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Some of our ILC alums have been kind enough to provide their insight on how their participation has affected them as they've matriculated to some of our country's finer educational institutions. These are students who participated in The Ivy League Connection and are telling us about their experiences in a world unlike what they left here in the WCCUSD.

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From Justine Betschart - UCLA ‘14 12/27/11

Hello ILC!

Justine BetschartFor those of you who do not know me, my name is Justine Betschart, and I am a Hercules High School alumna and current junior at UCLA. As most have stated in previous testimonials, my second year of college has not changed much compared to my first year. As I stated in a missive last spring, I switched majors (and schools within UCLA) to Chemical Engineering within the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Now that I no longer have to stress about what I want to pursue during my 4 years at UCLA, I am now diving into engineering coursework, which is no cakewalk whatsoever. I took on a rigorous course load this past quarter, which in hindsight may have not been a great judgment call. However, college is no time to laze around and take the lightest course load possible. Having a Friday off may seem nice throughout the quarter, but finishing school in 4 years with a professional degree is much sweeter.

In addition to truly being introduced to chemical engineering with my first upper division course, I focused on achieving more of an academic and extracurricular balance than I had last year. This quarter I joined the American Institute of Chemical Engineering, as well as the Society of Women Engineers. These professional clubs have provided me with a lot of exposure into the world of engineering that I am very new to. Additionally, I made it a point to make sure I joined a group that wasn't so professionally based.

To my own disbelief, I rushed a sorority. Most students focused on their academics have the negative stereotype of Greek life that I also had when I entered UCLA. However, doing a little research and stepping outside of my comfort zone were the best things I did this past quarter. I joined Phi Sigma Rho, an engineering and engineering technologies based sorority that provided me with the academic and social balance I needed so badly. I got the best of both worlds with my sorority; so don't discount this aspect of college life. College is a time to try out new things, so make sure to step out of your bubble and meet new people, whether it be by going Greek or joining the Scrabble Club!

If anyone has any questions for me regarding UCLA or anything college related, feel free to shoot me an email!

From Cristina Pelayo - University of Pennsylvania 12/27/11

Congratulations on winning the Golden Bell Award.

Cristina PelayoMy third semester at Penn was about trying to decide what I would major in. I decided to take a bunch of introductory classes in different areas of the humanities to see what area I would ultimately major in. I'm glad that Penn allows you the option of declaring your major later on down the road, although I'm advised to do it by February. At the beginning of the semester, my pre-major advisor left, but I was immediately assigned to a new one who answered all my questions and was equally helpful.

My old advisor even keeps in touch with me still by asking about what classes I'm taking next semester. I was really surprised that she did, because she really didn't need to, but it’s Penn, I really should not have been surprised. I met with undergraduate advisors for the major and minor I am planning on declaring, and they were extremely helpful with their advice on what classes to take next semester. I love how they have walk-in hours almost every day to answer any questions you may have, and that I don't need to schedule an appointment.

Overall, Penn is great for someone who is as undecided as I was because there are so many people willing to help you and talk to you about your future. I haven't declared my major yet, but I'm planning on doing it sometime when I get back for the upcoming semester. This semester I've decided to join the West Philadelphia Tutoring Project and be a Big Sister in order to learn more about public schools, in the case that I stick with my idea of doing something with education at some point. Visiting different public schools just gets me out of the college bubble for a while and has allowed me to learn more about Philadelphia as a city.

This year, I'm doing community living on campus. It's basically like a suite, with three bedrooms, a kitchen, and a bathroom. I prefer living this way because I can eat when I want (no starving late at night when the dining halls are closed) and I can shower without waiting for the housekeepers to finish cleaning the bathroom. This has definitely made me feel even more independent because I have to plan my own meals and clean, and overall I really like it. Even though I consider myself more independent, living like this has also made me dependent on my other three roommates to do their share of the work. Luckily, they're fabulous and very considerate, and sometimes we cook together and even argue over who doesn't have to do the dishes.

Homesickness is still something I struggle with, especially since I go home only twice a year. I'm not going to lie, but moving in and moving out by yourself is terrible (as is lugging your baggage to train stations and airports). Being about a six hour plane ride away with your family and friends in a different time zone is hard, especially if you love home as much as I do. It's especially hard when you have a final on the very last day and all your friends are home weeks earlier than you and you're locked up in the library getting distracted while trying to study for it (yup, it happened to me this semester).

Being on the East Coast does make you experience a somewhat different culture, but I think it's important to remember that the country is a lot bigger, and it's not all going to be like the Bay Area. It's made me aware of how different the world is, and it's made me grateful to have been born and raised in the Bay Area. It's also fun spreading some of that culture to my friends at Penn. I think it is necessary at some point to be far from home in order to appreciate what you really have.

If anyone has questions about Penn or college in general, feel free to email me!

From Winston Long - UC Berkeley ‘15 12/27/11

Winston LongHello to Mr. Ramsey and the rest of the ILC organization and students! I'd like to add my congratulations to ILC for being awarded the Golden Bell Award. I know that for me and many other students, the ILC programs have not only been a highlight of our high school careers, but also have significantly influenced us to realize all that we were capable of, and I'm glad to see the ILC receive it's well-deserved recognition for it's effects on our scholastic lives.

As a freshman at UC Berkeley majoring in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research (IEOR), my first semester has been a completely new experience for me. Even though my time at Columbia University as an ILC student made me feel more confidant moving into the college environment, the transition is definitely something that is very hard to prepare for. As you've probably heard from reading many of the other reflections, one of the biggest changes is the independence that you get when you move out into college. (That's the reason why everyone writes about it.) It's easy to quickly forget that you're at a university with the purpose of studying, especially since many students around you probably will forget why they are there as well. For me, I found that if I needed to rigorously plan out what I needed to do every day and schedule out all of my work in order to remain on top of all of the assignments. It was a real eye-opener when I realized that I couldn't glide my way to the finish as I did so often in high school, but that I actually needed to consistently study and force myself to put forth effort just to be on par with everyone else.

That being said, UCB has really been a fantastic place to live and study at. Even though it is true that class sizes are hideously large, and tuition is being raised to astronomical heights, don't let that stop you from considering UCB as a college. (I was kidding about the class sizes and tuition, it's not that bad. Really!)

The community at Berkeley is probably the most diverse you'll ever find at a college, and the large student population almost guarantees that you'll be able to find other people that you share interests with.

Additionally, the opportunities at Cal to reach out and develop professionally are limitless. For example, in the last semester, I was able to contact City CarShare, a non-profit organization based in San Francisco, and help them develop a case competition to solve their expansion issues. (Another former ILC student at Cal, Jeannie Wu, was part of the winning team.) It was a great experience for me to be able to work with real-world organizations and know that the work that I do actually has an impact on their organization.

Also, Cal offers experiences that would be hard to find at any other school. For example, in my IEOR freshman seminar, we had the opportunity to visit a nearby sandwich shop owned by an IEOR graduate, which was reputed to have "extremely efficient sandwiches." (No word on how they taste, though.) We also visited Meyer Sound; a local company that produces the best high-end sound systems commercially available, and went on a factory tour (unavailable to the public) to see how they optimized their production processes.

Next semester, I'm joining the Pioneers in Engineering club as a mentor for high school students in a robotics competition sponsored and coordinate by the PiE staff. I had the good fortune to be involved in the competition as a high school student last year (3rd place, PV!), and it was such a phenomenal experience that I wanted to be able to be a part of the experience again, even if as a college mentor this time.

In short, this semester has passed by amazingly fast. As cliché as it sounds, college really is a whirlwind ride, and even now I'm trying to figure out how to cram the most I can into the four short years I have at Cal. Don't be afraid, high school seniors! College is spectacularly exciting, and you're going to have a great time! (But for now, enjoy your last high school semester!)

                                                                                     Go Blue and Gold!

Winston Long Industrial Engineering and Operations Research | 2015 University of California, Berkeley (510) 508 1050

From Austin Long - Yale University ‘15 12/27/11

Austin LongHello to all of you prospective college students!

My name is Austin Long, and I am a freshman at Yale University. I am a proud graduate of Pinole Valley High School, and I took the Techniques in DNA Biotechnology class at Brown University during the summer of 2010.

I know that for a lot of you the college application season is almost over but I'm here to tell you that there is still so much more to do! College is difficult, much more so than high school, but it's not impossible. Although a lot of other people have said this already, college is an amazing experience. You'll be surrounded by the most talented and the most incredible people from all across the world. Your teachers and faculty will be fantastic. Don't waste this opportunity.

When I first started this semester, I was lonely and homesick a lot. I felt for a long time that I didn't belong at Yale, and that I was only admitted through a series of terrible mistakes at the Admissions Office. I wasn't very confident in myself or my abilities. I didn't try very hard, because I felt so out of my league, and I felt too socially awkward and shy to really commit myself to extracurricular activities. I was very much not at all the person I was in high school.

