Monday, December 20, 2010

From a Future Lion :-D

I think I knew that Columbia was the school for me after I took the PSAT sophomore year and started getting recruitment letters from Colleges. I got a Blue Guide from Columbia and it was love at first sight, but you know, love at first sight doesn't mean anything until you talk to the guy and make sure he can hold an intelligent conversation :-D! So thanks to the Ivy League Connection I got to go on a three-week date with Columbia and I decided it was time to make a commitment to the relationship :-P. Early Decision is really big decision but I've never looked back because as soon as I stepped on their campus (soon to be my campus!!) I knew it was the place for me. Columbia has everything I'm looking for academically--equally strong Jazz, Creative Writing, and Political Science programs--as well as the diversity I'm looking for socially.

I think the balance in my application is probably what helped put me above the cut (whatever the cut was). I had high SAT scores, but my transcript was also very strong, my essay was BEAST, I had diverse extra-curriculars but I showed dedication to each one, and my extra-curriculars showed a clear commitment to community service and an interest politics like I said on my application. I worked extremely hard starting in middle school so that I could have an application I would be very proud of and it paid off.

Here is the online version of my acceptance letter:

Beulah Iyabo Agbabiaka
My Address

Dear Beulah,

Congratulations! Dean Michele Moody-Adams and the members of the Committee on Admissions join me in the most rewarding part of my job - informing you that you have been selected for admission to Columbia College. As a member of the Class of 2015, you will be a participant in an academic community wealthy in intellectual and personal talents of every kind. We are fully confident that the gifts you bring to our campus will be unique and valuable and that your abilities will be challenged and developed here.

You and your family have every reason to be proud of the great achievements that we acknowledge today with this good news. We hope you will share your joy and excitement with the faculty at your school who have helped you reach this happy day.

The Columbia faculty, students and administration look forward to welcoming you into a community that thrives on our combination of a demanding curriculum, a diverse and talented student body, and a college town abundant in dynamism and opportunities. We know that you will contribute to the academic and personal excellence that has been the hallmark of Columbia students since 1754. The coming years at Columbia promise to be lively and joyful ones indeed as we continue to celebrate over 250 years of achievement and distinction.

It is our great pleasure to congratulate you on the successes that have earned you this fine honor, and we eagerly anticipate the successes that you will no doubt enjoy at Columbia. If any member of the admissions staff can assist you in the days ahead, please do not hesitate to write or call.

To respond to this offer of admission please click here. I also encourage you to visit our “Welcome Website,” designed especially for the members of the Class of 2015: You will need your Columbia ID (C003576949) to access the Welcome Website. I look forward to welcoming you to campus next fall.

Warmest regards,

My amazing High School prepared me for Columbia but The Ivy League Connection is what really gave me a taste of College Life and what my workload would be like so I would know if I was making the right choice. The ILC gave me the chance of a lifetime to experience NYC and Columbia right and without them, there is no guarantee I would be going where I'm going. The Ivy League Connection is what allowed me to make a very necessary connection with actual Columbia staff which could have been a deciding factor in my application.

Having the assistance of Ms. Kim definitely made a difference as did my HS counselor Ms. Hart. Having a great counselor on your side is absolutely vital to the admissions process.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Columbia University 2010 – Once a Dream, Now Maybe a Reality

When I’d previously considered the possibility of attending a college on the East Coast, I was apprehensive about the thought of staking out a new life by myself so far away from home. The thought of moving across the country away from friends and family is really quite intimidating. A great many students are thrust into this situation without truly knowing what to expect. That’s why I’m so grateful to the Ivy League Connection for providing me with an authentic college experience during the past three weeks. I've gained confidence that someone as shy as I can manage in a completely different environment and reach out and make new friends with people from all over the country. I feel much better prepared to take on the challenges of finding the right school as well as the challenges of living a balanced college life. The ILC program has given me a taste of what its like to fly across the country, share a room with someone you've only just met, make friends with people from all over the world, and be solely responsible for the work that needs to be done.

The process of visiting schools has really shown me that there is a lot more to choosing a university than just comparing rankings and acceptance rates. What students like me can often forget is that the complete college experience can’t just be measured by statistics. It's easy to be seduced by prestige and get wrapped up in rankings, so it's important to keep in mind that the school you choose will be your home for the next four years. No matter how great the school, if you aren't happy living there, your education will suffer.

