornell, I believe is very true as well, for I would not have been able to get through most of my assignments without the TA's help. I learned it is important to take classes you enjoy and to familiarize myself with the school before being involved in too many extracurricular programs or activities.

Chris Habash

From a Hercules High School Senior

I am surprised at what all these ILC alums have to say about their college experience. All these fellow students that have come from places not to far from myself and are all performing above and beyond my perception that would have been me a year ago, before entering the program. I enjoy reading these, and find myself reading them over and over again. I mean, I personally knew Stephanie Ny and just reading her perspective of coming from a high school like ours to a top notch college reminds me that it may seem like fun and games to get to go there, it is still school and college is a place to work hard. After reading all of these responses, I can tell that some are enjoying the transition, others are having the time of their lives, and some have taken this challenge and embraced it. All of these Alums have been nothing short of an inspiration for me and that right now I need to keep my self straight and get into good habits that will come in handy for the future. I used to just ignore this from my parents that "study study," but recently this year has been especially hard and that if there ever is a time to pick up these habits, now is the time. I am endlessly grateful for forwarding these to not only myself, but to other ILC members and I hope you have a terrific Holiday season and my prayers go out to our Brown brunch speaker and his family.

Andrew Gabriel
Hercules High School

Advice from the University of Pennsylvania

I'm sorry this reply is extremely late; I’ve just been enjoying my first time back at home since September.

Penn and my high school experience are different. One of the main reasons I chose Penn was it was big enough where I be anonymous if I wanted to, but have small enough class sizes where I feel I could learn more from the professors. Out of four classes, I have the best of both worlds. My math and bio lectures are close to 200 hundred people, but the recitation and lab are about 20 people. My writing seminar is 16 people and my Spanish class is 18 people. In high school, these class sizes would have been completely unheard of, and the instructors do provide individual attention. One thing I did not like about high school was that people treated me like a toddler, because of the bad examples set by some of my fellow peers, but at Penn, and I'm pretty sure at any college, they treat you like an adult. And even when you ask for help, they'll still treat you like adult. One thing that I've noticed since coming here is that if you ask for help, people will help you. In terms of academics, professors and TAs doors are always open, and if you can't make their office hours, you can email them and ask for a different time meeting. I'll admit, it's definitely a change from getting nearly straight As throughout high school to struggling with subjects that seem very easy to your peers, but it's completely fine to go ask for help. There are resources for help, especially if you look hard enough. My current professor for bio was actually complaining that she wasn't "getting enough customers."

College is definitely different from high school in the sense that you can really only rely on yourself. Honestly, I would say that college is a bit easier in the sense that you're taking fewer classes than you're taking in high school at once, and you do meet less often (1-3 times a week). You've just really got to learn how to manage your time, because homework is due less often, and most of the time you can't complete whole assignments in just of couple of hours, especially if you don't know how to do something and you have to go to your professor's or TA's office hours (which usually do not occur in the early hours of the morning when work gets done). You also get to take classes you like, I mean sure, there are requirements, but there are so many classes that you're bound to take something that interests you and fulfills requirements. For bigger lecture classes, professors put up their lectures online. You can skip classes without being noticed, but I strongly advise against this because sometimes the recording equipment fails, or the professor gets busy doesn't upload the lecture that you need before a test or homework is due. Also, you will probably procrastinate on watching the actual videos until it’s too late. In college, you can take classes that you are interested in. It’s actually encouraged because you really should do something that you love or interests you. In high school you had all these requirements to fill, but at Penn you can take different classes that to fulfill those requirements.

Because schedules are different at Penn every day, you really have to plan ahead. In high school, days were always the same in terms of classes, but now you have to sit down and think about what you're going to do at a certain time. Basically, weekends have never been worth so much in terms of resting, and do not forget to rest. You will go crazy if all you do is work and study, so take breaks.

Most people think that students at an Ivy League School would be snobby, but Penn is not like that. I've found that most of the people in my classes are approachable once you start talking to them. Penn does not have as much diversity as Pinole Valley High did, but I can guarantee you can find people eerily similar, in terms of personality, to people at Pinole. It seems like everyone on my hall gets along pretty well, and that roommates were chosen well because at Penn, they are chosen randomly unless you specifically name someone because they believe that “everyone can learn something from everyone,” which I find that to be true. My roommate went to boarding school and lives on a ranch, which is completely different from how I was raised, and she has some pretty crazy and funny stories.

I went to public schools in West Contra Costa my whole life before coming to Penn. I can say that I have had some really great teachers, and I’ve had some not so great teachers, but I ultimately think it depends on the student. Public school has made me learn to make the best out of what resources I have available, and I must say it’s a pretty valuable skill. A lot of people that I’ve met have either gone to private school or boarding school, and I like to think that experiencing public schools, especially ones in a district with limited resources, has made me tougher and more independent in way.

The only advice I can give to those applying to Penn is to be honest. It doesn’t make sense to lie or fluff your essays with big words, unless that’s what you really do. I’d like to think the admissions officers do a good job of leading applicants to where they are meant to be. I don’t know if there is an optional essay this year, but if there is, I encourage applicants to do it. In my opinion, it shows real interest for the school because you’re taking that extra step, while in the process your personality and your way of thinking are being shown. I literally did that optional essay on a whim, two days before the submission deadline. I only went through two drafts and submitted it. It also shows that you’re willing to take a risk, because honestly, now I can’t even finish reading my optional essay with cringing from embarrassment. The most important piece of advice I can give you is to do your research. Don’t go to a school because your friends are going or if you want prestige because of its name. Make your own choice. If you have any questions about Penn or applying to schools in general, feel free to email me.