Don't do that.

College is indeed about self-discovery, but you can't let yourself be crippled by self doubt or fears. You have to be who you are. Don't be afraid to show it. It was only at the end of this semester, when I started studying and working harder, that I realized this.

Another big problem for me: Procrastination. Don't do that either. Get rid of bad habits, fast. Otherwise, you'll spend all semester trying to catch up. There is no greater feeling in the world than being on top of all of your work. You can't get by in college with the same study habits as in high school. You actually have to study, as opposed to cramming at the last minute. Surprisingly, there is a difference between the two.

If that was too long and you didn't read it, just be confident and work hard. I was stupid my first semester for being lazy and scared. Hopefully, it won't happen to you.

Aside from that, college is great! Especially at Yale.

This semester, I took five classes: Writing the Modern Non-Fiction Essay, Chinese Level 1, Freshman Organic Chemistry and the corresponding Lab, and a freshman seminar on Social Control and Criminal Justice. All of these classes were fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed each one, not just because of the material we were learning, but also because of how the class dynamics were different from that of high school. There's a lot less raising hands, and a lot more conversation and discussion.

Aside from classes, I also was a part of the Yale Concert Band, the Yale Precision Marching Band, Yale Progressive Principles, Yale Undergraduate Aerospace Association, DEMOS, as well as STARS. Yale Progressive Principles is a new organization aiming towards organizing a conference for students to learn more about Progressivism, and to get to know other progressive leaders. For the Yale Undergraduate Aerospace Association, we are currently working on a weather balloon, which we will be launching early next semester. In DEMOS, every week we go to a classroom and do science projects with elementary school students, which is very similar to something which I started at Pinole Valley High School. And STARS is an organization dedicated to helping minority students at Yale do better in STEM fields.

Socially, I'm only semi-social at Yale. I don't go to parties or to dances very often. During my free time, I hang out with my friends or study. But if you're into partying or dancing you're in luck because Yale has a lot of those. Yale University focuses a lot on giving underclassmen the freedom to explore and to experiment with their lifestyles, and that's something that a lot of people chose to take advantage of. I spend a lot of time with my suitemates, as I was lucky enough to be put in a suite (of 7) where my suitemates weren't like me, but rather, were similar enough that we complemented each other but yet still different enough where we all learn from each other and are able to bond over our experiences. However, I do know that not all students were as lucky as I was, so it's really a matter of luck. And of how you fill out your rooming request form. Spend extra time on that. You don't want to live with someone you can't stand.

I strongly encourage everyone to apply to Yale University, because more so than any other university, we focus a lot on the undergraduate experience. We have freshmen counselors, classes only for freshmen, residential college siblings, peer counselors, faculty advisers, housing for freshmen only, study breaks for freshmen, and so much more. The food here is good, our rooms are spacious, the campus is beautiful, and New Haven (as long as you stay in the downtown area) is fantastic.

If you have any questions at all about college or Yale, feel free to contact me! I'm always eager to hear from others, and I'd love to answer any questions you may have. You can email me at, or call me at 510-260-7730.

Good luck to all of you in your future endeavors, and I wish you all the best.

Boola Boola!

From Courtney Mariano - UCLA 12/27/11

Courtney MarianoI have just finished my fall quarter as a second year at UCLA. Last year, I wrote a couple of 67ureflections regarding my experiences in college as a first year. I feel that those reflections still apply to my current experience at school. College is a completely different atmosphere compared to high school. The classes are much harder and the material is more difficult. In college, you are more independent in making educational choices, so it is up to you to seek more help if needed and you must find your balance between work and leisure. And with the quarter system, finding this balance of time is even more important because you must stay on top of your work and never be behind on your studies. Because once you are, it is difficult to catch up because those 10 weeks will fly by.

But one difference between this quarter and last year is my level of involvement in school. Last year, I focused more on making a smooth transition from high school to college school wise, so I did not focus much on extra curricular activities. Thus, I was only involved in a summer camp which took up time in my spring quarter. But this quarter, I have become increasingly more involved in the clubs at school. I joined a Filipino a cappella group with practices twice a week, which was a significant change in my schedule because I had to fit in two hour practices in the evening. But I felt that it was fairly easy for me to integrate this singing group into my school schedule. And I recently decided to participate in my school's Pilipino Culture Night, which will be a huge time commitment in the following quarters of the year, so I must be sure stay on top of my studies. Although at times I do wonder what it would have been like if I started these extra curricular activities sooner in my college career, ultimately I do not regret my decision to wait until my second year to really get involved. I would recommend that the first years think carefully about what they want to be involved in and do not try to take on too much along with school. The transition to college will not be a piece of cake, so just be careful that you will have a good balance. I am not discouraging first years from joining clubs, but just think about what you want to join and do not take on too much in the beginning.

I also started a two-quarter internship last quarter. It is with a nonprofit organization called Sydney Cooper Senior Smiles. This is the first internship I have ever had, and it has been a great experience so far. I am given a lot of independence with this internship, which can be a bit scary. But at the same time, I have learned so much more because of how independent I must be; I've learned that if I want to get a lot out of this internship I must put an equal effort into my work. Last quarter was mainly about visiting the seniors at the senior home and planning events for them. But next quarter will be more about the marketing side of nonprofits, which is what I am more interested in and applies more to what I want to do in the future. Initially I didn't think this internship would be of much help to my career, but I now think differently of it. So I encourage all students to apply for internships at some point in college, whether it be during school if you think you can handle it along with classes or during summer. But make sure that some aspect of this internship will apply to what you are interested in and what career you want in the future.

Lastly, I just want to encourage all future college students to explore what truly interests you in college. You may go in to your university thinking you have a certain plan that you must follow, but don't fear a change in that plan. I came in and thought I would be a math major, but I recently realized that the subject no longer interests me as it used to, and I would rather take up a major that I have a genuine interest in learning about. After I took a communications course last quarter, I am now planning to apply to the communications major at UCLA. So don't be scared to take classes completely outside your major and take time to explore different interests. However, I would recommend that you figure out which direction you want to head in by the end of your second year.

I am thoroughly enjoying my time at UCLA, difficulties and all. College is definitely a time of exploration and growth, and I wish you all the best in your college careers. Cherish these next few years of schooling, and seriously make the most of them. And if anyone has specific questions for me, like about UCLA, don't hesitate to email me.

From Guadalupe Morales - Brown University 12/27/11

Guadalupe MoralesWell, like everyone else, congratulations to the ILC for winning the Golden Bell award! I know that this means a lot to the program and through more recognition, we can expand this program so much more to help more students out in the WCCUSD (who knows, maybe even inspire other districts like ours to create something similar?).

First, in short words, my first semester at Brown was amazing in so many ways! I never anticipated feeling sad leaving the campus last week. I thought I would be too excited to even study for my finals! However, it dawned on me that I was finally able to call Brown my home. At least, for the next four years. I made such great friends, I love the community and I feel at peace there. That is not to say I didn't miss my family and friends here, I love them to death. Each day that passed before I left to Providence, I grew more nervous about leaving home. I mean, I was happy to be going to Brown but I couldn't fathom the idea of leaving my home for so long. I didn't know what to expect.

Thankfully, I had Elizabeth Gonzalez recommend participating in the Third World Transition Program (TWTP) as my pre-orientation program to better adjust to the campus. That made such an impact for the rest of the semester and will do so for the rest of my four years in Rhode Island. Well, to explain the TWTP, it welcomes new students to Brown and it shows students potential resources and opportunities they have on campus, along with meeting new people interesting in participating in workshops on racism, sexism, classism, etc. It helped better understand how our society was constructed and the impact these issues have today. My experience with the program was that it was the best way for me to adjust to a lifestyle. I remember the first day I was herded into that room with tons of new faces I did not recognize—I didn't know what to do! There was a ton of handshaking, lots of smiles, lots of questions and get the point. Even though it kept us busy all day (and I mean, ALL DAY) it kept our mind off of home and more on building new networks and relationships there on campus. Everyone was so open to talk with, the MPCs (Minority Peer Counselors) were extremely helpful and supportive and the whole atmosphere was one you couldn't find elsewhere. I am very happy that I participated in the program. Even though it was only for three days, by the end of the program, everyone seemed to have developed a common bond that surpassed the three days that the program lasted. It turned out to be a fantastic time! I strongly recommend participating in a pre-orientation program for those of you heading off to college soon and for those coming into Brown next fall, I highly recommend the TWTP! Some of my closest friends also did the program and those who didn't, well, they wish they did :-) I still keep in touch with a lot of people from the program.

Academics at Brown: I chose a good mix of classes for my first semester. I ended up with 2 of my original choices: Introduction to Neuroscience and Studio Foundation (basic art class). I took advantage of Brown's famous (or infamous, depends who you talk with) shopping period. That basically means that because of Brown's open curriculum, you are allowed to take nearly any class your heart desires. So I had two weeks to decide two more classes (I decided I didn't want to deal with derivatives and integration right away...that could wait) and finally, I ended up choosing a sociology class that was based on gender and sexuality and an introduction to ethnic studies class. I loved my classes and I learned what I wanted to learn. I admit, once you start joining clubs and participate in social events, that's when you really need time management skills!

