Friday, July 24, 2015

What to do on a College Tour

If you're in high school (or even in college), you understand what I'm going through: being barraged by tests that examine your test taking ability (why that matters is beyond me), being pressured to have the perfect combination of AP courses and extracurricular/leadership opportunities, and being crushed by the anxiety of trying to figure out exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life. It's kinda stressful sometimes (all the times) but I guess I can't complain...I'm not paying bills or doing boring grown-up things yet...
Because college applications begin in only a hundred-and-some days (AHHHH), my family decided it was time to start visiting some colleges to see what I like, where I want to go, and what I need to do to get there. 
Thankfully, my dad is one of those people who does a ton of research beforehand and gets everything super planned out, so naturally he printed out 4 pages of important questions to ask and planned a week-long roadtrip which would involve us visiting 5 colleges and driving to Nashville and back. It was a great way to visit them because by the time we visited the last school, we knew exactly what to ask and look for, I had decided a general field that I was interested, and I knew exactly what I wanted in a school. 
I thought that sharing what my parents and I learned with you guys would save you some time and aggravation, so I've compiled the 5 most important things to remember if you visit a college campus: 

The first college visit I went to was last summer (when I was a rising junior). It was a random stop and we hadn't planned on a serious visit (neither my younger brother nor I were ready to start thinking about college) so we just wandered into the admissions building and, instead of a tour, just talked to an undergraduate admissions officer. She was a lovely lady but I could think of any questions and we left feeling like we knew nothing about the school. 
Before we went on any visits this summer, local or otherwise, my dad compiled this list of questions based on what he, my mom, and I thought was important to know about any college. Some of the best resources on this tour are the students. Schools will tell you what you want to hear but you really need to dig deep. Chatting with someone who goes to the school will really give you some insight into college life. They could tell you something unique  about the school, special programs, any funny stories, tips about passing certain classes, and tell you all the good restaurants. This way you know more beyond what a presentations shares.

I made sure that when we visited our first campus, I kept an open mind (mostly because I had harbored resentment towards it for being the big state school that everybody goes to), and ended up loving it. I thought I would hate hate hate the enormous campus and the 30,000 person student body, but I actually found out that I preferred it. I could see myself there. The next day, we visited an infinitely smaller school whose student body was only twice that of my public high school and whose campus was only 80 acres. I couldn't tell exactly what it was when I stepped on campus but I knew immediately that I didn't even want to apply there. On the drive home, my dad tried to pinpoint exactly what it was that turned me off to the school: it had everything I wanted! All I could come up with was that I didn't get the right vibe. Later, my older cousin told me that she decided not to apply because the buildings were too round.  It seems like a silly and petty thing to judge a school with but your gut instincts will tell you more than a list of facts and data will ever tell you about the school (yet another reason to visit the school, not just blindly apply).

We almost missed the first tour we had signed up for, so we missed the information session that took place beforehand, and by the time we saw all of the humongous campus, we were tired and decided to skip the next session and go home. We've realized that we barely know anything about their admissions process because of it. While tours give you an opportunity to get a feel for the campus, the tours offer extremely valuable information about what it takes to get in there and, of course, the dreaded tuition price and how to make that slightly more manageable.

If you're like me, going into the process with little to no expectations, then it's hard to know how to judge the schools. Do I like that this school has only 6,000 students? What's the difference between an open and closed campus, and does that even matter to me? The best thing that I did was visit a 30,000 student school immediately followed by a 4,000 student school. I was able to understand what I did and didn't like about a big school as well as a small school. I could put my finger on what I wanted in a school. Even if a school isn't your dream school figure out what you like about each college/ what you don't like about it. Making a pro-con list of each school will help you narrow down the characteristics that you are really looking for in a school. This could include the environment, student life, social aspects, extracurricular opportunities, and academics. Finding a school with most the things you do like will make the experience that much better. 