Cristina Pelayo

Notes from UCLA

Re: College 101

From a high school of 1,000 to a college of 26,000, my greatest fear of the transition was finding my place in the vast student body. Despite my insecurities, UCLA has become a second home to me, as I’ve swam through the crowds, dived into the courses and found my niche in the pool of people.

Currently, I am majoring Environmental Science and minoring in either Environmental Engineering or Environmental Health. As it falls into the life sciences category, my prerequisites consist of math, chemistry, physics and biology classes, while my upper division classes are more specific to my minor. As UCLA is on the quarter system, time goes by pretty fast. A quarter system runs on a 10 week cycle, where midterms usually occur during week 4 and week 7 and finals occur right after the 10th week of instruction. Although it goes by quickly, I find the quarter system allows me to take various courses because I have the opportunity to switch classes three times a year versus twice on the semester system.

Each quarter I take about 3-4 classes and in a typical prerequisite class lecture I am surrounded by about 250 other students. Although I was intimidated with huge classes and a less personal teaching method, I’ve become accustomed to the large lectures. Along with an hour lecture three days a week, discussion sections held once a week provide a smaller setting to learn the material. Amongst about 25 students, discussions break down the lecture material and provide a supplementary lesson to further learning. For the first time, grades are no longer determined primarily from homework, pop quizzes and participation. Instead, grades are comprised of midterm, final and paper scores. Also, many courses are graded on a curve, so grades aren’t always determined by raw scores. , but rather how well you did in comparison with the rest of the class. Whereas high school was comprised of chapter tests, college has cumulative exams and this was definitely something I had to take seriously.

During the transition between high school and college, I’ve learned to reach out for help if anything is unclear of if I am ever in doubt. Studying with friends, questioning classmates, emailing TA’s or visiting office hours are options I find the most helpful if I’m confused about something. I’ve also found that going to tutoring sessions is not frowned upon at all and can be very useful if any subject is difficult to understand. A lot of classes expect you to listen in lecture and learn the material on your own time, however, its important not to forget to that there are people around that are eager to help. Everyone says time management is the key and it’s true. Everyone has their own ways of learning and studying. Sometimes studying in the room works best, sometimes it’s the coffee shop, the library or the study lounge. Whatever method works, organizing my time has made things a lot less stressful.

Academically, college has been a really humbling experience. Practically everyone is determined to do well, strives to be the best and does all they can to get ahead. Truthfully, some people are intimidating and almost everyone is exceptionally smart. In taking classes, I’ve learned that I can’t always be perfect in every subject and that I am not always going to love every course I take but I still need to try my best in all that I commit to.

Besides academics, I was pretty reserved in my extracurricular activities during my first year. I was afraid that if I took on too many extra things I wouldn’t be able to focus on school. Now in my second year, I’ve become more involved in a couple of clubs and activities. One is called Climate 411, a website based initiative to encourage an interactive learning space for the student body to ask questions about climate change and receive answers from expert professors on campus. As the club was established last year, most of our efforts have been concentrated on building the website, networking with professors and spreading the word around the school. This year I joined the Association of Chinese Americans on campus. It is a cultural club, but a social club as well. We are split up unto “families” of about 10-15 people and we participate in activities, go out to dinner and have other get-togethers. Although I am not able to attend all events and activities, it’s nice to have a place to spend time with people, take a break from studies and have fun. Music has always been a part of my life and I tried my best to stick with it in college. I don’t have the time to commit to joining the symphony orchestra or a larger ensemble but I’ve found a chamber music course that still allows me to grow musically.

During my first year, and now my second, I’ve lived in a residence hall on campus. In my co-ed dorm building there are 100 people on my floor with two RA’s that keep things in check. I lived in a room with two other girls last year and now I am living in a double. Of course, dorm life was another adjustment from living at home. With communal bathrooms and a lounge, as well as many different personalities on the floor, living in a hall is a pretty social experience. There are hangouts in the hallways, study groups in the lounge, floor outings to the mountains, and holiday socials. Although it’s not the cleanest or the newest building, hall life is like a community and a second family away from home.

The town surrounding the campus is relatively safe. In just a 10 minute walk from my dorm room, there are grocery stores, drug stores, restaurants, a cookie and ice cream shop and even red carpet events for movie premieres at the local theaters. For the most part, I feel safe walking around by myself or in a group. If I ever need a place to take a break, a shopping mall and a beach in Santa Monica is just a 30 minute bus ride away. Although public transportation has been a bit of a challenge, it has definitely taught me how to be street smart and how to navigate through a new city.

As for my future, I have no idea what I ultimately want to do, nor do I know if I’ll be switching majors or concentrations. For now, my goal is to get a feel for what things I may want to pursue. This year I was lucky to get an internship with the California Environmental Protection Agency. I am in the stormwater unit and though I am only able to do simple tasks, I am amongst people in my field that can offer advice and teach me many skills. Perhaps, I may find myself doing something completely different in the future, but for now I’m just trying to get a feel for the environmental science field.

