Thursday, December 30, 2010


Why do I do this to myself?

Before starting an essay, the only thing I do is read the prompt. I don't look at the word limit, or if I do, I misread it. I once started writing a 3500 word essay before realizing that was the character count. Yeah, it seemed a bit long for an admissions essay when I finished.

Right now, I got ready to turn in the one for Cornell (due a full 4 days from now! Responsible!). 500 word limit. I have an 800 word essay. On the bright side, I'm learning to be ruthless with my writing and cut out all the unnecessary thoughts and superfluous words.

I mean, who needs verbs, right?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays to You, Too.

Two pieces of mail have arrived that made my holidays.

1. I get to re-take the CFA (for the Air Force Academy) and try for a better score. That's an excellent opportunity.

2. I got an acceptance letter from Hofstra. With this nice little handwritten note:

3. Hofstra is also offering me a scholarship worth $19,000 per year (with conditions on my GPA and all that, of course).

Am I bragging? Yeah, a bit.

Thanks, Jane. Happy Holidays.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Possible Acceptance - Hofstra

Ok, my last note was desperate and rushed. I've found something that looks promising: a list of what they sent me in the mail. (Sorry for laughing at you, Hofstra, you're not quite in the Stone Age still).

Here it is:
  • Enrollment Orientation Card
  • Housing Application
  • Dining Contract
  • Medical Record
  • First Year Folder
  • First Year Folder Inserts
  • Meningitis Information
Judging mainly by the Enrollment Orientation Card, I think I'm in. Wheee, now I can study Russian...

Look at that last point on the list again. See, that's the exact sort of thing a first year college student hopeful wants to receive. Aside from worrying about debt, housing, food, studying, moving away from home, we also need a letter warning us to watch out for a possibly paralizing infection that causes the brain to swell. Because the stress of going to college for the first time just isn't enough on it's own.

Side note: most people's first reaction to hearing about a new disease is to Google it. The more you know, and all that. I've learned my lesson about carelessly Googling diseases after searching "headache" and coming up with horrifying images of people whose heads have been blown up by bombs (and I know you're going to go search for it right now, so turn off you're content filters, pick up a barf bag).

In view of this, I go straight to Wiki, who usually provides all the info I need without gratuitous blood. The article on Meningococcal disease has a picture of a baby whose arms are swollen, covered in rashes, and bloody, whose tiny fingers have turned black. The caption informs me that she survived, after having both arms amputated.

Thanks a lot, Wiki, I trusted you!

High Tech Hofstra

After doing most of the admissions process completely online, it's pretty clear that the days of mailing in huge envelopes of essays and transcripts are over. Unfortunately, it's a one-way deal.

Here's the message I got when I checked into my status page on Hofstra just a few days ago:

"We decided whether you've been accepted. We know, but you don't. You'll have to wait 'til you get a letter in the mail! Hahahaha, mine is an evil laugh..."

It's been paraphrased.

I just checked again now, to see what's going on, but instead of my little checklist telling me what's missing, or the evil little note I saw last time, there's nothing about admissions. I can't for the life of me figure out who they think I am. Do they think I have the letter? Is there a crucial piece of information in the mail that will let me know where I stand?

Come on, I'm in Limbo here! Going through the website, I find calendars, bus schedules, a welcome letter... There's only one thing I want to know now, and this site doesn't have it.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Costa Rican Universities

I have my results back for the Costa Rican universities.

I don't remember the exact score I received from the TEC admissions test, but it was around 685 (of 800), easily enough to let me study biotecnology, which was my first choice. I may have mentioned this, but once you establish your choices, there's no turning back, you're stuck with that major.

For the UCR, I got a 741 (out of 800), which gave me a comfortable 30 points of leeway, about that many over the highest cut-off point for any major. Medicine, the highest, hasn't risen over 706 in the last 5 years, and is unlikely to go much higher this year. I now have my choice of career path, at least at that university. My score is in the top 100, out of 31 042 that took the test. The full list of top 100 scores was in the Sunday paper, and my physics teacher was kind enough to point out that I'd made it.

Fun fact: The student who scored a perfect 800 is studying physics. Its cut-off score is in the low 500s. Funner fact: 4 years ago, the student with a perfect 800 chose to study ballet.

At the very best (read: prestigious), I can become a practicing doctor in 5 years, at the ripe old age of 22. I could also become a lawyer a year younger.

Shame I'm not interested.

My father is pushing for these options, despite my repeated protestations to the contrary. His argument is that it would be good to have a degree at 22 that in the US would require grad school. It would save me 3 years of study. My counter-argument is that it would be 5 years of my life wasted, since I really don't want to study that at all.