For finals: I have never done so much studying in my life! Neuroscience, especially, was my most difficult class—there was even a point that I thought I would fail the class. It's not the same like high school where your teacher can easily give you an extra credit assignment or an extension. So I told myself, well if I fail, then oh well...I'll just make up for it in an upcoming semester. But then I realized not only was I letting myself down and not utilizing my time correctly, I was letting my family, friends and community down. I couldn't let myself do that. I changed my mentality. There's a reason why my parents and a lot of other people told me to not give up and I didn't. So I studied even more—staying up late, reviewing flash cards, going to review sessions at night—in order to pass my class and I did. Once I set my mind to it and really focused on it, all was well.

Lesson here was that if I want something done in college, then you have to make it happen. It doesn't mean you do it alone; there are tons of resources and people out there to help YOU. All for you! It's just a matter of going out and finding them. I admit, I only made use of office hours once this semester, I wish I had done it more often, since the one time I did I was able to get an A on my ethnic studies midterm paper. Obviously, no regret there. A lot of people told me to go to office hours, but I didn't listen. I admit, I can be hardheaded; it's something I'm always working on. Thankfully, I have seven more semesters to explore and use the resources available to me. So again, my advice for classes, use your resources (just try it even once!) and find out how to get things done.

Aside from academics, I joined several student groups on campus: MEChA (a Latino student group), MEZCLA (dance troupe), and Taekwondo. Out of these, I love MEChA and Taekwondo the most. Having MEChA provides me with a close group of people dedicated mostly to making a safe space for students on campus. Anyone can join and though it is not as politically active as the West Coast chapters, I feel like it's a big family to me that I enjoy being a part of. As for Taekwondo, I actually was not expecting to do martial arts in college. However, at the student activities fair, I ran into My (pronounced "me") who was our TA for our summer@Brown program for the Women and Leadership class. What a coincidence! She was at the Taekwondo table and told me to come to their info session. I did, and I loved it so much that I joined (come on, seeing all those awesome spinning kicks and the master punching through 5 cement blocks would convince a lot of people!). Balancing it with my classes and social life was difficult, but planning things out for the week and sticking to it at the beginning of each week helped a lot. Plan, plan, plan.

I'm sorry for such a long post! How do you fit 4 months into a few words? But overall, my experience at Brown has been one of a kind. I made the right choice in applying here and even visiting for the summer years ago. I think that going away has made me grow a lot as an individual with new responsibilities and new opportunities as well. If anyone has more questions, comments, advice, etc. feel free to contact me.

From Kiana Ward - Brown University 12/21/11

Congratulations on the Golden Bell Award! It was well deserved.

Kiana WardI just returned from my first semester of junior year. I am in a house with seven other people and I have to say, this is the first year that I have actually felt like a college student and that things have fallen into place. Preparing meals together with my housemates and getting off college hill made me feel like a real person, not just a student. It is extremely easy to get caught up in the bubble that is college and it is important to remember that there is a whole world outside of midterms and finals. Pretty obvious, right? But it is surprising how completely students can begin to think that grades are everything. Yes, of course grades are important, but as Mr. Ramsey said the year I attended the Brown Women and Leadership seminar, it is the contacts you make that will really make the difference.

If you are starting college, if you are just getting used to it or if you are sick of it and ready to quit, please remember how hard you worked to get there and realize that you are truly doing the best you can. Realize that while you might not have gone to a private high school and had personal tutors, you are in all probability much more prepared for the “real world’ than most of your peers because of your educational experience and you should be proud of that. I know that this sounds corny but the members of the ILC that I have had direct contact with are some of the brightest and most promising bunch of students that I have met and it is extremely disheartening to see how much of a toll college can take. Sometimes during finals you have to remind yourself that you are a human and not a machine and that you need to sleep and eat and rest. It is grueling and by the end of it, all I ever want to do is go home and sleep for a week straight. But I also think that we all enjoy that intellectual sprint for some reason. Ultimately, we go to college because it feels good to learn and to realize how much you can accomplish in the course of a year. It is not about the grades; it is about learning topics that truly interest you that you would want to discuss outside of school. It’s about discovering yourself, your passions, your own limits and your niche in the world. College is a miniature universe. You find your place in that setting and when you graduate, you try to find that role in the real, much more complicated world. So pick subjects that interest you. When you do, it is surprising how easily good grades will follow. The easiest way to do well in school is to actually care about and be invested in what you are learning. Finding out what you like is the biggest hurdle in college, but it will happen.

From Wendy Espinoza - Saint Mary’s University ‘12 12/26/11

Wendy EspinozaMy journey with The Ivy League Connection began in the summer of 2007. I attended summer programs at Brown University as a high school sophomore in 2007 and the following year I attended Cornell University. Although it is only my third year at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas I am currently a Senior.

I was originally expected to graduate in May 2013 but with college credit I earned from Cornell and my score of 5 on the AP Spanish exam I came into St. Mary’s with 15 hours of college credit and therefore I can graduate in Fall 2012. I never took any summer classes while in college but have consistently taken moderate loads of classes, which also led me to finish my undergraduate degree faster.

I am thoroughly enjoying my time at St. Mary’s University. I am the society events chair for the National Society of Leadership and Success chapter at my school. I am a member of Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society for my high GPA and have been continually on the Dean’s List. I am a sister in the Alpha Phi Sorority, of which there are many chapters in California—including UC Berkeley and UC Davis.

This year I learned the accurate use of time management. I was able to study, work out, attend sorority events, work at school, have fun and go to bed around 10 PM every night. I am a strong believer in the need for sleep. I absolutely do not advise all-nighters to anyone. Some view all-nighters as a college expectation but honestly not everyone does them. Once you hone down on using your time wisely, all-nighters will only be a thing of leisure to have fun nights out.

Many studies have shown strong correlations between the amount of sleep a person gets and their in-class performance. These studies have shown a positive relationship between sleep and performance. That is to say, the more sleep a student gets the better the class performance and the less sleep a person gets, class performance decreases.

Once I graduate in December 2012 I will apply to Graduate school in Texas and possibly in California to earn a Masters in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. I originally wanted a PhD but then discovered that in the field of work I am looking to have a career in, a PhD will only be needed if I decided to become a college professor one day and won’t significantly increase my pay.

Wendy Espinoza, Pinole Valley High School, Class of 2009 St. Mary’s University Class of 2012

From Yueming Wang - Cornell University 12/26/11

Yueming WangMy name is Yueming Wang and I am a sophomore at Cornell University’s College of Engineering and a proud graduate of Hercules High. Right now, I have the intention of going Pre-Med, majoring in Operations Research Engineering and minoring in Computer Science.

Before I begin writing about my experience from this past semester, I’d like to offer my congratulations to the ILC for winning the Golden Bell Award. The California School Boards Association couldn’t have given this award to a more deserving recipient.

My first semester at Cornell has been nothing but exhilarating. Over the course of four short months, I’ve made many new friends, explored the city of Ithaca and its offerings, and gained quite a bit of knowledge about the subjects I took classes on and about myself. I’ve joined many student organizations ranging from Chinese Student Association and the Cornell Daily Sun (Cornell’s biggest student-run newspaper) to ballroom dancing and Rotaract (part of Rotary International’s college chapter). There were, of course, also some low points — experiencing for the first time the pressure and stress of midterms and finals, getting sick and not having my parents take care of me, etc. However, all in all, I don’t think I could have had a better first semester!

I decided to take four core courses in addition to two supplemental courses and a dance course for my graduation requirement, totaling 19 credit units. Although a lot of my friends from high school thought that I was insane for taking such a heavy load, I assure you all that it is perfectly manageable. By that, I do not mean to understate the rigorousness of the academics. College is definitely in a different league than high school, but even with the added rigor and pressure, I thoroughly enjoyed the classes I took at Cornell more than those from high school. One of the main reasons why I feel this way is due to the academic environment. At Cornell, I can comfortably say that everyone — even the varsity athletes, “party animals”, and everyone that appears to us as not the studious type — genuinely enjoys learning. Similarly, the professors are there because they are passionate about certain subjects and are eager to share that passion with students. When you find yourself in that kind atmosphere (which is by no means unique to Cornell), it takes an active effort to not enjoy learning.