Overall, each day I step on campus I am happy I decided to go to UCLA. Its close enough for me to hop on a plane and come home, but far enough to encourage me to explore new things on my own. Although it is still a challenge to balance between academics and social life, the school is everything I had hoped for in a college experience. Who knows what I’ll be doing in even a year in the future, but for now I am enjoying college life as it comes.


From a Student at Brown

I've gotten some good emails from current ILC students and students considering applying to Brown :) In terms of my experience as a whole though, I don't feel like much has changed since the last time I wrote.

Finals week was almost everything I feared about my first finals week. It was hectic, and though it seems like you would have tons of time because there is no class during that week, you spend almost more time studying. My first finals season was not THAT horrendous (I talked to some people who had it worst) but it was still pretty stressful, considering it was my first. I think the best thing from finals week was getting through it because now I know it's possible. The experience is quite unique and different than high school. The standards are a lot higher and there isn't very much room for mistakes.

And of course, being able to look forward to coming home to the Bay Area is amazing :)

How these Testimonials Help a High School Senior

I would like to begin by saying that I cannot thank you enough for the emails you forward from previous ILC scholars. Each time I see that I have received an email about a particular student's college experience, I am extremely anxious to read about how they have adapted to their new lives and what kind of challenges they have encountered. Most importantly though, I am anxious to see how they overcame those challenges. I feel that learning about the strategies these Ivy League scholars have used in their coursework and to their lives overall is extremely beneficial to me because I am getting a better glimpse at a successful way to approach college, which I will be able to employ in just a couple of years when I make the transition from high school to college. I can even apply some of the lessons I learn from these emails to my studies right now and begin to better myself in preparation for college.

Another reason these emails are so helpful to me is because it gives me a more accurate look at college life. Whenever I hear a representative or an alumnus of a certain college speak about their experience(s) at a college fair or presentation, they always emphasize the positive aspects about their respective schools and I don't feel like I am not getting the full story. Sure, I am learning about all of the excellent opportunities colleges offer, but there is never any discussion about the different obstacles I will have to face when I'm actually there. However, when I have had the opportunity to actually speak with undergrads or when I read these emails from previous ILC scholars, I get a more accurate depiction of what I can expect when I am ready to go to college. Instead of hearing the positive speeches made by alumni and representatives of these schools, I am able to receive information, both of good experiences and challenging ones, from the perspective of a student who is currently going through this process.

Although I was able to experience life in a college environment for three weeks, college is still somewhat foreign to me. However, every time I am forwarded an email about the experiences of a former WCCUSD student, I feel like I am being given a better inside look at college life and I am a bit less stressed about my transition to an institution of higher learning. So far, I have learned about the advantages of smaller and larger class sizes, making use of the little free time that will be available, as well as the importance of taking advantage of extra help and extra-curricular activities. I think the most important thing I have learned about college, from both my own experience and from these emails, is the significance of independence and time management. In nearly every forwarded email, there is a mention of how you have to plan your own schedule and make sure you prioritize because no one will be there to push you. With each email I receive, I am able to add to my knowledge of what my college experience might be like, thanks to these relatable experiences.

So, thank you Mr. Ramsey for passing along the experiences of these Ivy League undergrads so that I may expand my knowledge of the college realm. I have even been able to apply the lessons I've learned from previous emails to my AP classes this year, and they have been extremely helpful. Thank you again.

Happy Holidays,

Alex Elms
Pinole Valley High School
Class of '12

From a Cal Bear from ECHS

Now that my first semester is over, I’d be glad to share with you my thoughts about college and my “new life” as a Cal student.

My first semester at UC Berkeley has been one giant rollercoaster ride. In just one semester, I’ve gone through a lot of struggles and stress; but to compensate, I’ve had lots happy and fun moments as well.

To start off, here is a description of what it’s like to dorm at Cal. Ever since August, I have been living in a triple at Clark Kerr, with a freshman and a junior. Although it’s quite far from campus compared to the other units, Clark Kerr does have its advantages. First and foremost, almost all of the buildings have been recently renovated. The rooms are very spacious compared to the other dorms, and sometimes, a triple at Clark Kerr is even bigger than a double in the Units. For example, while Units 1, 2, and 3 have bunk beds for those who live in a triple, most of the residents at Clark Kerr have single beds and still more room in between. The food at Clark Kerr is also very delicious, and as many say, its quality is much better than the food served in the Units. Not to mention, within each building on every floor is a lounge and a study room! While some lounges have a billiards table, couches, and cable TV, others even have microwaves and a piano! With such accommodations, it really feels like I live in a grand hotel with all of the necessities one could ask for.

My floor-mates and roommates are all very friendly and supportive. We occasionally go out to dinner together and I always find time to go with my two roommates. Being an only child has had its advantages but having roommates has made me realize how much I really enjoy having company.

Despite living in the dorms, I always look forward to coming back home on the weekends to visit my family. I come home once every two or three weeks, which I find both relaxing and sometimes distracting. Although a part of me does wonder how my life would be in a more distant college, I am very glad I chose to stay near home and my family where I am still able to be independent, while always having the opportunity to go home whenever I need to. Nevertheless, I’m glad I have this chance to live in the dorms Freshman year and I recommend it to students who have the option between staying home and living in the dorms, because it’s a great way to meet new people and essential in experiencing the “college life”.