Well, not quite true. It would be cool to work in a hospital, I think, blood doesn't bother me (a person actively bleeding and in pain is something else, though). Meaningless anecdote: one of my biology teachers is also a nurse. He told us (the class) that medical professionals are under the obligation to help a wounded person, even if off duty. He also told us that no medical professional he knows would do so, for fear of a lawsuit. (Does this tell us more of the profession or the company he keeps?). Also, no nurse would administer any drug, none, under no circumstances, without a written prescription from the doctor ordering it. No matter how urgent.

Interesting to be a lawyer. However, a cousin of mine, attorney-at-law, spends most of his time signing documents and writing them and notarizing and certifying and putting his fancy little gold seal on official documents. He won't take cases that require him to defend or represent a client in court. He also refuses to handle marriages or divorces (despite the fact that the former could cause the latter, doubling his business). Just me, or doesn't that defeat the purpose of that law degree?

So, if I stayed in Costa Rica, what would I study? Well, the UCR also offers Mechanical Engineering, that's pretty similar (in some cases identical) to what I want to study in the US. On the other hand, I think I really am interested in medical school, but I truly need more time to decide. 17 is just too young. Another reason I would really want to study in the US.

Last option: I could join a circus. I'm learning how to juggle, and intend to ask for a unicycle for my birthday.


I took both Mathematics II and Physics. I was unprepared for both.

Let's start with MATH II.
This one requires a calculator, preferably graphing, but scientific is also accepted. Of course, you can do it without one at all, but not very well.

Now I happen to have two calculators at hand. See:

The scientific one I bought 4 years ago, in 7th grade. This faithful brick has been at my side for all my important tests (except the math ones, my teacher hates calculators, for which I thank her). It only rarely refuses to turn on, but this can be fixed with a solid whack and it's good as new. It's limited in logarithms and exponents when compared to more recent versions, and a bit scratched up, but functional nonetheless.

The graphing one is a wonder of modern technology. It's the TI-84 Plus Silver Edition. Follow this link to see everything about it. Nice display, will graph, anything the other one can do, it can do better. It even has a periodic chart. It always turns on. I bought it this year.
Fancy name for something I couldn't use.

Really, have never used it in my life, and taking a test with an average of 72 seconds per question is not the time to start. So I didn't. I used the one with a whimsical battery, no graphing capacity, and whited-out numbers (to dissuade classmates from borrowing it without permission. I lent it to a friend and she returned it with the numbers written in ink over the white out. Then I have another friend who pulled out the keys on his and rearranged them. No one can figure out how to use that one.). Although, let me clarify, it is approved for the SAT II, many fellow testers had the same one and were using it with (probably) more success than I.

Excuses, excuses!

I also didn't study. However, I will defend this idiotic decision by pointing out that I was at a beach side resort the three days prior, getting sunburnt in the morning and partying till the next.

The test had a few things my calculator (had I known how to use it) would have saved me on. Matrices, logarithms, so forth, but I have only myself to blame. Interestingly enough, the test asks you a series of background questions first. These determine what level of math you have seen in school, and what kind of calculator you're using. Since "electronic brick with choleric batteries" didn't make the list, I choose scientific calculator. Abacuses also weren't included, which I consider a pretty big oversight (kidding, I can't use those, either).

All in all, I left an estimated 10 questions blank (of 50) and got God knows how many more wrong. Luckily, this test has a pretty generous curve, so I may have gotten a score I could admit to without hiding ostrich-like in my denial.


No calculator allowed, so everyone was at as much a disadvantage as I was. Hah!

On the other hand, they may have reviewed their formulas beforehand. In a similar case of irresponsibility and procrastination, I didn't realize those weren't included until the night before, at which point I huddled worriedly in my blankets and tried to remember the formula for invisible ink (lemon, to be revealed over a flame; or vinegar and water, to be revealed with purple cabbage use). I couldn't use it for two reasons: 1-I can't take either a cabbage or a candle into a test discretely, and 2- I have a conscience.

So I took the test fairly, with only my mind at hand. Actually, judging from the results, it was a bit further from me than it usually is. I left more questions blank, probably less than 10, but still quite a few. The questions weren't hard, I had worse on bachillerato (<-- Translation: Ministry Tests seniors have to pass to graduate. Given in Math, Spanish, Foreign Language (English for me because that's the only one my school offers, French or Italian in other cases), Social Studies, Civics, and Science (physics, in my case, either chemistry or biology, in others')). ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Honestly, I feel it was a waste of 70 dollars (extra fees for testing abroad) and 5 hours (including travel time. On the other hand, we did buy doughnuts on the way back). I can only hope the scores will be high enough to let me send them to some schools.