Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Experience as an ILCer

From start to beginning, my experience as an ILCer was nothing less than memorable. It was definitely basically everything I hoped for since I first heard of it at my freshman orientation, way before Don even introduced himself later in my freshman year. At the time, I was really thrown off by the fact that I couldn't apply until I was a sophomore, but I looked forward to it. I wanted to apply to the Columbia programs, but come around my sophomore year and the Ivy League Connection was barely existent. 

The first program of the three that I applied to was Brown's Women and Leadership program, and after getting an interview I wasn't quite able to get myself the scholarship. It didn't discourage me, although it did frustrate me a little bit, from further applying to the other programs available. This was just part of the learning experience, because I know there will be other times later in life in which I'll need those interviewing skills. Also, I thought that maybe it wasn't meant to be and there would be other opportunities.

Not too long after the Women and Leadership interview, I applied for Social Justice at University of Pennsylvania, and yet again I received an interview for the program. The essays weren't that difficult to write for me, because they were topics I felt passionately about and could honestly write about. Beyond that, I wasn't doing that well in the interviews, and yet again I didn't receive the scholarship. By then, I thought that was the end of me being an ILCer. There was a potential of the Cornell program not being offered, and I was getting discouraged from all this rejection. Waiting at almost 9 PM at El Cerrito High School, I wasn't feeling too good about myself.

Nevertheless, I wrote the essay for the Hotel Operations program, and I revised the other two essays that are required in the application. Being a person who has always considered something in either Engineering or in Law, I didn't know if a Business course was the way to go. Despite that, I still really wanted the whole experience of visiting a school out of state, especially an Ivy League. I surprisingly got the interview, and I met with Don to go over my two previous interviews and see what I could improve on and do better. I went into this interview feeling a lot more confident, and some of the questions were similar to the ones I had in previous interviews. As a matter of fact, one of the interviewers had interviewed for the Social Justice program. After another 3 hours of sitting in that same classroom at El Cerrito High School, I did not receive the scholarship. I seriously thought that was the end of the Ivy League Connection for me. My Speech 120 teacher encouraged me to reach out to the interviewers, and find out what I could improve on, and I did. That's one of the best decisions I've ever made.

Around 2 weeks after, I receive a call from Don as I was leaving swim practice. To my incredible surprise, Don told me that I would be the recipient of a fourth scholarship to Cornell. That was probably one of the best days of 2016. I was crying from excitement. Don gave me about three dates to write down in my calendar, and life was kind of fast-forward from then. I think it was about a week or two later that I met with my cohort and chaperone at MOD pizza, and we knew it was going to be a great trip. We all agreed we weren't picky on food options and were excited about exploring new places. That following weekend we had the tutorial with Don at De Anza High School. 

From there on out, I improved my time management and social skills. We had the cohort and alumni dinner the following Monday. That was just a taste of all the connections that we'd be making at Cornell. I got to talk to Shanti about what it would be like at Summer College and she really made me look forward to it. Doug and Jesus, the alumni, both spoke highly about Cornell's campus, the atmosphere, and the dining hall food. The dinner was overall a lovely experience, just like everything else would be.

After the dinner I didn't see my cohort for a while until we had the orientation at Pinole Middle School, where we got an idea of what our trip was looking like. I found out, we wouldn't be visiting New York City, but Chicago, what a surprise. Visiting UChicago and Northwestern gave me an idea of what I was looking for in colleges and gave me something to compare to at Cornell. I think the college visits is also what makes the ILC experience so unique, because other scholarships won't cover that, or the amazing food we go to eat while on the trip.

Then there was my actual time at Cornell, which as you can tell by my blogs, was absolutely amazing and I loved it so much. I've only been back a few days, but whenever people ask me how I liked it, I cannot stop saying how much I loved it. People tend to ask me if the essays, the interviews, the tutorials, and everything was worth it for the three-week program. I cannot stress enough how much it was all worth it. I learned so much in this experience and with the interviews and taking a Speech and Debate course I know I'm a way better speaker now. Even if I wouldn't have gotten the scholarship in the end, I know I would've had a lot to take from the application part of being an ILCer. I'd honestly do it all over again given the option. I felt so lucky throughout the whole thing and I hope that the program still exists the following year because I've been encouraging so many people to take this opportunity. Not everyone in my community has the money that those kids at Cornell did, to easily spend $6,000 on a summer program, but the chance at a scholarship to a summer program of such high prestige is something not to be taken for granted.

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