Back in the day, my dad applied to only 2 colleges and never visited either. Today that's considered absurd: the average student applies to probably around 10 schools (or at least that's about the average of everyone I've talked to). It's more or less a protection measure to make sure you get into at least one of those schools and maybe into some of the schools you have no intention of going to but would just like to be able to say you got in. Either way, after all the visits you do, it can be hard to remember which school said what and who had the nicest dining hall and who had the biggest dorms. I carried around a list of questions as well as a steno notepad around on every tour and wrote down the information that was important to me. A lot of it actually came from the information session, but the tours always offered helpful insight into the student experience. 
How I feel about my steno
Either way, the steno notepad has become very valuable to me. I have various contact information for tour guides if I ever have questions (I've shot around a few emails already), I know what scores I need to achieve when I retake the SAT and ACT this fall, and I know what kind of student each school is looking for. TAKING YOUR OWN NOTES IS MUCH BETTER THAN ASSUMING THE INFORMATION WILL BE ON THE WEBSITE BECAUSE IT ISN'T ALWAYS THERE.

One more semi-unrelated pro tip: Explore the area around the college
Besides the school buildings, make sure you check out what is around the school. Is there enough to do on campus or will I be bored to death? If so, are there places I can go and have fun? Restaurants, cafes, cinemas, and shops are always a good sign. If you're anything like me, you'll want to have plenty of things to do. Also check out the dining halls of the school, food is very important.

Hope this was helpful for rising seniors like myself!
(My lovely bestie, Anastasia, also contributed to this post)

Monday, July 20, 2015

What's not to Love?

It helps me feed my addiction to buttons/pins

I can find humorous accessories that reference tv shows/movies/bands that I love

A lot of times, bloggers or instagram-ers will open shops to sell super cute accessories

You can't find this stuff in a normal store (It's handmade!!)

How clever was it for me to disguise my Etsy wishlist as how much I love the site?
Pretty clever, huh? I bet I had you tricked!
Happy Shopping!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Let's Get Creative


Creative Differences

Indy realized that her best friend would always be the one who was looked at. It was crazy to try to compete.

My illustration for Rookie, 2013.
"Creative Differences" via

 I’m not the “artistic” one in my family. My drawings consist of pathetic flowers and lame stick figures drawn in 9.7 seconds without a thought. Meanwhile, my brother can sit for hours and create the most amazing drawings, paintings, and sketches. Over the years, I learned to accept my lack of talent, thinking that being “artsy” was a characteristic limited to being an artist.

   Even now, I excel in the Social Studies/English classes while I plow sluggishly through math courses. My only justification was this “left brain, right brain” notion, where logic and creativity fight for dominance. So there I am, a pitiful artist but characteristically and supposedly artistic. My right brain endeavors were doomed to always stay in my brain and never become real world ones. But after taking psychology this year, it became clear these dual systems work together, and left brain versus right brain notion is a complete myth.

  We use both sides of our brain fully for every task we complete, so any person who chooses to scrap the analytical v. artistic myth can strengthen and cultivate their own creativity, and here’s a place to start.


  A. Even if I carry paintbrushes in my pocket, move to a scenic place, and go to an arts festival every weekend in spring, I will never become an artist, since it will never be my kind of thing. But I've found alternative ways to express myself (as trite as it sounds). My notebook, collages, style, and even this blog are creative outlets even though they aren't your typical artistic endeavors. But the process is the same. I found that I liked blogging, I worked to improve my blogging skills, I post as much as I can, and publishing posts always gives me satisfaction. Artists like making art, they improve thier skills, they produce multiple products, they are satisfied with one and continue on.  If you make something, no matter the medium, you are creative, simple as that.

   B. Let's go back and completely obliterate this left brain- right brain argument so that it's never an excuse for anyone ever again:) First, here is some factual proof: one, two, three using a PLOS ONE  study. But it's faults are also illustrated throughout history. Leonardo Da Vinci, for example, is celebrated as a fantastic artist, but also as a inventor, scientist, astronomer, mathematician, musician, and much more. Da Vinci was talented in a number of diverse fields including painting and math, which are, by our culture's standards, "opposing interests". But being analytical does not conflict with being creative. They are not mutually exclusive. The process of trying new methods, critiquing your own work, and figuring out what works best is the scientific method.