Thanks to the ILC, we visited schools such as Columbia, Penn, Yale and Vassar and I developed a much better idea of the type of school that I want to attend. Although I first missed the rolling hills and trees of the UC campus, we Columbia students were fortunate to have the opportunity to explore and enjoy the culture offered by one of the world's great cities. I absolutely loved living in the middle of Manhattan and visiting the museums, the theatre, and the bustling local neighborhoods. For that reason, I'd consider applying to Columbia, instead of Vassar, which is a little too isolated in the countryside. While the rain at U Penn was a turn off, I felt at home both on campus and in the city of Philadelphia. Before this trip I hadn't even considered Columbia and U Penn, but especially after learning that they're both accepting the common application, I'm certain that I’ll apply to both.

When I first applied to the ILC program, I confess that Chemistry wasn't my top choice as a course of study. Of all the science and math classes I’d taken, chemistry struck me as the least intuitive and the most convoluted. That initial impression was soon forgotten during the stimulating 3 week course: Intensive Seminars in Modern Chemistry led by Professor Luis Avila. He guided our class not only through the basics of practical lab work, but he also introduced us to the incredible variety of applications that the subject of chemistry has to offer. Many professors and PhDs took their time to appear as guest speakers and talk about their unique fields of research that I’ve described in my previous blogs. Beyond that, many spoke about the energy crisis and about other global issues; challenging us to be the generation that finally resolves these problems. The passion that every speaker conveyed convinced me that there's a lot more to chemistry than just balancing chemical equations or plugging numbers into formulas. Professor Avila also reminded us that President Obama is urging the country’s schools to graduate more scientists and engineers in order for the U.S. to remain globally competitive.

There’s something special that I’ll always remember about this trip—the fantastic people of New York City. After I’d lost my wallet while swimming in the ocean on the Fourth of July, I desperately searched the beach and the water with no success. When I thought that all was lost, someone suggested that I speak to a lifeguard. That was a good idea, since it turned out that a Good Samaritan had found it and had given it to the lifeguard. Even more amazing, everything in the wallet was still there, including my money, my room key, and my Columbia ID. My faith in humanity got a big boost from this real-life experience in the big city.

More than anything else, I'm very grateful to the Ivy League Connection for providing me with an authentic college experience, an incredible adventure, and the opportunity of a lifetime. Thank you so much for your support and to everyone who made this trip possible. Thanks to WCCUSD School Board members Mr. Ramsey and Ms. Kronenberg for founding the ILC program, to Don Gosney for his great photography, computer support, and witty blog comments, to Ms. Ishmael who chaperoned us across the country and all over town, and to all the sponsors who made this program possible and for treating us royally during our first weekend in the Big Apple.

Reflections on a Great Three Weeks

My time with the ILC has been really enjoyable and has left me with a lot of experience that I would never have been able to get otherwise. 

I’ll start by discussing the city because New York is such a vibrant place. The area in which I live is hardly rural but it’s not intensely urban either, thus it was an interesting change to spend three weeks in central Manhattan. Whereever I was there were always people; this created an atmosphere that felt very different from what I was used to. When we went to Times Square even at one o’clock in the morning it was filled with people, light, and sound. This and the great number of things to do all contributed to a very lively feeling throughout the city. The amount of freedom we were granted combined with the ease of use and convenience of public transportation meant that the amount of opportunities we were presented with could be overwhelming at times. In retrospect I feel that although I really enjoyed the city life, I did not take advantage of all that was offered so I’d definitely consider returning to Columbia for college.

The city was not the only thing that I enjoyed about Columbia; the course itself was enriching in many ways. One of the most immediately impressive things about the university to me, were the resources, both human and material. The labs themselves were numerous and well equipped, and some of the more complex devices carried price tags of over a million dollars. This setup seems appropriate given that many of the people working there were the leading experts in their respective fields. While this environment was slightly intimidating, it was also very inspirational to think about the opportunities that await students. The course itself was quite informative, although the subject matter was slightly scattered at times, but its true value lay in its focus on giving an impression of what real lab work might be like. Our professor stressed the importance of proper laboratory protocols and procedures which really allowed us to get a feeling for how things would be conducted in a research lab. The seminars we received opened my eyes to how deep chemistry really can be, as professors described some of the emerging areas in which they worked. For example, spin chemistry studies the way in which the orientation of electron’s spins can dramatically affect the properties of an atom and lead to radically different subspecies of the same molecule -- something, which I was not even aware of. As a result of the course I feel much more enthusiastic about both chemistry and college research in general.

