Friday, October 22, 2010

Lessons of the Uncommon App

by Sherry Cao, CAPS Marketing Assistant

As Columbus Day weekend drew to a close, the waves of prospective students faded away—the voices of tour guides telling us that Bartlett was originally a gymnasium and that the gargoyles on the top of Hull Gate tell the story of a UChicago student grew quieter while both bright and bleary eyed prospies alike shuffled slowly away from the busiest walkways. In the past, Columbus Day had been nothing but a day off and a reminder that in 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue (or so they say). But this year, thanks to prospective student weekend, it took me back to a year ago—when I, along with the majority of the class of 2014, had no idea where to go and what to do.

The college application process was nothing less than painfully long, but to its credit, it also taught me a few things that are very much applicable to college—and beyond.
  1. Don’t overdo it

  2. I wasn’t the kid who applied to 14 schools (really—I wasn’t), but I knew a couple of people who did, and their senior year lives were just awful—as in, didn’t-even-go-to-homecoming, got-two-hours-of-sleep-a-night awful. I found that it really was easier (and more meaningful) if I focused on one or two schools. So, as RSOs charm unsuspecting first years with Facebook events and free food, I’d suggest that same concept now. So, although a couple of events and some free pizza (…gelato, Korean beef, curry…) never hurt anyone, make sure you find what interests you most and stick with it.

  3. Let your personality shine through

  4. I worried a lot about how I could change myself to be the best possible applicant—but then realized that I had no idea how to be everything good that one could find in a student…and besides, that would be extremely exhausting anyway. So instead, I wrote my UChicago essay about my neon day-glo bike and panda t-shirt, and got in (somehow). The point is, I learned that I should be respectful and professional, but also be myself, because talking about myself (in a respectful, professional manner) is a lot easier than talking about the person who I thought I should be. I expect that when it comes time to enter into the job/internship application process, this will still hold true.

  5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

  6. I had a lot of questions, and I asked them. I had the names and lunch hours of the admissions office workers memorized (seriously). I was adamant. And it helped a lot, as I found that I learned a lot by just releasing my sillier inhibitions and asking my questions (though at the risk of being repetitive, remember the importance of professionalism). College, especially the University of Chicago, has so much to offer, and though flyers and sidewalk chalk messages are very effective, you might be able to find even more opportunities—or opportunities that you really want—if you just ask.
The CAPS staff if always happy to answer your questions about college and life beyond. Call (773) 702-7040 to make an appointment.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Confessions of a First Year

by Sherry Cao, CAPS Marketing Assistant

If this is your first time ever reading the CAPS blog, you're probably wondering who writes it. Well, my name is Sherry Cao, and I’m a first-year. I’m a marketing assistant here at CAPS, which means I design various flyers and the cool tri-folds that we all read at Bartlett. I’m probably a lot like you--I'm still figuring out what the names of the campus buildings are, where to get food at 2 AM, and what the best study spots on campus are. I should also confess that I have almost no idea what I want to do with my life. I say "almost" because I know that I wouldn’t [read: shouldn’t] be a doctor or anything else that involves pointy objects and blood.

Anyway, I’m writing this post to allay any fears that first-years may have about the future, or at least, let you know that there’s someone else who’s in the same boat. Far too often, I hear conversations that are more intimidating than they are truthful—i.e. Sarah (not her real name) wants to double major in Finance and French while minoring in Eastern Asian studies and work for the United Nations at the same time that she's starting a nonprofit wildlife organization. These are all wonderful and worthy goals, but with all the stuff that I’ve learned in my Hum and Sosc classes during the 1.5 weeks that I’ve been here, I seriously doubt that I could plan out my life solely based on what I learned in high school.

Some people may already know what they’d like to do, but for everyone who doesn’t, I’d like to make a case for exploration, discovery and finally, surprise. In a school where AP credits hardly make a dent in the Core, one might as well embrace these requirements to their fullest extent...for example, take an astronomy class because you’ve always wondered about the stars, or take “Power, Identity and Resistance” because you’ve always wondered what the heck that class title actually means. My wonderful roommate said to me today, “Life is what happens when you make other plans.” I’m finally feeling the full extent of that-— and hopefully, you do too.

But in case you’d like to explore your options and perhaps get a better idea of what the world has to offer, feel free to come visit CAPS! To schedule a one-on-one appointment with a CAPS career counselor, call (773) 702-7040. To schedule an undergraduate same-day appointment, log in to your Chicago Career Connection (CCC)account from the CAPS homepage to sign up. Hours: Monday – Friday, 11 am – 2:30 pm.

Undergraduate walk-in appointments are available on a first-come, first served basis and are 15 minutes long. They are available Monday-Friday, 3pm – 4:45 pm for quick job-search questions.