Thursday, August 3, 2017

Many Sacrifices, No Regrets

Speaking at the Chicago-Vanderbilt dinner; public speaking
has always been something I've tried to avoid.
It’s been such a long ride with the Ivy League Connection (ILC) program. There have been times where I’ve wanted to give up, and there have been times where I questioned how much time I was willing to sacrifice to become a participant on this trip, but every time that I really gave it some thought, the more I realized that what I truly wanted was to be able to call myself a part of the ILC program and to represent the district at a top university as a student, even if only for the summer. Looking back on this lengthy adventure, I realize that the magnitude of effort and the amount of hours that I’ve put into applications, meetings, and writing for this program has been great, but also that I don’t regret committing any of it.

I remember being pulled out of class to attend the initial informational meeting in the school library. After it, a lot of kids were complaining about how much work the application sounded like and how they didn’t want to deal with someone as seemingly overbearing as Don. The meeting had the opposite effect on me; I was motivated by the slight chance that I would earn the right to attend a top university for three weeks of the summer, and that there was a person as invested in the program as Don was that would be there for support along the way.

My first set of application essays, to the Vanderbilt program, were rejected. Don emailed me after the scores were sent out to tell me that if I had formatted the titles of my documents correctly, it would have given my scores the boost needed to push me into the interview pool. Galvanized by the new apparency of my problems, I re-formatted my titles and eagerly awaited the results for the Chicago applications. I got a call on the day of my school’s jazz festival that one of the eight selected interviewees could not make the interviews and that I, as the applicant whose essays landed in ninth, was now invited to interview. Even after being told that my formatting was incorrect, I had still landed outside of the top eight, except that now I had a chance to prove my worth.

I went into the interviews with a chip on my shoulder. My pride was hurt by the fact that my essays weren’t good enough to earn me selection into the initial pool of interviewees, even after I fixed my formatting issues. A couple of days before the interviews, Alice Johnson, a Chicago cohort member from last year, sat down with me to go over the interview process and possible questions that might be posed. I felt well prepared on the day of, and added to the motivation I had to do well by my lackluster performance on the essay section, I was really excited to show the interviewers that I deserved to be on the plane to Chicago come July.
Looking back at our performance on the interviews.
The session went well, which is why I’m writing this blog post. However, it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing after that. There were more applications to complete, forms to fill out, meetings and info sessions to attend, and emails to respond to. A lot of emails to respond to. At a crucial part of the application to the actual class that I wanted to take at UChicago, the emails from the school kept ending up in the “Promotions” tab of my inbox, buried under scores of shoe discounts and online sales offers. I feel like that period was a quintessential couple of weeks for the relationship between myself and the ILC program; there were many complications and problems that needed to be solved, but when they were all taken care of, what was left was something greater than I could possibly have hoped for.
Around the time of the Chicago application, with the rest of the cohort.
Even while I was in Chicago, I had to make time to blog for the program, which was the least I could do to give back to the organization that flew me there. And now that the program is over, I’m still blogging. The ILC has truly become an ever-present aspect of my life since the first time that Don introduced it at school. I don’t regret even a single second that I’ve spent on this program, be it reading emails, writing blogs, listening to Don speak at meetings, or just worrying about applications. It hasn’t always been easy, but the whole journey turned out to be a great learning experience and a lot of fun in the end.
These people helped make the trip as fun as it was.

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