As much as I have enjoyed even the toughest classes, it took a lot of hard work to keep up with the fast-paced curricula. One of the hard truths about college is that no one will “baby” you. However, it is equally true that there are many portals where you can find help, just as long as you take the initiative to find them. For me, the portals were group studying and office hours. I completely understand why some students are intimidated and decide not to go to office hours even when they need help, mostly because I felt that way myself. In the first few weeks of school, I observed and listened to my peers and thought that I might actually be the “dumbest” person in my classes. Even when I didn’t understand the concepts in lectures, I convinced myself that I would only embarrass myself if I went to my professors’ office hours. The solution that came to mind was to form study groups. After pooling my friends together, I realized that I did understand some concepts better than they did and vice versa. Thus, we all benefitted by studying together.

Having done quite well on my first wave of prelims (midterms), I finally mustered the courage to attend a few office hours. I realized then that I had nothing to be afraid about in the first place, and that the only “dumb” students are the ones who don’t understand the concepts and refuse to seek help. Most times, professors do not have many, if any, students at office hours and are actually thrilled to have visitors! Not only do you clear up some misunderstanding about the concepts you’re learning, but you also establish a much more personal relationship with your professors. This is especially true of my relationship with my Operations Research professor; because I went to some of his office hours, he now knows me by name and has offered to help me find undergraduate research that I can start on as early as next semester.

There is still so much about college that I would like to say but I do realize that this is running a lot longer than I had intended. Therefore I will summarize into bullet points some things I think is helpful:
• Don’t freak out if you don’t know exactly what you want to be doing for the rest of your life. You’ll have plenty of time to figure it out!! It is perfectly acceptable to be undeclared!
• If you’re having a hard time deciding which college you want to attend, take a breath and honestly ask yourself which college would allow you to be happier. It’s okay to not know the answer and to feel stressed because it is a big decision. Talk to other people, especially your family, but make sure you make what you think is the best decision for you! As long as you’ve thought about your options, you will not be making a bad decision!
• Time management is very important. You can’t emphasize this enough. From what I observe, academic success and the amount of fun you have are directly related to how you manage your waking hours. Although there’s no right way to manage your time, experiment with different ways and hopefully you’ll find something that works for you!
• Do not be afraid to go to a school that is far away from home, especially if you consider yourself fairly independent. Honestly, my schoolwork and other activities kept me so busy that I didn’t have any time to even miss being home. Also, I met many people from California (even from the East Bay) who are away from home for the first time, so you don’t ever have to feel like you’re the only one going through such a big change. It is also very amusing and refreshing to be around people from out-of-state and out of the country! And which teenager honestly doesn’t want more freedom? ;)
• Take advantage of your AP classes and really try to do your best! Taking AP credit can help you in many ways — have a less rigorous schedule, increase your probability of studying abroad without taking a load of summer classes or adding an extra year or semester, etc. It’s also really great to have a good foundation for later classes and even for introductory classes if you decide not to take credit for it.
• Be open-minded about classes, people, student organizations, etc. There are plenty of surprises out there for everyone!

Although I did not really write much about Cornell specifically, I would be more than happy to communicate with anyone who has special interests in Cornell University, being an engineering major, or going to an out-of-state college. To ensure that I reply in a timely fashion, please email me at

I want to leave everyone with one parting thought: The past four months have been, hands-down, the fastest four months! And while many of my friends were joyously celebrating the end of semester one, I found that I could only join them half-heartedly. Somewhere mixed in with the relief that finals ended lingered the thought that one-eighth of my college experience is already over — an idea that genuinely scares me because I don’t think four years at Cornell will be enough for me. This is perhaps the best way for me to succinctly express my love for my school.

      Go Big Red! Happy holidays everyone and I wish all seniors the best of luck in the college admission process!

Best, Yueming Wang Cornell University College of Engineering, Class of 2015

From Andrew Woo - UC Berkeley 12/19/11

Andrew WooI’d like to congratulate the ILC on earning the Golden Bell Award from the California School Boards Association, which is reflective of the profound impact Mr. Ramsey, contributing members including sponsors, and its prospective college students have had on exemplifying the drive to enrich the college experience for us students in the public education system. Being one of the members of the 2009 ILC Cornell Group, I am proud to acknowledge that the experience has benefitted me here at UC Berkeley greatly in terms of broadening my views. So far the journey at UC Berkeley is certainly too broad to be necessarily categorized and captured in three paragraphs, but then I did so accordingly into these three groups: academics, political activism, and the Cal Marching Band.

After completing my first semester at UC Berkeley, I felt this inexpressible, liberating feeling unparalleled to anything before, a moment in which as Kant puts it my “nonage” or inability to understand was replaced with this boldness to learn more and further enlighten myself. I am more ambitious than ever to learn and grapple as many other UC Berkeley students do with the issues we face. With a semester down, I’ve completed four courses which were comparative politics, economics, European history, and social welfare which ultimately all tied together to help understand what’s been happening both domestically and abroad, and to analyze them to a depth unfathomable to me before. In the following spring, I am enrolled in more related courses in addition to Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich’s popular course Wealth and Poverty, which surveys the public issues that has grown to the shocking magnitude of social unrest seen across America, and even on the steps of our Sproul Plaza.

One of the things Berkeley has truly embodied that I love and support is Berkeley’s political activism, and the need for us to be the agents for progressive change, whether it be contending public policies such as SB 185 with the UC Republican’s Diversity Bake Sale to publicly rejecting “81% Fee Hikes” with Occupy Cal (Cal’s Day of Action). These social movements and the public outcries are created by the very students I see and pass by everyday, not the politicians from Sacramento or professionals who do this for a living. The students here carefully observe the current events around us and translate the very divisive issues into forums for public discourse, which materialize in the small discussion sections to the halls all over campus.

With the fee hikes, UC Berkeley’s students launched themselves onto national news, even luring in the political pundits such as Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, while collectively fighting for what students vied for as affordable education, social equality, and a reformed society. When thousands of students at Sproul Plaza listened to Professor Robert Reich during Occupy Cal (Cal’s Day of Action), I realized that this mission of UC Berkeley is truly what it stands for, and that indeed the words of Mario Savio as Professor Reich referenced to has certainly continued to live on here.

Lastly, the best experience thus far has been the Cal Marching Band. As a trumpet player among a band of 250 strong, we, as bandsmen, take pride that we represent the university, and accept the motto that whenever we take the field—highstepping through the rugged mud or frigid rain—we always represent who we are and what this institution is. I am proud after every game to watch our performances and know that the band is one of the best in the West. Over the break, we’re heading down to San Diego for the Holiday Bowl in a great opportunity to represent the school against the Texas Longhorns, so the band, as well as the football team, has exceeded my expectations.  Teen Angst Show

So I hope that wherever the current students in the ILC program decide to go, make it your new home and embrace all the opportunities it offers. In choosing UC Berkeley, I have certainly through only one semester found my second home not far from the first, and look forward to the next several semesters working here in the Bay Area in the years to come.

Once again, thank you to Mr. Ramsey and the ILC Program for giving me the opportunity as well as to many others, and hope to hear more success from the program in the coming years.

                                                                                                 GO BEARS!

From Carla Ramirez - Denison University 12/26/11

Carla RamirezMy name is Carla Ramirez, and I graduated from Richmond High School in 2010. I am a Biology major and a sophomore at Denison University.

Congratulations on the award, I couldn't think of another program more deserving of the award.

I just finished my first semester as a sophomore at Denison University, and I can honestly say that it has been one of the toughest yet. I definitely took classes that were too difficult for me to handle all at once. Even with the opportunities that Denison had to offer it was very difficult. Overall I am still happy with my choice to go to Denison, I have never been academically challenged like this before and to juggle Calculus, Chemistry, and Biology along with a job on campus was too much to handle for me. It has been a tough lesson but I think its something everyone learns one way or another. Like my sister Adriana wrote, sometimes we think that we can do things but when it comes to it, things don't always go as we expected.

Balancing out your schedule between hard and easier classes along with time management is something that I still have yet to master but I hope to improve in this upcoming semester. Apart from the hardships I had this semester, I love all the opportunities that have been given to me at Denison. Opportunities like working as a TA for Biology 150, which I doubt I would have gotten at a larger university and hopefully I get the opportunity to do research this summer with the Biology Department at Denison University.

From Stephanie Chan - UC Davis 12/25/11

Stephanie ChanFirst off, I want to congratulate the ILC for earning the Golden Bell Award from the California School Boards Association. The countless hours and great amount of dedication that has been put in from everyone is recognized and greatly appreciated. I know that the ILC will only continue to flourish as the years go by and am thankful for my very own experience through the International Financial Marketing and Investments course during my Brown 2010 opportunity.

Business and Economics has always interested me. Although I am currently undeclared at UC Davis as a freshman, I do have plans to declare Managerial Economics as my major (and possibly minor in Psychology). It seems as if yesterday I was applying to colleges. It's amazing to say that I have already completed my first quarter at UCD. Despite budget cuts, I can say that my experience thus far has been a rewarding one. This quarter, I didn't choose to jump right into major courses. Instead, I chose to explore around and balance two pre-requisites with two GEs. One of the GE's I took was a course called Introduction to Winemaking. Already, the title sounds very interesting and indeed it was. I learned about the fermentation process for different types of wine at various geographic locations, how to determine what type of wine it is based on the label, and the types of fungus that grow on grapes. Ever since then, I have been curious to read wine labels on bottles sitting in my kitchen. With that said, balancing your classes with a few core classes and at least one class that you are personally interested in is not a bad idea. You don't want to overwhelm yourself with strictly calculating numbers or strictly writing pages and pages of essays. Key thing is to find your balance, especially during your first year when you are still learning about your new environment and available resources.

