Friday, July 19, 2013

You BU, I'll Be Me


I slept really well last night, because I was in bed by eleven. In the morning, we had plenty of time to stop at Dunkin' Donuts for breakfast. We jumped in the van and drove back into Massachusetts. 

The building on the left is the admissions center at Brandeis
We had a lot of options
to choose from

We arrived on campus forty-five minutes before our tour, and headed to the admissions center where we read pamphlets about programs at Brandeis to pass the time.


I read these while we waited









Our tour with a student named Matt started, and as we left the air-conditioned room to go outside, another blast of heat slapped me in the face. I still haven't gotten used to that.

Matt talked about Brandeis's active student body, with fourteen a cappella groups, things like inner tube water polo, (I was very excited to find that Brandeis has a Quidditch team) and the interestingly designed buildings on campus. There are buildings designed to look like a piano, a top hat, a camera, and a Q-tip (long story). The campus also has three chapels (Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant), with a symbolic meaning; one never overshadows anotherliterally, they're built so that the buildings can't cast a shadow on each other.

Part of the Brandeis campus

The library at Brandeis, home to 1.2 million volumes

Matt said that professors often give out their emails and some even give their phone numbers to students to call and text questions. He said that one student had texted a professor (Professor Coiner) at two in the morning, and he still responded quickly. Matt told us that Professor Coiner made economy classes interesting for his students by doing things differently; for example, he sometimes stands on his desk to teach. Matt told us that you can get a voucher for taking a professor to lunch to get to know them. Based on the assumption (which later proved to be correct) that teachers had good relationships with their students, I asked a question about class sizes. I celebrated internally when Matt finished saying that they were pretty small with "good question." It was pretty clear that at Brandeis, there is an emphasis on developing a personal relationship with professors.

The Mandel Center for the Humanities,
the prettiest building on campus, in Matt's opinion

An average classroom, with a round
discussion table and a large whiteboard;
classes at Brandeis are mostly
discussion-based

On the campus, there is a castle that acts as sophomore housing. Yes, you did read that right. Brandeis has a castle. The man who had it built modeled it after a castle in Scotland, but since he couldn't use the castle's blueprints, he had artists paint the castle and used the paintings to build the one at Brandeis. Unfortunately, the castle had to be built from the outside in, so there are a bunch of architectural flaws: flat walls where a door belongs, stairs that lead to nowhere, and rooms accessible only by fire escape.

The awesome castle on campus

In one of the windows a little lower (not in this picture) you could see a knight's armor
Brandeis also has really great athletic facilities; so great, in fact, that the Boston Celtics used to practice there. I think you should know, I wouldn't have put that fact in my blog if my brother and father weren't such big Celtics fans.

The "fins" on the science building aren't just there to look cool;
they're designed to push heat away when it's hot outside
and pull heat in when it's cool

We stopped in the science building, which I think is prettier than the one Matt liked best. I was happy to learn that Brandeis undergraduate students have co-authored in over 130 scientific journals.

The campus seems very safe. Matt explained that there are blue lights stationed around campus, and if you feel threatened, you touch it and it signals for help. It has only been used once in 2004 when it used to be activated by sound, when the Red Sox won the World Series.

One of the blue lights on campus

Rebecca presented the PowerPoint in this room,
Brandeis's information session incorporates pictures and statistics

During the information session, I learned that the average one of Wellesley's 3,500 students does about three internships during his or her four years in college, and that the student-to-faculty ratio is ten to one. Rebecca Simons, an admissions officer, says that the most important thing on applications to her is the transcript, so she knows whether or not you're challenging yourself with your classes.

Brandeis really encourages students to try different things even if they're not related to their major. Matt mentioned that he had tried Knitting Club even though he didn't knit. Speaking of which, there is a huge list of clubs at Brandeis, including Cheese Club, Surfing Club, and Pokemon Club.

We learned during the PowerPoint that the Brandeis mascot
is a judge wielding a gavel. The fan base at Brandeis is called "the jury."

The music building, shaped like a grand piano, with 88 windows to represent a piano's 88 keys. 

I like the Wellesley campus better, but Brandeis seems to encourage extracurricular activities more. Both have little quirky things here and there, which I really like because it gives the college character, and both seem to have very good academics, which is obviously important.

We stopped at the Brandeis store, which was playing "Don't Stop Believing" as we walked in. Our group drove into Boston and got a recommendation for lunch from a journalism major at BU then ate at a Mexican place, where I couldn't finish my burrito (I'm sure to be on Sonya's "wall of shame").

I'm a bit of a Red Sox fan, so I don't think I'll have to go into much more detail to explain why I have so many pictures of Fenway Park.

As we neared Fenway Park, we started seeing more and more signs like these

The outside of Fenway Park

The Red Sox logo on a fence outside Fenway

An entrance to Fenway

The Yankees were getting off their bus just before we crossed it,
 by the back of the baseball park. I wasn't very excited;
the Yankees and the Red Sox are rivals. 

We drove to Boston University next, and found our way to the admissions office. Our information session started in a big lecture hall, where we heard from a BU student named Charisse Fields and from an admissions director (and BU alumnus) named Caitlin Fairfield. We were told that Boston University is the fourth largest private research institution, with 250 different programs of study, and 500 student activities (including a people-watching club). They explained that research projects were not always people in lab coats conducting experiments, but that they can be things like helping a professor write a book.

Caitlin said that BU got 53,000 applications competing for 3,900 spots, and, like Rebecca, she said that transcripts show the most about the students. She also said that she read a lot of essays (responding to the prompt about someone who inspires you) which don't teach her anything about the applicant. Caitlin told us that if your entire high school class wrote an essay and threw it up in the air, and your best friend picked up each one from the floor and read it, he or she should be able to tell which one is yours.

We started our tour soon after that, but I struggled to understand our student guide, Sean Ashburn (he had a microphone, but that also came with that pffhhhcckkk sound from the wind being amplified as well). We sat in a small classroom for part of the tour, which told me that there weren't just big classes at BU like the ones that would take place in the room where we started our information session.

The campus seemed very spread out, because walking in the heat made each step feel like two, but it all actually just fit in a 1.8 mile length of Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.

The largest of BU's 23 libraries on campus, with five stories
that have study rooms where study groups can meet

I had noticed that the BU mascot is the terrier,
so they're the Boston terriers

Marsh Chapel on the BU campus

A Boston University seal on the ground in front of Marsh Chapel;
there's a superstition that if you walk across it you won't graduate in four years
(you could graduate in three, but students worry because it could be five years or more,
and the extra years are expensive)

Our group visited a dorm, which was very similar to the other ones we have seen, and our guide pointed out that BU has emergency posts, just like Brandeis. By around 4:00 the tour was over. We stopped in the Boston University bookstore and picked up some t-shirts, then started driving back, and a few of us slept in the van again.

I can already tell that I prefer the less urban colleges with small classes, because the general environment is calmer and more relaxed. I definitely liked both Wellesley and Brandeis better than Boston University, because of BU's campus and the general feel of the college based on the tour and information session. I'm really getting a sense of what college is like, and I'm learning a lot of details about colleges that I wouldn't have found out without this trip.
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