Academic-wise, it is very understandable why Berkeley is consistently considered the number one public university in the nation. Aside from the amazing professors and opportunities offered at Cal, the students are what ultimately make the school so unique and profound. The atmosphere is filled with people who are not only smart, but very enthusiastic and passionate as well. Although high school did have its competitive moments, being “top of the class” is not as challenging as it is in college. Even so, it is always a shock to realize that I am one of these hard-working students, which goes to show that dedication, perseverance, and effort will get one far in life.

Without my experience at Yale during the summer of 2009, I would never have been able to succeed here at UC Berkeley. Although UCB is not an Ivy League school, it definitely is still very prestigious and challenging. In fact, the competition here reminds me well of what I experienced during the Ivy Scholars program. The intensity that I struggled with in the two-week program is exactly what I experienced again this past semester. Furthermore, being around so many intelligent students who have accomplished even more than I have in their lifetime is very intimidating. Yet as many students cannot handle the pressure of being around such competition, it is due to my prior experience at Yale that I have learned to use the successes of others as inspiration for me to keep going and to not give up on my dreams.

Another similarity to my experience at Yale relates to a book we had to read for the Ivy Scholars Program. I cannot even count how many times I’ve referred to the book “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi, but his message is simply astounding: success in life (and even in college) tremendously depends on whom you know. In other words, networking is the key to success. That being said, I’ve been doing my best going to my instructors’ office hours, and making sure I am noticed among the other thousands of students in the same class. I am also trying my best to meet lots of students in my study groups, my dorm, and the few clubs I have joined.

This past fall semester, I took a total of thirteen units (the minimum for my college of Letters and Science), with a course load of Chemistry, Math, and Western Civilization (a Reading and Comprehension class). Although thirteen units may seem quite little compared to what other students manage, these three classes kept me constantly studying and busy. At times, I felt quite overwhelmed, but knowing that I had once felt the same way at Yale and remembering the feeling of accomplishment after that intense program, I continued to do my best and never gave in.

As much as education means to me, college life would not be the same without extra-curricular activities. Within the first week at Cal, the student body put together something that reminded me of “Club Day” at El Cerrito High School, where clubs recruited students to become members. This yearly event is known as “Calapalooza”. With my enthusiasm towards volunteering and dedication to the Interact club ever since Freshman year in high school, the first club I immediately joined was Rotaract (the college level equivalent to Interact in high school, and Rotary for adults). Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to show my true dedication to volunteering this semester because I was still in the process of readjusting to a new learning system but I do plan to help out more in the spring. On the other hand, one club that I did commit to this past fall is the UC Rally Committee, which is well respected by the entire campus. As a part of “Rally Comm” (for short), I am able to show my Cal spirit by attending sports games and cheering on our Golden Bear teams. With our blue and yellow striped rugbies, Rally Comm is like one big family of passionate and energetic students. I enjoy being a part of the club because the people I have met are amazing in that they show dedication to both their studies and to their school.

As for my advice to future college students, I must first start off by saying that Freshman year in college is a period to get acquainted with the new system and to readjust. The teaching style, number of students, and even the atmosphere are very different – so for many students, it will take time to adapt to such changes. I, for one, have come to notice that Cal really stresses the importance in understanding concepts, especially in subjects such as math and science. Secondly, like Yohanna mentioned in her story of being a Yalie, I, too, agree that even though getting into the desired college is very promising, what really matters the most is what you make of your experience at the college you end up going to. Every college has its benefits, and I know that each and every one of us has the potential to do well and be successful; so in the long run, it really comes down to whether you can see yourself in that college in the future and ultimately what best suits you. If this is followed, you will never regret your decision about the college you go to, and you’ll be as happy as I currently am at Cal.

It’s been a pleasure being a part of the Ivy League Connection. My experience at Yale not only made me realize how much I wanted to stay close to home, but also taught me everything I need now to do well in Berkeley. I now have the knowledge to make the most of my college experience, and I could not have done it without your help. As usual, I cannot thank you, Ms. Kronenberg, Ms. O’Brian, Don Gosney, and all of the wonderful sponsors, supporters, and chaperones enough. I wish you a very Merry Christmas and the best of luck with the future ILC students.


Jessica Ong

From UC Merced

This is my second year in UC Merced and so far it is going really well. I love college! Right now I am the President of Raza Unida which is a group where we are working together in order to establish a fraternity called Gamma Zeta Alpha. I also play in the soccer team and I am part of Invisible Children.

During finals week it was really stressful because I was in the library or places that are quiet for hours studying the material in order to prepare myself. The atmosphere in college is different compare to High school. Everyone in college go to their classes to learn and not waste time. You are responsible for your own work and to learn the material.

The dorm life is really great because you get to meet new people and live with different people. I would recommend it for incoming freshmen because it is an experience that you would not want to miss.

I really hope everyone is doing good in school and having a good time.

Jose Canchola

A Bruin from Hercules

I apologize for my late response. I spent the last week in the mountains with my family, so internet was hard to come by. However, better late than never.