As an active volunteer throughout high school, I immediately explored various volunteer clubs during Welcome Week. I'm part of Circle K, a volunteer and service club that sets up holiday parties for children, serves at food banks, and much more. I'm also part of Na Keiki 'O Hawai'i (Hawaii Club), a club that promotes the Hawaiian culture and weekly lessons on Hula and Tahitian dancing. It's a very fun and active way to de-stress throughout the week from homework and studying. In addition, I have been applying to on-campus jobs, but have not been hired yet. However, I am still on the lookout for more job offerings and internships. Nonetheless, I believe that one should focus on their studies before adding more to their plate. If anyone has questions about UCD or any general questions, feel free to shoot me an email! Once again, congratulations to the ILC.

From Stacy Chan - UC Berkeley 12/25/11

Stacy ChanIt is certainly rewarding to be part of a team that has taken giant leaps since its inauguration. The program is continuously thriving and I can see a bright future for our local youth who now have the academic edge with the launch of ILC.

I am now a second-year at Cal. Thus far, I find it incredibly fulfilling to meet people who bring different expertise to the table. To say that I am constantly amazed by the skill sets people possess is quite an understatement. Everyone's journey is individual. Needless to say, many students who attend Cal are undoubtedly talented and accomplished. With headlining news of the Occupy Cal movements and the "Diversity Bake Sale," I am amazed by the amount of activism in the air. This goes to show that while education is of great importance, it is equally imperative to transfer that passion and energy to a club, an organization, or in this case, a movement that has garnered national and global media attention. While its success is debatable, there is no denying that there are many students and professors alike who are strong-willed and passionate enough to make some kind of demonstration.

Similarly to many second-year students, I am now delving into courses that are more honed towards my major. The classes are more inclusive than general, lecture hall courses per se. Still, I find the value of tapping into other classes that are outside of my study. Fulfilling my last breadth, I took a global poverty class last semester with a distinguished professor, and one of the guest speakers was Robert Reich. Seeing Reich double as a key member of the recent Occupy Cal movements gives him legitimacy and credibility. I'd say this is one of the examples that provides diversity in my learning experience.

To keep this email succinct, my advice to college newcomers is to have the willingness to learn and meet other people and take classes that are outside of your study. Time at college is what you make of it. As trite as this idea is, it holds a great deal of truth.

From Irene Rojas-Carroll  -  Brown University 12/25/11

Irene Rojas-Carroll Congratulations to you all for earning the Golden Bell Award! You are doing great work. Thank you for introducing me to Brown through the Women & Leadership course (summer 2010); it’s amazing to me that I’ve just finished my first semester here. I apologize for the length of my testimonial (I got excited!). For those of you pressed for time, I’ve starred the most important paragraphs.

Even though I’m excited to see friends and family this winter break, I also can’t wait to get back to Providence. I feel at home there, as much as one can feel at home in their first semester of college, especially because of activities like music and a pre-orientation program that gave me a core group of people to get to know. I had times when I was homesick or stressed because of bad planning, but overall, it’s been great. Brown students are serious about their studies but not so intense that they don't find time to chill and do things just for fun, which I like. Having so many smart and passionate people in one place means lots of friendship and organizing potential.

I also like being in Rhode Island as an activist because I think making change is more doable due to the smallness of the state (it's actually possible to make a personal appointment with a legislator, etc., things that would be a lot more difficult in a large state like California). Being in Providence (the capital of RI) means that we can actually walk to the State House and deliver petitions or legislative report cards (which one of the Queer Alliance subgroups is working on).

Among the groups I’m involved in are the Queer Alliance (QA) and several of its subgroups, BOMBS (Brown Organization for Multiracial and Biracial Students), Yarmulkazi (klezmer band), and the Brown Band.

I’ve been able to jump right in and challenge myself with new activities and leadership. My role as BOMBS Advocacy Chair is new to me because I haven’t done a lot of activist work focused on race; as Advocacy Chair and Community Committee leader for the QA I need to have confidence in my facilitation abilities and take into account many diverse opinions; I’m trying to get a figure skating club officially approved, which requires patient negotiation with Athletics and the club approval system; and, even with klezmer, I’m experimenting with new styles of playing music. I’ve had dinner with Mara Keisling (the director of the National Center for Transgender Equality) and I’ve led a workshop with around 50 students in attendance. When I finished that workshop, I felt like I had really arrived at Brown: I could be a leader among leaders and hold my own with all these brilliant and articulate people. It was immensely rewarding.

**Some other ILC alumni have advised you all not to join too many clubs – I say it can be done, as long as you’re disciplined and know your priorities. I made sure I always had enough time to do the academic work I needed to do: for example, I skipped going to football games with the band if I hadn’t finished most of my reading for the week. As the semester progressed, I dropped some of my activities (like break dancing and Zumba, which I was trying for a while) because I realized that it would take me longer to read articles and write papers than I originally thought.

**Although I’ve mostly felt prepared for the academic side of life at Brown, I do feel like my writing and discussion skills could be much stronger to keep up with this level of work. They’ve improved a lot already, but next semester I want to take even better advantage of the support available to me through Writing Center tutors and class-specific Writing Fellows. My RCs, my advisor (linked with my potential concentration and my pre-orientation program), and my peer advisor (Meiklejohn) have been awesome. I think I was secretly yearning for the plenty-of-support-if-you-ever-need-it idea, coming from a system where that was harder to seek out.

**I especially enjoyed having the freedom to choose my own classes (Punishment and Inequality in America [econ dept.], Brown vs. Board of Education, Tales of Vampirism and the Uncanny, a Latin American lit course in Spanish, and chamber music) and especially enjoyed BvBoE; it was a first-year seminar with 10 other students and the perfect introduction to my tentative concentration of Education History/Policy (I might also double-concentrate with Gender and Sexuality Studies, Urban Studies, or PoliSci). Just recently, the professor offered me a summer research position on urban/suburban school inequalities that I’ll probably take because it’s a wonderful opportunity and a subject that I’m passionate about. In fact, one of the most important things I’ve learned this semester is to plan in a more long-term way and take advantage of tangible opportunities and resources to make those plans reality.

Looking ahead, I’ll be returning to Providence a week early for a peer-led winter break project with the community service center where my optional pre-orientation program was also based. My group will be learning about youth-driven Providence education reform initiatives. Next semester’s classes aren’t totally cemented but as of now I’m taking HIV/AIDS: Politics and Culture, Intro to Gender and Sexuality Studies, Intro to Political Thought, a 21st century Latin American lit class, and a class on Asian American urban spaces. I’m trying to switch 2 of them to 1) Campaigns and Elections which is only offered every 4 years with the election cycle and 2) The History of American School Reform, which is one of the best classes in the education department. I didn’t take a work-study job this past semester partly because I didn’t want to overwhelm myself, and now that I’m more familiar with the rhythm of college life and know how much to get involved with clubs, I’m going to try and find a job or internship for the spring semester.

Happy holidays and good luck to seniors with college applications! Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about Brown, college, or anything else (really!!)!

Irene Rojas-Carroll Brown University 2015 (510) 439-6648 or

Just added: I also forgot to mention in my message that one of the ILC's most important accomplishments is the establishment of a continuous stream of admittances to Ivy League universities like Brown: I was able to reach out to WCCUSD graduates in every class year (Lupe 2015, Cynthia 2014, Kiana 2013, Elizabeth 2012, Donna Chung 2012, and even a fifth-year - Jonathan Yanagawa-Kuo). We even had a potluck where we shared advice on classes, concentrations, time management, and life away from the Bay Area. Having WCCUSD alumni at Brown was infinitely helpful in making me feel comfortable during my first semester.

From Stephanie Ny  - Northwestern University 12/24/11

Hello ILC students!

Stephanie NyI have written to you all in the past, but for those who do not know me, my name is Stephanie Ny. I’m currently a sophomore at Northwestern University. My college experience hasn’t changed much since I last wrote, other than the fact that I am now balancing a work-study job with school.

After several job rejections and already-taken work-study positions last year, I finally received a work-study job at the school library in September. Since I spent most of my freshman year in the library focusing solely on my grades, I had the opportunity to manage my time more effectively. This definitely came in handy when I was hired at the library, as I was easily able to create a study schedule around my work schedule. The tip I have for all of you, which has already been mentioned by other students and which I learned over time, is this: do not overwhelm yourself. Don’t expect to join a sorority/fraternity, receive impeccable grades, get a job, and participate in countless extracurricular activities all at once. While all of you are perfectly capable of achieving all of these, you should ease into them, one at a time. It’s definitely the healthier path towards an amazing college experience.

