My experience with ILC was a whirlwind from start to finish. Because my sister had taken in part in it a few years before, I had heard about the ILC before the presentation that they give every year at each of the schools in WCCUSD. I was younger when my sister participated, so I did not fully understand what the program consisted of, but I knew I wanted to eventually be part of it. I applied to a course called Women in Leadership at Brown University, as well as Biotechnology at Brown University. I was accepted for an interview for both, but did not make the final selection for either. I felt that at that point, I was done and that maybe I would apply the following year.
One day while sitting in class, I got a call to come down to the principal’s office where I saw Don. It was explained to me very quickly that Chicago was offering a scholarship for multiple students, including myself, and that I needed to decide if I wanted to take part right away. I said yes, of course. This was an amazing opportunity. One unique aspect of my ILC experience was that I had a choice of what class I wanted to apply for while already being accepted to the ILC. There were about seven or eight classes to choose from, and about two I really wanted to apply to. The first was Contagion because of my interest with health and medicine, and the second was Developmental Psychology for the same reason. I eventually decided that if I got accepted, I would take psychology because I felt I knew less about it.
The application process turned out to be a lot more than I expected because I had to apply to multiple programs, in case one class got filled up. Luckily my top choice class was available. Right away my cohort was informed of multiple events that were coming up shortly. These included a meet and greet with our chaperone (not very high pressure), the school board meeting, and the dinner in San Francisco with admissions officers and alumni. Meeting Alie and my cohort was exciting, but we did not really get to know each other much better until our first week of traveling. The dinner in San Francisco was a preview of what our first week of on the east coast would look like. One skill I feel I developed while away is the ability to converse with strangers. At the first dinner, the dinner in San Francisco, I was nervous about how to engage in conversations with people I did not know because I am not so extroverted. By the last dinner in Chicago, I was not nervous about talking to the admissions officers and asking questions. Just being part of these few dinners helped me feel like I had expanded socially and become more comfortable with people I am not necessarily close to.
Our first week was filled with non-stop traveling, touring, and dinners. Each college I visited seemed to appeal to me more than the last for the first couple of days. I really enjoyed the campuses, but after a couple of tours I started to notice what I did and did not enjoy about college campuses. I found myself preferring campuses that were within a city, but still had defined campuses, like the campus of University of Pennsylvania. Another thing about attending so many tours and information sessions is that because when they begin to sound similar and scripted, it is easier to spot the differences. Before we left, each of us was required to blog about one college we were going to be visiting. We may have learned a lot about the college, but you simply cannot tell if you are going to like a college or not until you visit it. There is a certain factor that clicks with people at certain colleges, and you can’t get that factor without visiting. Talking to students at the dinners was also very beneficial. Although they were usually students who worked in admissions and who were used to talking about their school in an exclusively positive light, I feel like I saw their school in a new light after hearing what they had to say. I got a feel of whether or not I would like a school based off of their experiences. For example, Peter, a UChicago alum, told me that UChicago had a big focus on core curriculum and humanities in particular in the core. He told me that since he was really interested in literature and philosophy he enjoyed UChicago, but for someone who was not so interested in this it might not be the best fit.
The class I took was really interesting to me. Even though I might have been tired because of long nights, I was always very engaged in the discussions in the class because the content was stuff I would want to learn about even outside of the classroom. One of the greatest aspects of the classes at UChicago in my opinion -- not just my class, but all of the Insight program classes -- was that they all had about 15 to 25 students maximum. I heard of no one taking a class with more than 22 students. The small class size allowed for students to actually form relationships with each other and with the professor. Last summer, I took a summer class, not through ILC, at Brown University, and the class I was taking had more than 100 students. Even though that might be more like an actual freshman class, just for the summer experience I enjoyed having fewer people in the class.
The class was short and intense. We had a lot of content to learn and activities to do in a very short amount of time. We read multiple chapters of the textbook and research papers, as well as doing a study with children. For this study we had to write a research paper as well. It was a challenge learning how to manage my time to read a good amount of material. By the end of the first week in the course, I had figured out how to read efficiently enough so that I could hold my own in discussion the next day, and still not spend my whole day over a book.
Unfortunately, I did not get into the city as much as I wanted to. We went to see the landmarks and to eat deep-dish pizza, but I would have enjoyed spending more time downtown. It was unfortunate because Chicago is such an interesting city that we were so close to, yet spent little time in.
Overall, I felt as if my time traveling on the east coast and my time in Chicago was full of learning experiences and because I was always so busy, it felt like it went by so fast.