Aside from chemistry, I feel that the course also taught me valuable lessons on self discipline and human interaction. As the posting times on my blogs show, I was generally getting between three to five hours of sleep nightly. This really wasn’t a sufficient quantity of rest and the cumulative effects of it were rather unpleasant. I have no one to blame for this but myself so I feel that I really learned the need for self discipline and proper time management. I felt that I also gained a lot due to the diversity and talent of my peers. Students came from all across the country and the world; I only met a small fraction of all the attendees of the program and among them were students from China, Russia, France, India, Korea, Dubai, Australia, and Puerto Rico (although the last one isn’t technically international). Being around students of such diverse backgrounds really opened my mind and the fact that they were all so intelligent and motivated was humbling. I hope that I’ve positively represented WCCUSD to the rest of the world.

I’d finally like to thank the ILC and everyone involved in it for everything that it has done. Aside for the Columbia course the ILC provided opportunities from expensive dinners to meetings with college admissions officers. These opportunities really topped off what was already a great experience. My special thanks to Don Gosney, Ms. Kronenberg, and Mr. Ramsey for being so heavily involved in incurring the program’s success; Ms. Ishmael for being a great chaperone; and all of the sponsors who’ve donated so generously to the program. It was an honor to be part of this experience.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Every Ending is a New Beginning

Our wonderful ILC group in American Presidential Powers with Dr. Z and our lovely TA Marfo!

THE CLASS! We're just missing two girls, one who went on vacation early and one who left class in a hurry. Sorry about the blurry picture! I only had one group shot and I didn't realize it was so blurry until after we left.

Hello everyone! I cannot believe I am now blogging from my house in California. It seems so surreal that I have already spent 3+ weeks in New York. Everything, it seems, was eaten by a giant time machine that has warped my sense of time. If you asked me what the best day of my trip was, I would probably present to you a perplexed face with furrowed brows. Instead, I would insist on telling you about all that I learned and experienced.


Whether you love to learn or learn to love, there is no dispute that loving and learning go hand in hand. When I first heard that the ILC-offered course at Columbia was "American Presidential Powers," I will admit that I wasn't entirely thrilled. The reason is, history has never been my favorite subject in school. This summer, however, gave me an entirely different view of political science and definitely reaffirmed the idea that learning about the past goes beyond merely reading about people and events and memorizing facts. I found that I really enjoy seminars and discussions, because that is the most fitting learning style for me. By listening to what my peers had to say, I began to see things in multiple ways, rather than basing everything off of what my professor had to say. Often times, our discussions would start with focus on specific policies and eventually evolve to ones about the morality, impact, significance, etc. of issuing such policies. Not only was the setting of a small seminar class better in terms of covering more ground and digging deeper into the various topics covered, it was also better because it forces students to be alert and apply critical thinking skills. I know that I definitely want to take more seminar/discussion type of classes at some time during my college experience. To sum it up, I did learn a lot about politics and American history during the three weeks at Columbia. I also proved to myself that despite my distaste for the social sciences, there is something invaluably important to learning it, to cultivating that love for knowledge.


Staying up at 3am to write a rough draft of an essay is rather... gloomy. I thought to myself, come on, just finish it so you can sleep, it's just a rough draft after all! Especially with no parent supervision and no actual letter grade on any submitted work, I wouldn't have been punished for slacking. I did not, however, lose my drive. Even if all we are receiving from this course is a fairly generic letter of recommendation with no "real" grade or college credit, I wanted to do my best and take away with me as much knowledge as possible. I proved to myself that I can prioritize, even in a city with ample distractions; lack of motivation/drive will not be an issue.

I still remember what I felt when I sat in the Hotel Operations Management course at Cornell University last summer. Man, I thought to myself, these kids are smart! How do they know that Host is an REIT... what is a REIT company and what is Host! Throughout the course, I always felt that I wasn't good enough to speak out loud since I had no previous knowledge about the subject we were learning. Sometimes, I felt the urge to raise my hand and contribute, but my fear of sounding "stupid" always kicked me in the guts and blocked my thoughts from leaving my head. I remember telling myself, I WILL do better next summer, if I get another opportunity to go East. Well, that is what I did. I spoke out a lot more this summer than I had last summer and I look at it as a feat since I know for certain the competition did not diminish this summer. Of course there is still a big margin for improvement and I never kid myself that I can do much better, but I am happy and at peace with myself because I did accomplish what I told myself I would accomplish.


When we meet people, we naturally judge people by what they say and do, how they carry themselves, etc. Sometimes, these observations we make are no where near the right ballpark. That was certainly the case when I met my suite mates. I thought from our first meeting that these girls were extremely self-centered, ridiculous, even bratty. However, after 3 weeks of bonding, I have come to realize that their characters are much more deeper than what meets the eye. Although they might come across as being shallow, they do really carry your best interest in their heart and they make an effort to maintain good relations with all of the family.