Aside from now being employed, there isn’t much else that has been going on in college. I’m still fulfilling all of my distribution requirements and still have not decided on a major, although I have very, very, very few possible majors in mind. I have two more quarters before I have to decide, so hopefully I’ll be able to narrow it down by then.

Also, as many have already said, congratulations on the Golden Bell Award! I’m quite pleased and unsurprised that the Ivy League Connection won this, given the countless opportunities it has provided and continues to provide to alumni and high school students. I’m beyond grateful for how much this organization has changed my life, and I hope it continues to change the lives of others.

From Adriana Ramirez  - UCLA 12/24/11

Hello fellow ILC students,

Adriana RamirezMy name is Adriana Ramirez, and I graduated from Richmond High School in 2009. I am now currently a junior at UCLA studying psychology and political science.

I am very thankful for all the opportunities that the Ivy League Connection has provided for me and many more students, and thus the program is very deserving of the award.

I just finished my 7th quarter at UCLA and I can give some pieces of advice I didn't get from other people but had to learn on my own. College is VERY different than High School, looking back at my High School years I can say that not much effort had to be put into my work to get good grades, and now in college I feel like I have to give more effort than ever. Reading hundreds of pages a week, and keeping up with papers, homework, work and social life is very difficult. There are many decisions to be made and in College no one is there to tell you what decisions are best and which aren't, you're on your own.

This past quarter was one of my hardest quarters, I decided to take more work than I could handle. I work part-time at school, 20 hours a week, I am part of a student organization, did community service, and took 3 of the most difficult classes in both of my majors. I ended up having to drop a class to focus on my other two classes, had a family emergency the day before my midterms and ended up failing both of my midterms. I cried a lot after seeing I was failing but what got me through was knowing that I have worked so hard all my life to be where I am, I couldn't give up so easily, and I hope that none of you are ever in this type of situation, but if you are, you should know that it's okay to not be perfect but rising from your failures is what matters the most. I had to work ten times harder than ever to raise those F's... and I did it. I passed my two classes and I am still maintaining above a 3.0 GPA.

In high school I was a 4.3 GPA student and it was heart aching to see myself failing, but you know things happen and we have to pull through. So my piece of advice for anyone who is college bound is, take a workload that works for you, do not over work yourself. We tend to believe we can do everything but we are human and we make mistakes, but what counts is what you do to rise from your falls.

This quarter what I've learned the most is to grow up, and suck it up if I am ever in an unpleasant predicament. College is not just about studying but also about growing up, no one will be there to baby you, cook for you, take care of you, you have to do this on your own and keep up with your responsibilities... and that's something I thought I had already learned but I really experienced it this past quarter. I am glad that the ILC gives students a taste of the college lifestyle in its summer programs, because it does get you ready for what living far away from home and taking care of yourself is like, If I had not experienced that early on I don't think I would have succeeded this past quarter.

Final advice: Keep your head up when the going is tough, and don't ever give up, things do work out.

P.S. sorry that my response is more of a depressing one but I feel like it's a side of college that I feel is important to share... It's not always perfect but it's also not terrible, it’s a process of learning not just academic but also personal learning.

From Jessica Ong - UC Berkeley 12/23/11

Congratulations on the Golden Bell Award — the ILC definitely deserved it!

Jessica OngI am amazed that my third semester at Cal is already over. In fact, it hadn't hit me until recently that I am now a sophomore in COLLEGE; it really goes to show you how time flies...

Overall, this semester was quite a change for me. For one, I am no longer living on campus at Clark Kerr. I, like Julie and Jessica Tran, now commute from home. Most of the time, I take the BART, which is much faster than taking AC Transit and probably cheaper than driving and paying for parking/gas. Indeed, living at home has had its benefits, especially financially; nonetheless, it definitely takes much more time for me to get to and from campus, which can be a hassle.

As I mentioned previously, I am going to be a Molecular and Cellular Biology major. Though a lot of students under this major are pre-med, I am aiming to be a researcher and will probably look into going to graduate school. With this in mind, over this past summer, I found myself a research position in the He Lab at UC Berkeley. Luckily, I was able to continue working for them throughout this past semester and will hopefully stay until I graduate. The lab focuses on the functions of microRNAs and their role in tumorigenesis so a lot of the research is cancer and immunology based. I have learned a lot of different techniques from my peers and the graduate students/post-docs in the lab and aim to start my own project soon. I spend more than 15 hours a week in lab so balancing school and lab work has been quite tough for me this semester; but I am sure everything I am doing is worth the effort.

For those who are interested in doing research, I recommend that you not only look into the research programs offered on your campus (like the Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program at UC Berkeley) but also get to know some of the science professors who might be able to recommend you to some labs! (That's how I got into the He Lab).

I am hoping that this upcoming semester will be easier now that I know how to manage my time better with commuting, taking classes, and going into lab. It has been one crazy semester but it has been a blast. I cannot wait for more to come.

From Christopher Habash - UC Berkeley 12/23/11

Christopher HabashFirst of all congratulations for the ILC program for being awarded the Golden Bell Award and for continuing to broaden high school students’ college perspectives. I remember getting emails just a while ago from former ILC alumni and I am happy to do the same and share my experiences so far this semester!

Before I get into details I’d like to take a moment to just congratulate all the current ILC participants for finishing their first semesters in high school and if you’re a senior, for finishing (hopefully?) college applications, because I know what a stressful process that was. Writing all those essays and getting all the information for the applications while balancing homework is awful. But just take a breather and don’t stress out when answers come in a few months. Still being in high school, I know this email is not as relevant right now and that you just want to know what schools you’re going to get into first. So I think the most helpful thing for me to do is talk about the differences between high school and college and also to specifically give you examples from my semester so you’ll get an idea of what college is like.

My name is Chris Habash and I attended the Hotel Operations and Management course in Cornell University over the summer of 2010, and I am a Hercules High School alumnus (that feels so cool to say…) I just finished my first semester at UC Berkeley and all the intense and enjoyable moments that came with it. After my last final on Dec. 15 at 9 PM (yep, you’ll get used to weird schedules) I felt like a ton of pressure was lifted from my shoulders and I was ready to go home and celebrate the holidays. Granted, I live 25 minutes away from home, so it was definitely not the first time in the semester I saw my family.

Dorming - Just first off, I’m sad/happy to say that Cornell probably gave me my only opportunity to dorm, unless dorming prices go way down at Cal. I am currently renting an apartment for the entire year off campus because it ends up being much more financially pleasing than dorming. Unfortunately, this had major drawbacks and some advantages too. In Cornell I met and interacted with dozens of students and made friends every day on the floor and in the building. My apartment in Berkeley means that I see practically no one unless I go to the dorming units or on campus, which is about a 15-20 minute walk from my apartment. Additionally, it means I get no cafeteria privileges/meal points :( On a good note though, I have a bathroom, kitchen and a living room to share with 3 people. You can guess how annoying a roommate can be to deal with everyday, but I guess you just learn to accept them and their behavior. I highly suggest dorming your first year in college because it was such an awesome experience in Cornell and I am really thankful for that.

Classes and grades – The structure of the classes makes it extremely intimidating, because it constantly seems like there are few chances to get a good grade when every class is strictly divided (in general) with a final that’s worth 30-40% of your grade, two midterms that are 20%, 10% quizzes and so on, whereas in high school you feel like you have a million chances to get an A, especially with extra credit. But not to worry. Definitely be prepared to not do as well as you expect to do, because college exams are very different from those in high school and will take time adjusting to. To give an example, my molecular cell biology class had two midterms and one final, with the midterms being 20% of my overall grade. I completely stressed out for the first midterm and studied for it nonstop for a whole week, probably making 30 note cards. So when I discovered I got a C- I went into panic, thought I blew it and that there was no way for me to get an A in the class. The kind of effort I put into studying would most likely have gotten me an A in high school, but I was not used to the test format. But you know what? All you can do is just keep working harder and get accustomed to the class structure. I was proud to get a high B on the second midterm and even more so to discover I got an A- in the class. No doubt a curve in the class helped, so definitely don’t give up from the start. There’s really no other way around it. People here in college keep wondering what kind of score they have to get to do well in the class and some even switch the class to Pass/No Pass (which I was tempted to do, but stuck it out). But I just kept studying even more and going to the review sessions and even to office hours to talk to the professor about what I could do to improve. This is the most important thing you can do to get a good grade.