After my first quarter at UCLA, I have discovered the most important element to success: accountability. Unlike high school, you are not amongst classes of 30 students where the teacher knows you whether or not you want it that way. In college, it is up to you to create a relationship with your professor by either going to office hours or warily raising your hand in vast lecture halls. In conjunction with this theme of accountability, time management is key. Luckily, I developed a great sense of time management in high school, so transitioning into college wasn't a challenge. College offers countless distractions to newly independent students, but it is up to that student to make sure that work and studying are completed before discovering their new environment. For myself, I make sure that my work is completed during the week so that I have the weekends to myself. Los Angeles is an amazingly diverse and large city, so I make it a priority to stay on top of my work in order to venture out on weekends.

Dorm life is one of the most different experiences in college. Instead of waking up to Mom or Dad cooking breakfast in the morning, you wake up in a bunk bed inside a very small room that has only the purposes of sleeping and studying. Instead of making a piece of toast to eat on the way to school, you go to dining halls or quick service eateries (which I think eat up a lot of time in the morning). Also, many students are accustomed to driving to school. No matter what college you go to, you'll be walking, so get used to the idea. With the alluring Freshmen 15 being nearly unavoidable, you'll be appreciative of this walking with time. Ultimately, I enjoy dorm life. I'm lucky to have very nice roommates and great people on my floor, with whom I've created great friendships. Dorming is important because the people you meet in your building tend to become your best friends throughout college.

One of the biggest differences between high school and college are finals. Unlike high school, your college grades depend on very few factors: midterms, a final and sometimes homework. With such heavy weight on each of these categories, it is no wonder why college is so stressful at times. When Finals Week did arrive, I found myself well-prepared because I put in the work throughout the quarter instead of cramming in the days before finals. If you stay on top of your work throughout the quarter, you'll avoid cramming loads of knowledge in at the last second. Instead of cramming, you will be reviewing information you already know.

I really enjoyed my courses this quarter. I mostly enjoyed them because they taught material that was a review for me. This helped me review information taught to me during high school and better understand and expand on those concepts. The courses can be rigorous due to competition among students, which is clearly present (especially in the math and sciences). Also, some classes have curves and grading scales that are intimidating. For example, my calculus this course this quarter had a grading policy that said that only half of the class would receive a grade higher than a C+. This is very intimidating to students who graduated high school with 4.5's! However, if you put in the work, you can continue to pull off good grades.

I hope that my experience this quarter will help current seniors. Because I am applying to engineering next quarter and want to assure that I have top grades, I cannot comment on extra-curriculars just yet. Maybe after Spring Quarter I will have a better commentary. If any students are interested in UCLA or have any general questions about college, feel free to contact me at

Happy Holidays,
Justine Betschart

Greetings from USC

My college experience at the University of Southern California can be described in one word: unimaginable. I definitely believe that I have chosen the perfect college for me as my encounters and experiences there have led me to believe that I will not only achieve all that I want in my professional career, but also gain the life skills that will enrich me for that future.

In the first semester at USC, my schedule was filled with general education courses as well as requirements following my major, Communications. Last year, when I was applying to colleges, one of the larger factors I wanted to avoid was a massive amount of general education requirements. Having taken the courses I have, however, I realize the quality of general education requirements. They offered me not only different perspectives of certain subjects that I have never really knew about before college, but these general education courses also features some of the best professors. Their curriculum has challenged me in ways I did not know I could surpass as well as provided me with ample knowledge of the subject and skills that I can carry on to future semesters of classes.

I had heard many stories about the dreaded period of finals. I heard that along with finals comes with long nights of studying nonstop, large balls of anxiety all knotted within my body, and the most caffeine intake I will have in life. And I must say, those who warned before were correct. I had not only final exams to study for for finals week, but terms papers to write as well. Many of my finals were the day after the next, which was much better than having two finals in a day, but still a great amount of stress piled upon myself. Some upper classmen at USC told me that during study week, most students do not study, but rather have fun. I, however, did not choose to take that route and took advantage of all the study time I could. My birthday was during study week, so I did take some time to celebrate. Once I was satisfied, I immediately returned to consuming myself into my notes and books. I had four finals, and there were some that I felt I was not as prepared for as I should be. After receiving the grades I did, I realized I actually might have done well on those finals.

Not only did I take advantage of time I had for finals, but I also took advantage of the time I had during the entire semester. In high school, I was accustomed to writing my essays the day before they were due. In college, that is the worst option possible. I took many days just preparing for my papers, communicated and met with my TA several times, and spent hours the day before the paper was due to perfect it. I must say, it was all worth it because I received grades I was highly satisfied with. I posted all the papers that made me feel accomplished on my bulletin board as motivation for the next assignment and for me to finish off the semester well. I was determined to obtain the high G.P.A. in order to prepare myself for future endeavors such as internships and job offers.