My absolutely wronged first impressions made me realize that I shouldn't be too judgmental. I was lucky this time because I was literally stuck with the other 12 girls for 3 weeks in a suite. Had I been able to avoid them, I know very well that I would have probably done so and socialized with other people. I would have then missed out on becoming friends with some of the most creative, more athletic, most caring, most shopaholic people I know! Lesson I learned here is, give people a chance to open up to you and don't judge them too prematurely.


Needless to say, having a close-knit, supportive family is beneficial. I am blessed to have one at home... and to have had one at Columbia. When one of the girls wanted to watch a show that no one else was interested in, another girl stepped up and agreed to go, because she didn't want our friend to go by herself. Eventually, a third of the suite went to to the Broadway production, and they all had fun! Academics, though very important, is not the only thing we should think of when we think about college because there are so many aspects to it. One is socializing and I've realized that having a family like that one I had a Columbia will only enrich my experience and make me into a better person.


After meeting such a variety of people both national and international, I am more aware of the students of my generation. I have met students who are ridiculously rich, ones who are mindblowingly intelligent. (Students with 2400 SAT scores do exist... and they have human needs too! What a relief.) Rather than feeling depressed because I wasn't, so to say, up to par, I feel more motivated to try harder and to achieve more.

In all, the experience I had cannot be fully articulated through language. It is something that one must feel to know. But I can tell you that the 3+ weeks in New York were probably among the best 3+ weeks I've spent anywhere. Thank you so much Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, and Don for all that you've all done for me! And a big shout-out to all of the generous sponsors who have supported this incredible program and have offered me the opportunity to do all of this! Thank you all so very much! And I cannot stress enough how great this trip was for me, thank you thank you thank you!

Although this summer adventure has come to its inevitable end, I have no doubt that I will continue to experience great adventures in college, whether I end up attending an in-state college or an out-of-state one, public or private. Just like that, one door closed as another opened, and one ending led to a new beginning. I have no doubt the Columbia experience will influence in some way or another my ultimate decision of what schools to apply to and, I suspect, my final decision about which school to attend. Thank you Ivy League Connection, for opening my eyes to all the great opportunities out there and for expanding my horizons! I really appreciate everything I have received and all the connections I have made. Thank you! And goodnight everyone! I'll stay in touch!

Reflection: A New York Experience

I cannot begin to describe how grateful I am for the opportunity I've had the past three weeks. Without the Ivy League Connection, and subsequently our generous sponsors, I never would have been able to come to New York City to study at one of the top universities in the world, Columbia, in one of the best experiences of my life.

Looking back, I can proudly say that I thoroughly enjoyed and learned a lot in my  American Presidential Powers class. I have to say that the class wasn't without hard work and a lot of time. Our reading assignments each night were brutal and the in-class discussions not only tested our knowledge on the material but our ability to apply them to different situations. Moreover, the rigor of researching and writing our papers was probably the largest hurdle. I chose a topic (President Reagan and his speeches) that I certainly knew nothing about. I had to start my research from the bottom up. After researching, making an outline and writing the rough draft, it was all meticulous revising from there. I had never written a paper that long, especially with such high expectations coming from Dr. Z, everyone back home, members of the ILC and most significantly myself. In the time allotted I think I did a great job and I know that I can do even better when I enter college.

Another key component of the experience was simply New York. The city was everything I imagined and so much more. It's so vast and full of culture. Walking Times Square or even the hallways of Columbia, I could hear a plethora of languages spoken all the time. The immersion into culture was probably my favorite part. Looking around, there were restaurants of all different foods from different cultures. Opportunities were endless. Given the freedom at night and on the weekends allowed me to explore and dive into the city. It's so beautiful and complex, I can barely stand it.

One of the main things I can take from this experience is that other people are helpful. I can't do everything on my own, as much as I'd like to think I can. When we were assigned a lot of reading the same weekend we had college tours scheduled, the girls and I decided to split them up, saving so much time. I will definitely use this option more often in my future schooling.

Another lesson is that I shape my own future. With advice from Dr. Z and her guest speakers I learned that whichever school I wind up attending, my career and my life depend on what I do with what's handed to me. Dr. Z. kept pushing going to a school far away that no family member has attended and to study abroad in a place we've never been. Both have really meant something to me. Even though right now I have no idea what I want, I know that whatever decision I make will be a good one for me, that I can use to grow as an individual.

Again, gratitude cannot say enough for how thankful I am to have had this experience. I can't wait to share my experiences with others and encourage them to have an open mind when it comes to their future. Alas, my future is in my hands.

