Saturday, June 29, 2013

Another Summer College Activity: Campus Tours

Last week on the way back from a hiking trip in the mountains, my husband and I took a pit stop in Davis and visited the University of California campus there.  We happened to arrive at the same time as a huge group of incoming freshmen attending a summer orientation, but that was no problem—the friendly staff at the visitor center handed us a map and brochure and sent us on a self-guided tour.

It turned out to be a great way to orient ourselves around the different areas in Davis and a chance to pause in places we wanted to investigate further.  Plus, UC campuses are quite lively in the summer; there are plenty of graduate students and students working on campus so almost all the buildings were accessible and full of people.
Davis is a large, spread out campus in the Central Valley.  Luckily, we arrived on a very rare summer rainy day, so we remained cool.  It’s not beautiful, but a lot of renovation is currently being done.  Also, a new art museum is under construction.  The most impressive building we saw is the Mondavi Performing Arts Center.  Also new and well designed are the Business and Law Schools.

As at other large campuses, the best way to get around is by bicycle.  No cars are allowed in the campus interior; instead there are bike lanes and bike roundabouts.  Over 40,000 bikes are on campus!  I overhead a student tour guide telling the incoming freshmen how to avoid a mud "skunk stripe" on their backs--be sure to have a fender on your bicycle!

A lovely, restful spot for escapes from the school hubub or to find solitude is the Arboretum by Putah Creek. 

Shields Library, the main library on campus is impressive. It holds over 3 million volumes.  We walked through the ground floor and noticed plenty of areas to study, as well as a shady courtyard in the center of the building.

There doesn't seem to be one main "quad" or gathering places for students; instead there are different "districts" for the sciences, agriculture, the arts.  Clearly, sciences are strong here—there are many labs and updated buildings.  The music, theatre and dance area by contrast looks shabby and of an earlier era. 

We had a serendipitous encounter at the "Food Science Sensory Facility," a lab where a researcher employs graduate students to test consumer products like body wash and cornbread.  The researcher was so friendly; she showed us around and invited us to taste the flavored nuts she and the students are
selling to help local farmers.

Student activities include sports outings such as kayaking and climbing, a large and modern fitness center, and two Cohos or student run coffee houses/ food centers.  The students also run the campus bus system, which serves the whole city of Davis.  Students are drivers, mechanics and supervisors.  What impressive initiatives!

Davis is not just a school for “aggies” either. Many different students with different interests and politics would feel comfortable here.  The majority group of students is Asian (40%) followed by Caucasian (33%) and Hispanic (16%). 

Also offered are different Honors programs that are well worth applying for as they allow greater student-faculty contact, research opportunities, and priority registration.

All in all it was an interesting and informative tour.  The only change I would make next time would be to approach some current students at the Coho or in the library and ask them what they like and dislike about their school.

So on your way to or from a driving vacation this summer, consider stopping in at one of the UC or CSU campuses.  You may end up adding one to your college list you hadn’t considered before.

*July special for all PYW College Search Blog readers:

Refer a friend to a Peninsula Young Writers College Essay Workshop and receive a $25 discount on your own registration!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Summer: Time to make a jump start on college essays!

The summer before senior year in high school is a great time to begin working on college essays. . . but there are a couple of considerations.  First, many students will have pivotal or unusual experiences during this summer that they are not quite yet ready to record, let alone reflect upon.  Second, private colleges and universities wait to post their supplemental essay topics until late summer, so these topics won’t be available until early August.

Nonetheless, the topics for the Common Application and for public are available now, and at the very least, students should familiarize themselves with these topics.  Freewrite or brainstorm for 5 minutes on each prompt and see which ones you have the most to “say” about.

Another important task or activity for this summer is journal writing.  Before trying to tackle the essay prompts themselves, it’s a good idea to generate some “raw material” through free writing or journal keeping.  Dedicate a separate notebook to journal writing.  Keep track of interesting or important events, activities or observations and then describe your reaction to them.  

Here are a few additional suggestions for journal topics:

--Reflect on the high and low points of your past school year; what made these experiences rewarding, frustrating, or exciting?  What did you learn from each?

--List 20 adjectives that describe your personality, then circle three of them and freewrite for 5 minutes on each of these.  What events or situations have revealed these traits to others?

--Evaluate two of your greatest character strengths and two main weaknesses.  Might your weaknesses be related to your strengths in some way?  How might you overcome your weaknesses or convert them into strengths?

--How might your best friend describe you?  Your favorite teacher?  Your parents?

--Make a list of what knowledge, skills, experiences and relationships you hope to gain from college.  How will you accomplish these?

In August incoming high school seniors might begin actually drafting their first essays.  Peninsula Young Writers offers several College Essay Writing Workshops that include two private consultations to help with this process.  Visit the website: www.pwlp for more details.