Dorm life is much different from home. At home, I have an entire room to myself and have immense privacy. In the dorm, I share the room with a roommate, whom I love, and must learn to share the space. We both have a great understanding of respect and we communicate incredibly well with each other. I think spending a summer at Cornell University did prepare me for the encounters of dorm life. In addition, at home, I was blessed with various conveniences. I had my own bathroom in which my property could be stored. I had a kitchen in my house in which I can grab snacks from and cook my own food any time I wanted. I had a living room and a television in which I could lounge and make myself comfortable when I had the time to. In college, all that basically disappears. I had to become accustomed to sharing the bathroom with approximately 40 other girls. I had to make the effort to go to the dining hall if I ever became hungry or thirsty. I also had to find other forms of entertainment as I had no lounge area or television of my own. Because the dorm, as well as the campus, limited me, I was able to explore the world outside USC. I traveled to downtown LA as well as the outlying cities to entertain myself. I spent time in my friends' dorms with them as forms of entertainment. Although dorm life seemed to be full of limitations, it also offered opportunities.

In college, I learned that prioritizing is the key to time management. This is exactly what I did. I would try and do the easiest task first, then move on to harder tasks. Working under pressure and setting time limits for myself forces me to think on my feet, which is a skill I definitely believe that will assist me in upper division courses as well as in my professional career. In addition to my schedule of classes, I had a work-study job and took part in various organizations. At my work-study job, I was able to bring homework, so I was able to utilize that time for my studies as well. As for organization meetings, I was not always able to make the general meetings, but I did my best to stay involved. Understanding my ability to manage time, I am motivated to become involved even more next semester. I believe that getting involved in extra-curriculars is one of the best aspects of college. Not only can I build connections to utilize in the future, but I believe that I make myself a more rounded person.

Since I stepped onto the USC campus, alone with no one from home accompanying me, I have met so many new people and gained so many new perspectives from them as they share their life experiences. I am glad that being the only one from my high school to attend USC, I was forced to meet new people and to open myself up to those people as they did to me. In high school, I was surrounded by people I had known for years. In college, I am surrounded by people completely unknown to me and these people have made my college experience one of the best ever. Although I have only known these people for a few months, our time together has made it seem I have known them for years and I am positive that these friendships I have made in college will grow even stronger.

My expectations for college has certainly been exceeded and I am excited for more encounters college will provide me in the future. Fight On!! =)

Louisa Man

Reflections from a Middle College Student

To all-

I'm so glad that joining the ILC, I not only had a life-changing experience in the city of New York, but I've received a lot of tools and useful information as well. I've really enjoyed reading the feelings of freshmen and sophomores in college now, after experiencing their own summers abroad at an Ivy League School.

One of the important things I've learned is the significance of time-management. Though classes meet less often, homework, studying and partaking in extracurricular activities have proven to be extremely time-consuming to our vets. Also, moving from high school classes to college ones is a big difference. As one of the few members of the ILC from Middle College High School, I'm excited to learn if this difference is still significant to us who have taken college classes for almost four years now.

Each post is unique and interesting, and I can't wait until I can reflect on my own college experience next year. Happy holidays everyone!

Michelle Saechao

A Kennedy Eagle at Santa Clara University

Hello Everyone,

Excuses my late response to all the emails. For the past two weeks I was in Mexico and had no access to any technology other than a tv. I hope you all find of great help the feedback I'll provide.

I can summarize my first four quarters of college as great, amazing, stressful, tiring, and fun! For the first week of my freshman year in 2009-2010 I felt very good, although for my parents it was still a bit hard to let go. I had to come back home that first weekend! The Fall 09 quarter was the best. I managed my time very well and had all my work done on time. Writing papers was probably the easiest thing for me, and was actually considering minoring in Creative Writing after my English professor adviced me to consider the possibility. Although I didn't actually pursue that path, it's still in the back of my head. I also had it easy transitioning into living with someone else whom I didn't know at all. My first roommate got moved to another room before we even moved in and I was stuck with a stranger, I think. I accepted it and met her for the first time on the first day. My roommate was not the most neat person in the world, but she was very calm and focused on her own things. I liked my floor mates, but most of the time I didn't spend time in my building Swig. I liked walking around campus, getting to know it better. As the quarter progressed I got involved in Hermanas Unidas. HaU is a latina-based club to empower women to continue getting higher education. We focus on academics, community service and networking. We have all sorts of events in which we also include other on- and off-campus organizations.

By the end of the quarter, I decided to involve myself a little bit more. On campus I applied to go on an Immersion Trip to Puebla, Mexico through an organization called CommunityLinks in Mexico. We basically worked with the community and helped out the children through an after school program called Calpulli de los NiƱos. I want to go back and work with this community again. During that time we were asked to detach ourselves from all technology possible to really get immersed in the trip. We also kept daily journals of what we had done each day and our reflections on them. It was an amazing trip.

The Winter '10 quarter I think was the worse quarter for me. I took my first hard class in which the work load was triple of that we get in a regular high school. This is when i began to question my major. Even though I was undeclared, I was in the Leavey School of Business and I was thiking of majoring in Management. My Econ 1 class was making me doubt that. I got through with it and signed up to take Econ 2. I was going to attempt to continue with my goal to stay in the business school. Winter quarter I had so many personal problems as well that caused me to not focus as much in school and stress me a lot more than the usual. It was such a tough quarter that near week 8 I was considering dropping out, but I stuck to the mentality of "I am not going to let all those years of education go to waste!"