In Conclusion

The past three weeks in New York and Columbia University have been unbelievable. From being able to learn secrets of the admissions process from admissions officers from some of the world's most selective institutions, to being able to sight see across New York, this trip has been a dream come true for me. This has really been an eye-opening experience for me, and I'm extremely thankful to the Ivy League Connection  for offering me the chance to be able to be a part of this once-in-a-lifetime program.

I've learned many things from this program, not only about colleges and admissions, but also about myself and the world.

First of all, I've discovered a lot more about colleges than I knew before. The visits to Vassar College, the University of Pennsylvania, Yale University, and of course, Columbia University itself has really opened my perspective on which college to apply to. I love the Open Curriculum at Vassar and how it is easy to double major there, even in totally unrelated courses, due to the fact that there are virtually no required courses, leaving lots of space open for another major. The Wharton School of Business at UPenn is also really interesting to me, as the curriculum of a major in Economics plus a concentration in an area of business really fits what I would want to take if I was interested in majoring in Business or Economics. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to learn a lot about Yale University's programs, but the campus was beautiful and was the largest out of all the colleges we've visited. As for Columbia, I really grew attached to the campus during my three weeks there, and really enjoyed it's location in the heart of New York City. I also really liked the Core classes at Columbia which ensure that students are well rounded and have a common base of shared classes.

The meetings with the admissions officers from Vassar, Yale and Columbia really helped me learn more about the admissions process and what they're looking for in their applicants. The officer from Yale, Alex Richardson, really explained how they're looking for students who they can see as part of their campus's student body. He also talked to us about how important teacher recommendations are in the admissions process, and that they're looking for more than just grades on a paper, they want people who stand out as individuals that they can visualize as part of the campus. David Buckwald, the admissions officer from Columbia, also helped us a lot in understanding the admissions process. He explained that the schools want students who they think fits their school style, and who are going to help build the legacy of the school. These chances to ask questions about the admissions process and what we they're looking for in applications to people who will be reading our own applications soon was a priceless opportunity that will definitely help me in my college applications.

I've also learned that there is much more out there in the world other than just California. The chance to actually visit some of the world's most prestigious schools showed me that I could apply to more schools than just University of California schools or California State Universities. Also, the opportunity to interact with students from many different places in my class or in my dorm, people from Missouri to Macedonia, really opened my world view to see that there is much more out there and that there is a lot that I don't know. I've really gotten to know the people in my dorm better, through watching fireworks with them, or by helping them find the rat that was in their room. I've really been able to forge connections with this program, not only with the other Ivy League Connection students, but with students from Indonesia, Canada, Seattle, and many other places, as well as admissions officers and even my teacher, Mrs. Zebrowski, who wants to know where we are all going to go to for college.

I also feel that I've matured in the program, away from home, as I've had to take a much bigger responsibility for myself than I've ever had to before. I've grown as a person, and I think that I've definitely returned home a different person than I was when I left. I've become much more independent, and am more open to changes and receptive to others than I was before. I've learned how to survive in a dormitory setting and learned how to do college level work in a college setting. The ability to access and work with the vast array of resources of Columbia also taught me how to do research other than by Googling the information I needed or by looking it up on Wikipedia, and I learned how to look for reputable sources and important names in scholastic research. By the end of the program, I almost felt as if I belonged at Columbia, and that Columbia was a part of who I was, because the three weeks I spent there really showed me what it was like to feel as if I was a part of something bigger. This program really has been life-changing for me, and I am grateful to the Ivy League Connection for giving me this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in this adventure. Thank you Mrs. Ishmael, Mr. Ramsey, Mrs. Kronenberg, Don, and everyone else who helped make this dream possible for me!

A Mother's Perspective

Melissa Arciniega
Now that Matt is beginning to pack up and head for Columbia University, I often find myself reflecting on the past eighteen years. There are so very many incredible memories in this young man's life already and I'm feeling very blessed and thankful for the person Matt has become and the direction his life is taking.

The Ivy League Connection has played a huge role in sending Matt in the direction of Columbia University. His two weeks at Yale last summer gave him the chance to prove to himself and others that he, indeed, can compete among some of the best and the brightest students in the world! 
Often times, students from the WCCUSD are afraid to dream big or don't know how big, big can be. Because of you, Ms. Kronenberg, Mr. Gosney, and the many individuals who run and fund the Ivy League Connection, Matt is about to attend a world-class university in preparation for a career in public policy and politics.
From a very special place in my heart, I thank you and the ILC for showing these kids how big dreams can be.  The world WILL be changed because of your mark on their lives!