Office Hours/Intimidation – I learned from the ILC program how important Office Hours are. They are probably the greatest advantage your professors can give you. Aside from learning not to beat myself up for not doing my best, I realized how crucial office hours can be. My English professor was the most intimidating teacher I have ever met. She went to Columbia University after high school, then to Oxford for graduate school and was now teaching in Cal. For me, it seemed like she requested so many different things that it seemed impossible to please her. Consequently, I was literally intimidated into writing “bad” essays and got Bs on both of my first two essays. I forced myself to go to office hours for them, without anything to show my professor. This resulted in an awkward conversation in which I didn’t have much to say because I didn’t have anything prepared. I realized I just needed to calm down, go back to my normal writing methods and listen to the many comments she left on my essays. I came in to office hours with a draft of what I wanted to write for the final essay and left feeling so accomplished that I finally had a direction for the essay and wouldn’t spend countless hours figuring out how to go about it. All I needed to do was engage with the teacher, because in class it can be intimidating with so many students. I was surprised to get an A on the final essay but happy I stopped being intimidated and had a productive time at office hours. We even started at some point to talk about horror movies, probably because the focus of the class was ghosts in literature.

Time Management – What can I say? Everyone is right about managing your time. You come to learn that everything is on you to do. You have to wake yourself up in the mornings and make sure to leave enough time to get to class/office hours. Unfortunately, I overslept for some classes because I didn’t have someone to force me to wake up. I had a lot of gaps in my schedule, which meant like 3 hours from my 10 AM class to my 1 PM class. This was nice, as it gave me some time to walk around campus and catch something to eat. But you learn that you have to make a mental schedule. If you want to go downtown with friends, you have to make sure to be back for your classes, which can be anytime from 8 AM to 8 PM.

Extracurriculars – In addition to my three classes, I joined a journal on campus through an email my teacher sent me, which ended up being a cool thing. I looked into it, thought “what the heck,” and applied for a position on UC Berkeley’s Comparative Literature Undergraduate Journal. And while I’m at it, please check it out at ( ha-ha! I have a blog on there, and it was hard but also fun to make. The cool thing is that I also got 2 units of credit for being an editor for the journal xD You might be tempted to try to join a million clubs/activities, especially with the club fairs they have in the beginning of the semester. While this is a great idea, I honestly don’t even recommend joining so many things your first semester. Definitely don’t overwhelm yourself right off the bat. Leave plenty of time to get comfortable in your classes first and establish yourself academically. Hey, you have 4 years to do stuff. I thought about this when I was freaking out about which classes I have to take my senior year for a major that I wasn’t even ready to declare and then realized I’ve only been here 3 months. Again, don’t be intimidated and scared about having to join this and that, because there’s plenty of time.

All in all, I came to Berkeley all the more confident because of my ILC experience. I had an idea of what a refined institution expects from its students and I also got credit for the Cornell class! I sincerely say that I wouldn’t trade my ILC experience for anything and that it was one of the most memorable summers of my life. The experience still applies now. ~~~~~~~~~~ From Julie Liang UC Berkeley 12/23/11 Congratulations on the Golden Bell Award; it is definitely well deserved.

My third semester at UC Berkeley was definitely a busy one. I moved back home in order to save money, and now I commute by car every day to get to class. I also started working a part-time job on top of working for my parents one day a week. I switched my major to Chemistry from Chemical Engineering, and I joined a biofuel research group on campus. This entire semester has been a battle to efficiently manage my time.

Moving back home after spending a year in the dorms was a challenge. I added about 45 minutes to my commute every day, and I was cut off from most campus activities. But the experience helped me become more organized with my time; and surprisingly, I actually got more done than I did while living in the dorms, which just goes to show that living at home is not necessarily limiting my experience.

I took my first chemical engineering class this semester and I learned that chem eng is definitely not for me. Switching my major was a difficult decision because a chemical engineer is virtually guaranteed a job right out of college. Not having the same kind of job security was a worry I considered before switching to chemistry. But I realized that I would rather do something I loved than waste four years of my life and my future doing something I did not find exciting.

I remember mentioning in one of my previous e-mails that going to office hours for your professor is a very good idea. This actually paid off this semester because when I e-mailed my previous professor to ask about working in his lab, he remembered me from his class! I'm not sure I would've gotten the position if I had not gone to his office hours. I look forward to next semester and will definitely share my experiences working for a research lab.

From Cynthia Fong - Brown University 12/23/11

Cynthia Fong BrownCongratulations on the Golden Bell Award, I'm glad to see that the Ivy League Connection is flourishing.

My third semester has been amazing. Freshmen year, I was still adjusting and getting use to the environment, the teachers, the way that they expected us to learn, etc. But this semester, I felt like I had the opportunity to really experience and explore the environment.

The extracurricular activity that I learned the most from was my position in Health Leads, an organization that puts volunteers in hospitals to connect clients to resources. It taught me many lessons about our health care system, the flaws, people skills, and the social determinants of health. It also taught me about time management. Some weeks, we spent as much as 10 hours on this job working with clients, which is tough to juggle with schoolwork and other extracurriculars.

At the same time, I feel like I've accepted that A's on my transcript will not be the most important part of my college experience. I have not decided what my major will be (though I'm leaning towards the Human Biology or Community Health direction) but there are so many other things to enjoy and experience at Brown. I'm still trying my best to get good grades but I've learned about opportunity costs.

If any students have any questions about Brown, feel free to send them my way!

From Megan Robb - Denison University 12/22/11

Megan RobbCongratulations on the Golden Bell Award. My first semester of college was amazing. I loved all of my classes and my professors were amazing. I learned so much in so little time. It took me a week or two to adjust academically, but I adjusted quickly. I learned that college takes a lot more studying than high school and that there is no such thing as a day off. Despite a minor bump at the very beginning, I have had a great semester.

Living away from home has had its good and bad points. I have become more independent and have grown as a person because I was on my own. I did not miss home except for the fall break and Thanksgiving break.

Student life at Denison was quite different than what I am used to. I was surrounded by students with different political opinions, religious beliefs, and academic backgrounds. Everyone was very willing to share their thoughts about politics and religion, which is traditionally not talked about. It was interesting to hear people’s thoughts on a variety of issues. Although Denison is very different from home, I feel as though the differences have allowed me to grow as a person and I am grateful for that.

If it were not for the Ivy League Connection I would have never thought of going out of state for college. Thank you again for this and I am very happy that the California School Board Association has recognized the importance of this program.

                                                                                                  Go Big Red!

From Beulah Agbabiaka - Columbia University 12/21/11

Beulah AgbabiakaCongratulations on being awarded the Golden Bell Award! You all truly deserve it for the fantastic work you do in our community. I have officially just completed my first semester at Columbia University and I am beyond excited and relieved. It has been very difficult at times, but that makes my victory all the sweeter. Being at school 3000 miles from home (or 2901.34 miles via I-80 East according to is definitely a roller coaster—enough of a roller coaster to make one want to figure out that it would take them about 43 hours driving non-stop to get them home—but it's completely worth it. Being in New York makes me feel like I'm at the center of the world and there is always something amazing going on. I've seen a board member on the Federal Reserve give a lecture about our current economic state, I've seen jazz greats Jimmy Heath and Bobby Sanabria give lectures for the Jazz Studies Department, I've been to the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Natural History as well as to every borough in the city besides Staten Island, I've been to the Jazz Standard twice (a famous jazz club) and I learn so much in class every single day.

Being a Political Science and Jazz Studies Major is amazing at Columbia University. There are so many opportunities! In the Poli-Sci Department there are guest lectures from world leaders all the time, the Political Science Student Association hosts "Pizza with Professors" so there are small get-togethers (capped at 15 people) with professors to talk politics outside of class, and some of the great minds in politics teach our courses. In the Jazz Studies Department, we have world renowned faculty, private instruction in our instrument, we're placed in performing ensembles, and there are opportunities to "gig" in the city once you are advanced enough. I literally feel myself getting smarter every day and I know that the opportunities afforded me at an Ivy League university in a major city are contributing to that. Unlike my classmates from Middle College High School, my AA degree in Math and Science and my Certificate of California in Forensic Criminalistics don't do anything here in terms of helping me finish faster, but I took that into account when I applied and I think I made the right choice despite that fact. My advisers (one is my general adviser and one is specifically for jazz studies) have been really helpful in making sure I understand what I need to graduate in four years with everything I want to do and still study abroad. It's going to take a lot of hard work, but my education at MCHS and my summer study here in the 2010 Presidential Powers course help me feel sure that I can handle it.

While Columbia College and the engineering school of Columbia University are much smaller than the UCs, finding a niche is extremely important to maintain sanity while here. It was definitely a struggle for me at first, but extra curricular activities really helped me find my place. I volunteer for the Double Discovery Center tutoring program for high school students in Harlem and Washington Heights, I'm on the Multicultural Recruitment Committee and the Undergraduate Recruitment Committee (so if you ever come to Columbia for a tour I might be your guide!), and I'm in the Black Student Organization and I'm on the planning committee for Black History Month at Columbia. I try to participate in anything fun on campus like playing the bass for this years Christmas musical and a really great extra curricular poetry class offered by the MFA program in Creative Writing. For me, fun things include student activism and while I didn't get to participate in Occupy Wall Street or Occupy Columbia this semester, I plan on getting involved next semester and being part of the change I want to see (while maintaining my good grades of course).