In the final quarter of my first year I signed up for four classes, but ended up taking three. My Econ 2 class was the hardest again. I struggled a lot and because I got really sick that I missed some classes it was even tougher to catch up with all the information I had missed. I tried as hard as I could, but I failed the class. I felt really bad. This time I really doubted staying in the business school. These were pre-reqs for any major in the business school and I was doing really bad in them. I was not enjoying taking those classes. So Spring '10 quarter ended and I was about done thinking about school when Week 10 was over. So I headed to Mexico for the summer and forgot about SCU for a brief month. Although the year was a tough ride, I really enjoyed being a Bronco.

Aside from all the academics, the clubs on-campus made it fun throughout the whole year. From dances like Spicy Bronco where there's a variety of Latin music, to the midnight breakfasts we have during dead week(the week before Finals), and all the sporting games that were kept alive by the Ruff Riders org. on campus, the year was fun. Life on campus was far better than being a commuter because so many things happen on campus or near it that you cannot experience if you're a commuter. For instance, watching drunk college students trying to make it back to their rooms without getting caught by their CFs (Community Facilitators) and getting fined. There are also times when you get stuck in an elevator with these people and they don't make sense when they're speaking to you. Fun times. So many strange things will happen and you won't regret being part of them at all, not at Santa Clara University.

I hope that this was good feedback on my first year. One thing I can say is: Learn to manage your time sooner than later. And only take classes that interest you and that you will enjoy. As soon as you're in a class, try to find a study group! It will be of great help. Also, get involved!!! Lastly, try to have fun, but only after you have finished all your academic work.

Thanks for all your patience. Again, my apologies for the late response.

Ana Garibo


My first quarter at UCLA has been filled with much discovery, excitement, perseverance - and of course, lots of studying. The transition into college life is much more than dedicating more time into reading and finishing assignments than in high school, but rather adapting into a different environment than one's upbringings.

Upon moving into the campus, my initial perception of living in Los Angeles was far from how I see things now. A solid distance from my parents and unfamiliar surroundings were all components of a life I foresaw to be easy to embrace. Difficulty in accepting these concepts was the last thing in my mind. I always thought of myself as a person open to new things, someone yearning to experience a new adventure, and most of all, a teenager eager to become liberated from all parental restrictions. Instead, these have presented a challenge for me to adapt to this unfamiliar setting. Like anyone who is distant from his or her home for eighteen years, it is common for homesickness to result. This had occurred to me midway through the quarter. Only a few days into my college career, I had developed longings to visit my parents and be home. These emotions only resonated as the weeks passed. It was almost as if I had lost some of the most precious things in my life, but this is when the beauty of college shines brightest: to lose is to gain.

My sentiments had perpetuated me to become a more active member in the school community. I learned that it takes an effort to become more comfortable in a foreign area. This modification in my way of thinking directed me to becoming involved in several UCLA groups and internships. After having much success in the high school newsroom setting, I decided to apply for an internship in the esteemed Daily Bruin, UCLA's student-run newspaper established since the founding of the university. In great disbelief, I was accepted into the group as a design intern for the publication; only a select amount of students were admitted in the quarter, and an even smaller amount for the actual design of the newspaper (some were admitted as designers only for the publication of the school's monthly magazine, Prime). For three Saturdays straight, I attended workshops that lasted all day consisting of an instructor who explained design in a college newspaper context. Once I completed all three training workshops, I shadowed a designer each week to receive a better understanding of a designer's usual functions.

My internship in the Daily Bruin was only a start to experiencing all what UCLA had to offer. In the latter weeks of the quarter, I decided to become more involved with the Filipino community on campus. I joined Samahang Pilipino, the name of the Filipino-American student group at UCLA, and have met a supportive group of people who promote both cultural empowerment and academic success to college students and local community. At the end of the quarter, I applied for an internship with a sub-group within Samahang Pilipino named the Samahang Pilipino Advancing Community Empowerment, known as SPACE. This particular committee helps serve disadvantaged high schools within the LA Area. As an intern for SPACE, I will dedicated myself to tutoring high school students at a particular site, along with helping them understand and achieve the necessary requirements in order to attend a four-year institution. I have chosen to do this because I have been considering a profession in the education field, whether it be teaching or educational public policy. When I graduate, I want to return home and give back to Pinole Valley High School and the rest of the WCCUSD.

This internship is only the beginning of many wonderful opportunities LA has to offer me. When I return to UCLA, I plan to absorb as much as I can from everything I learn. Outside of school, the city of Los Angeles is host to many unique neighborhoods like Hollywood, Santa Monica, downtown Los Angeles that I am ecstatic to further explore. I am also glad to say that in regards to my academics, I am doing fine and will only push myself to do harder. PVHS did well in maturing me into a hard-working, determined person ready to accomplish more.

Yours truly,

Gabriel Augusto Jomdos Sanchez


Dear Mr. Ramsey,

I apologize for my late response to your many emails asking us about our college experiences and I have to say I hesitated in answering for a couple of reasons; one of them being that I would hope all the other ILC students would respond, secondly because I have been preoccupied with other things, but that should not have kept me from writing this simple email and thirdly because I did not want to disappoint you and all the other people who worked hard to help us get to college with what I have to share about my experience and choices at college.

By spring of this year I decided to go to UC Berkeley because I was being offered a full scholarship for all four years and because I thought it would be a great accomplishment to be at a school with a title like Berkeley's. The truth was that I was always known as a “college bound” student in high school, but I was never as enthusiastic about going to college as the rest of my fellow classmates. I think I chose to go to college because that was what was expected of me. This being, mixed with an abundant of other personal reasons drove me to leave Berkeley early November, I did not finish my fall semester there and went home.