A. In my thrilling summer reading novel How to Read Literature Like a Professor the author emphasized that no work written is truly original, there is only one story, and every book stems from that one story. The author of each story practices "amnesia," where they pick elements from other works to include in their own. I think this same principle can be applied universally. Since no idea is wholly original you must ask yourself, what do I like? Asking yourself these types of questions will help you focus on what you want in your own work. This combination of elements makes the work your own unique creation.
   B. There are so many publications, websites, blogs and books to draw inspiration from. Every week I read Time, catch up on The Atlantic, and browse The New Yorker. Just in these three sources, there are new ideas, perspectives, and stories that provide insight into the world around me. Exploring a vast range of subjects helps broaden your outlook, and even if that doesn't directly help you make something, it is a consistent stream of inspiration that could lead to something more (see: Rookie and The Adroit Journal). Everything is inspiration if you keep your mind open. Worst comes to worst, you can use the awesome graphics and pictures to make collages.

   C. Discussing a subject with someone who is just as passionate about it as you are has got to be one of the giddiest and best feelings of all. Seriously, just talking to other people can make you consider certain aspects of something that you may have otherwise overlooked or ignored. Hannah and I are constantly sending each other links to funny pictures, DIYs, and other nonsense to mull over. We edit each other's work and formulate new ideas and projects to complete (we're still working on having a craft day). And if you are saying, "Anastasia, none of my friends care about what I do!!!" my response will be opening up Google for you, because the Internet (ex. Tumblr) is a magical place where you can find new obsessions and people who are also obsessed with them and you can all be obsessed together YAY!

A. Keep a notebook handy. Most of the time you won't know when you'll be struck with a creative instinct or stumble upon a phrase that you just have to keep. My journal has watercolor madness, cutouts from magazines, some poems, and lists of things that I want to remember or come back to. Although some (most) of my notes are unintelligible to someone who opens it up, my notebook is something I can always go back to and be like "Oh yeaaa, I want to watch that again" or "I wanna practice my signature again because it still takes too long." If notebooks aren't your thing just use a school notebook to doodle and stuff, use the Notes thing on iPhones, write in an agenda or planner, whatever works for you. Fill it up with whatever you want to, sometimes the best ideas come from what you've forgotten.

   B. Try to make stuff a few times a week. Just yesterday, Hannah sent me a photo of earrings she made out of old plastic dinosaurs she found (they're really cute). I've made rings out of scrap wire, just with some pliers. Even fortune tellers are good. If you're just sitting around, grab a piece of paper and just start writing. Chances are it won't be the best thing you've ever created but it's a place to start. Write about your day, someone you just met, what you want to accomplish that day, or anything else you feel like. You can also collaborate with other people. Although group projects can be a hassle sometimes (especially when you are the only one actually doing the work ugh), they force you to adapt and incorporate numerous ideas (and you can always pick your own crafty buddy outside of school). Creating somethings is the best way to start being creative.

 C. On those days when I've procrastinated an English essay and I have one night to do it, I always manage to get writer's block. I will stare aimlessly at a blank word document saying to myself you need to start writing, like now. And then another half hour passes. At that point, I'll just take a break, walk around, take a nap, watch a video, and most of the time an idea will come to me when I'm doing a different activity. Just let some of your ideas flow. First drafts are drafts for a reason and peer editing exists because sometimes we can't see a problem even if it's really obvious. Don't force yourself to have a fantastic idea and stick with it 100%.
A friend of mine introduced me to this writing technique for writer's block: Madman, Architect, Carpenter, and Judge. The madman just writes whatever ideas come to mind, writing like crazy, the architect manages the paragraphs to form something that resembles an argument, then the carpenter investigates the sentence structure and "nails" ideas together, then the judge inspects the work checking for the details. This technique has help me conquer the hardest part of making stuff: starting. And once you do, you're in your own bubble, content, focused on what you are making, at peace, and happy. 

I hoped this helps dissolve the stigma that only certain people are born artists.This is just my philosophy on creativity and personal advice. Is there anything that always helps you get the creative juices flowing? 

Happy creating,