This semester I focused on music for all of my classes outside of the Core Curriculum and PE and my schedule was University Writing, Iyengar Yoga, Literature Humanities, Jazz History, Music Fundamentals, Ear Training I, Jazz Bass Instruction, Jazz Ensemble, and Poetry Writing Through Radical Revision. I never expected to be graded on my private bass lessons in college, but it was definitely great motivation to practice regularly! My schedule was difficult, but I'm glad I chose to focus on music this semester to get my feet wet in the department as well as study subject matter I was familiar with to boost morale when it started getting really hard around midterms. Next semester my schedule will be a bit more difficult since I'm adding Political Science to the mix, and I won't have an easy PE class to fill up space. I'll be taking Frontiers of Science, Literature Humanities, Race and Ethnicity in American Politics, Salsa Soca and Reggae-Music of the Caribbean, Diatonic Harmony and Counterpoint, Ear Training II, Jazz Bass Instruction, Jazz Ensemble, and hopefully another extracurricular writing class. Next semester will be extremely difficult, but I'm confident I'll do well—even if that means spending every weekend in the library!

While every school has flaws, I can't be enough of a cheerleader for Columbia or enough of an advocate for higher education in general. The opportunities I've been blessed to have here thanks to the support of my family and my ILC family help illustrate for me how important it is for all people to have access to these opportunities, and exactly what change I want to help affect in my future career in politics. Getting a taste of world class education this semester and seeing what I have and haven't been prepared for is helping show me what type of education policy we need in all places to make sure all students are ready for college, which is one of the areas of politics that I'm most passionate about.

I'm definitely rooting for some future lions from the WCCUSD!

                                                                                             Roar Lions Roar!!!

From Julia Maniquiz - UC Berkeley 12/20/11

Hello Mr. Ramsey and fellow ILCers,

Julia ManiquizI just completed the first semester of my sophomore year at UC Berkeley. The previous e-mails I have written in regards to my college education still accurately reflect my current experience. Attending college is definitely an entirely different experience than high school; it is far more challenging, requires a much greater deal of effort and time, and is a much richer experience. The only thing that has changed between this year and last is that I am now balancing school with a job.

Over the summer, I was offered an internship at the Bar Association of San Francisco. As a pre-law student, I jumped at the opportunity. I was very fortunate, because my summertime internship was able to transition into a part-time job throughout the year. I think it is very important to give yourself time to adjust to the college environment. Do not be too hasty during your first year and try to do everything at once. You need to give yourself the opportunity to get used to all the new that comes with college.

After completing my first year at Cal, I felt as though I was ready and comfortable to take on more, aside from on-campus extracurriculars, which is why I pursued this internship and accepted the job offer. As you progress in your college career, naturally, your education becomes much more focused as you begin taking classes for your major. I am actually in the process of declaring a major and minor (or possibly a double major). For me, this semester was definitely more challenging than any previous semesters, but I believe that is a result of having completed all my breadth requirements and moving onto major requirements. College definitely gets more difficult as you progress, but you also get more and more comfortable with the environment, so it kind of balances out.

Although things are getting harder at Cal, I'm definitely enjoying myself way more now that I'm taking classes directed towards my major and my specific interests. College is a great time to explore and try and different things, as well as to find what it is you are truly passionate about. I wish you all the best of luck in your education and in your futures.

From Michelle Saechao - UCLA 12/19/11

Michelle SaechaoAfter finishing my first quarter at UCLA, the first word that comes to mind is relief. I'm so relieved that I've survived the most intense 10 weeks where I was incredibly busy getting lost on campus, reading hundreds of pages for my classes (procrastinating the readings a little too), making new friends and adjusting to being away from home. One thing that I'm sure just about everyone starting college would say is important is time management. To be a good student, and person in general, you have to be able to balance academics, clubs and other school affairs and your social life—and you need a social life to maintain your sanity.

Something I'm happy to have done this quarter is arrange an appointment with an academic counselor. Together we decided which classes would be best for me to take in the upcoming quarter, figure out which classes I've taken at Contra Costa College that qualify as a General Education—or GE—requirement, and discuss my potential major. As of now, I'm considering double majoring in International Development Studies and Economics. Because I attended Middle College High School, most of my GEs are already completed, so taking just three classes each quarter without counting summers, I can still graduate in four years. Without the direction and motivating words from my counselor, I don't think I would be as confident as I am to continue with my UCLA education.

Even though I go to a university where large classes with notable professors comes are common, I've been blessed to have very caring, humble professors who regularly invited students to office hours. Like Brandon said, it's possible to make a big school feel small, you just have to be assertive. And having family, friends, and community members, like those from the ILC, behind you is a big motivator.

No matter what the school, you can't expect to just automatically belong. You have to work at it by networking, persisting and being involved. However, UCLA is a pretty cool place to do those things.

                                                                                                  GO BRUINS!

From Elizabeth Gonzales - Brown University 12/18/11

Congratulations on the award. It is great to see all the hard work pay off. I am truly happy for the blessings that the program has been for many students. As an outgoing senior, the advice I am about to give will probably seem contradictory, however that is not my intention. I would rather focus on brainstorming ways in which students will feel well-supported at the schools once they decide to attend. I had a very rough fall and it is my hope that this will not occur to more students. You do not have to forward this, however I am hoping that this will serve a purpose.

I will never deny that I indeed received a phenomenal education at Brown University. I do not regret my decision, however it has been challenging beyond my imagination. The amount of pressure we students place on ourselves is not normal, especially when one comes from an educational background that may not be up to par with my fellow Brunonians. There are so many obstacles one encounters in the Ivy League and I have felt that the culture within the institution has had some detrimental effects on me. Of course, I feel stronger for getting over those obstacles, however my health has paid a heavy cost. While my self-esteem has greatly improved from the point where I was considering leaving Brown, it is in my hope that WCCUSD students do not repeat my mistakes and do not go through what I went through. I am not victimizing myself for I have been greatly blessed, however students must know that this is indeed a challenge and we must support them in the transition.

It is essential that students develop a strong safety net and learn how to maneuver through these schools. This is not to say that other universities are not as rigorous, however being thousands of miles away from home and away from the community for the first time is another experience in itself. I guess what I am proposing is perhaps setting up a counseling program for incoming and current WCCUSD students to help them transition into these schools. Many resources are provided by these schools, however just speaking on behalf of my experience, often I did not feel entitled to them. Something must change. This issue does not have to be addressed by the ILC, however one must have these conversations in the best interest of the students.

I would be happy to elaborate on anything that I have mentioned.

Thank you very much for your dedication. It has not gone unnoticed.

From Brandon Amargo - UC Berkeley 12/19/11

Brandon AmargoFirst and foremost I’d like to congratulate the ILC for earning the Golden Bell Award from the California School Boards Association. I actually viewed the board meeting on television where Board President Ramsey made the announcement. What a proud moment for our school district!

I’ve just finished my first semester at UC Berkeley and all I can say is how grateful I am for experiencing the Yale Ivy Scholars Program (YISP). It has definitely prepared me for my courses at UC Berkeley. I’ve just completed a comparative politics course, quantitative analysis and methodology (Political Science) course, American History course and an internship with the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG). These classes are prereqs for my major in Political Science. Thanks to my education at Middle College High School I will be graduating with the class of 2013. Next semester I'm enrolled in a religious studies course on Hinduism, a public policy course taught by former labor secretary (Clinton) Dr. Robert Reich, a political science seminar in which local politicians speak and a political theory course. On top of these four courses, I was offered a job at the Vice Chancellor for Research Office at Cal and will be working there next semester as an administrative assistant.

I advise everyone in ILC to highly consider Cal when applying to universities. Despite budget cuts, it truly is an amazing place that provides an unbelievable amount of services and resources to its students. Remember, you can make a big school small, but you can't make a small school big. Here at Cal, every student finds his or her niche whether it is a club, organization or association. Another myth is about financial aid at Cal. We see in the news rising UC tuition, but just last week Chancellor Birgeneau announced that UC Berkeley will be the first public university to provide its middle class students a financial aid plan. Here is a press conference video.

This leads me to our Occupy Movement at Cal. UC Berkeley is obviously notorious for its student activism. On November 15th, Dr. Robert Reich came to speak to an astonishing 5,000 people at Sproul Plaza on the dramatic economic inequality that now exists in the United States. If you’re interested in student activism there is absolutely the place for you! Here is a video of the Occupy Cal movement that my friend actually created. He’s an intern for NBC Bay Area and sure knows how to work the camera.

Best of luck to the ILC.

                                                                                                Go Bears!

Madeline Kronenberg
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Don Gosney
(510) 233-2060
When opportunity knocks, some people answer the door while others complain about the noise.
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