I have been working since my time off from school, but I do plan to return. I am not completely ready to take on Berkeley again, that is why I am signed up take classes I want to take at Contra Costa College for the spring semester. If I do choose to go back to Berkeley I will be welcomed back with my placement and scholarship.

If there is anything to take from my experience, I suppose it would be that you should choose the school you want for yourself and not anyone else. You will be a lot happier making decisions based on your interests.

My plans for now are to work and attend community college for a while and maybe, hopefully transfer to the Academy of Arts in San Francisco to study illustration.

The way things went with me was probably not what you expected, but its reality and sometimes things do not go the way you plan. I like to think that things happen for a reason, and I do not let this discourage me at all.

I hope everyone has a happy new year,


Mercedes Montelongo


Hello Mr. Ramsey and the rest of the ILC,

Once again, I would like to appologize for my delayed response. I currently do
not have internet access, and have been unable to check my emails on a regualr

First of all, do not underestimate reading and writing at the college level. My
Politics 101 class, for example, required us to read between 2 and 4 chapters
every week. We were then expected to have digested the topics to the point where
we could apply them to between 2 and 5 lectures per week. The lectures were not
about the text - that would be easy. Instead, they were guest lectures about
work in various parts of the political field. We were expected to apply the
reading directly to the practice exemplified through the guests and their
lectures. I know you may be wondering how we had so many lectures for a class
that did not meet every day, (only two days a week to be exact) but many of the
lectures we had to attend in addition to regular class time. The midterm for
that class consisted of two 12 page papers. For the final we were given eight
full essay prompts & told to complete as much as we could in three hours. You'll
find varrying challenges depending on which classes you take; however, they will
all be challenging. Don't underestimate the study skills you learned in high
school, but be prepared to refine them - you'll need to.

Although academics are the main part of college, and should occupy the majority
of your time, there is a lot more to the college experience than going to class
& doing homework. The social aspect, primarily for students who move out of
their homes, is not necessarily easy. Finding one's place amongst a whole new
set of peers is not as simple as it may seem. College is full of student with
extraordinarily different backgrounds; and guess what: you're all smart enough
to get into the same school. People will be very friendly for the first couple
of weeks, until they get settled into their routines. Realistically, you may not
find the people you want to spend time with studying, hanging out, or whatever,
in the first couple of weeks. Do not let this discourage you. Rather than
investing your effort into who you spend time with, focus on what you spend time
doing. Trust me, if it's something you truly enjoy, the people you're with
matters less as you realize that it's not the people around you who dictate your life. Besides, you'll grow into multiple groups: study groups, roommates, dormmates, classmates, ect. This is especially important, because you will not enjoy your college experience as much if you spend all your time doing what someone else wants to do. Be creative and have fun when it comes to ballancing everything. Be wise when it comes to juggling work and play. You will have to spend part of your weekend working, although the fun around you will seem like it never ends. You'll always be able to find people doing both, so don't worry if you can't always go with them. As I alluded to before, you must do what is best for you. Also, remember to keep your
priorities straight. Potentially you'll have four years with these peers,
professors, campus officers, etc., so make the best of it.

Ramiah Davis


Greetings ILC students!

My name is Lucina Parada and I am currently a sophomore at UC Berkeley. I graduated from Pinole Valley HS, class of 2009 and I was very fortunate to experience the ILC at Cornell University summer of 2008. I’m currently getting all the relaxing in before I go back to school on the 18th and face yet another semester of piles of reading and endless pages of writing. Unlike high school, you’re expected to read approximately 75-150 pages per week for one class. While it’s a daunting task, I enjoy being able to make connections between I learn in the lecture and what I hear in the media. College has taught me a lot about time management, which makes it easier to balance school and extracurricular activities. This year, I joined the Cal Band, which is a huge time commitment but it’s worth it. When you get to college, don’t be afraid to get involved in different activities. It’s a great way to make friends and to make the campus just a bit smaller.

As for the daunting college process that’s ahead, I’ll be the first to say to you, it’ll stress you out. However, think of it not only as a place where you’ll be getting the best education, but where you’ll be the happiest. Take into account what you like the best out of school, be it academics, school spirit, an array of extracurricular activities, etc. When it came to making my decision, it was probably the hardest month of my life. I was taken aback when I received not only an acceptance letter for Berkeley, but one from Cornell University too. I had gotten in to my top two choices and I had the option of staying 30 minutes away from home or moving 3,000 miles across the country and only coming home approximately three times during the entire year. Although I was torn over where to go, I knew I’d get an amazing education at both schools. In the end, I chose Berkeley over Cornell. I knew I wasn’t ready to move across the country when I could take advantage of the world’s best research university. However, I keep Cornell close to my heart because without the experience I had at the university summer 2008, I don’t know that I would be where I am today.

Overall, I’m happy where I am today. I’m living at home and commuting to school everyday, which is a bit of a hassle, but just knowing that I’m getting a great education and I’m representing the university through the Cal Band makes it all worth it.

Good luck this summer and choosing your colleges!

Lucina Parada