Saturday, May 21, 2011


School starts around the start of September.

I have 3 months between then and now and feel a bit in limbo. I'm currently taking classes at the UCR (State School), just to make sure I don't lose the habit of studying, and because I get to choose classes without worrying about the grades. Interesting classes:

Intensive Russian: Am looking for a way to keep taking Russian at a school near RPI since it doesn't offer it itself.

Literary Workshop: The teacher is insane, but my classmates are cool.

Intro to Mechanical Engineering: I get to make a catapult.

Calculus 1: math.

Humanities: One of the teachers legitimately believes that the CIA invented Facebook and then used Mark Zuckerberg (the actual developer) as a front so they could spy on people more easily. He's also one of those 9/11 conspiracy theory believers.

I've also joined the gym and all that.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


My father has been talking with his brothers/family (few of which I've met) about the universities I've been looking into.

He's still convinced that my best bet is to get a degree in Medicine as a first degree (even if I have no intention of becoming a doctor) and then getting a second degree in whichever field interests me. This is the cheapest option (short range).

He also keeps bringing up that I have no "experience in the real world", that I've never lived alone, etc, etc. I think that's pretty much standard for straight-out-of-high-school freshmen and I'm getting pretty damn tired of hearing it. It's also the worst possible excuse for suggesting I stay home even longer.

An uncle has offered to let me stay with his family for a year, go to a community college close by, and re-apply as a transfer student to a different selection of schools. He doesn't seem too impressed by Rensselaer and I think he believes I should aim higher. (Not, perhaps, as high as the ivy leagues). The idea is that I spend a year getting good grades, playing sports (Fencing! Archery!) and just generally making a good impression to later "move up" school-wise. Also getting used to cold weather. Here, again, I would do just as well staying where I am for the rest of this year.

Choices, choices.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rensselaer, Final Answer (?)

Paid my enrollment deposit at Rensselaer. Looks like this is it.

Parents are still trying to get me to consider taking a year off, going either to a community college close to my uncle's house (moving in with them, in a cold area) and then applying to a different list of schools as a transfer student.

One person is pointing out that the winters are long and cold in Troy, NY.

Another that they don't offer Russian.

Another that the UCR is a perfectly good school, and maybe I should just transfer to Medicine (currently taking a few courses under Mechanical Engineering enrollment).

Actually, they're all being pretty encouraging, on the whole, just trying to make sure I don't end up someplace where I'll be miserable. To be honest, it doesn't matter much where I go, things will end up one way or the other no matter what. (Well, that wasn't a useful sentence at all).

What I mean to say, is that decisions like these, which supposedly determine the rest of your life, don't determine it much more than any other decisions you make regularly throughout a day. Too many variables, too many different choices down the road. Just because I don't make it from Point A to Point B by Direct Route C doesn't mean I won't get there eventually.

Then again, maybe I'm just a sore loser. Would I be writing this if I had gotten into my first choice?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

USAFA - Rejected / Possible Wait List

I got a letter in the mail from the Air Force Academy today, my top choice.

It says they couldn't accept me, blah blah regret to inform you blah blah many qualified candidates and blah blah blah for a few paragraphs more. You know, the standards classy school rejection letter.

It also added that I was, in fact, a qualified candidate. That I met all the criteria for an appointment, but since they are by law limited to 1120 acceptances per year, I just couldn't be accepted. I wrote a previous post on the depressing application statistics here.

Alright. I understand, and it's kind of nice to know that I was qualified (if not too useful in a practical sense). Also, I never got the Vice-Presidential nomination, so that didn't help at all. Then they added: "Why don't you consider AFROTC?". That hurt. Just a bit.

The almost-positive part, the "Possible Wait-List" in the title, is that if someone turns down an appointment, then they go back to the list of Qualified Candidates (to which I belong) and pick out someone else.

So now I'm desperately hoping that some kid was accepted to Harvard or Yale or some other really prestigious school and chooses that over USAFA. C'mon, you accepted students! Do really great and go to an Ivy League/MIT/clown school so I can go to this one!! You can do it!

PS: I learned that another person applying to schools in the US reads my blog. She refers to me as her archenemy. She was accepted into a really great school. Hi, Arch-Enemy! Congrats on your acceptance!

Friday, April 1, 2011

School Admissions

Here are all the schools to which I've applied, and my admissions
status to date.

Harvard - Denied

Cornell - Denied

ROTC - Denied

USAFA - QVA (qualified, no vacancy) Denied, for all practical purposes. Except bragging rights. I'll reserve those, thanks (kidding, of course)

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute - Accepted
  • Major: Aeronautical Engineering
  • AFROTC: on campus Detachment 550
Drexel - Accepted
  • Major: Mechanical Engineering
  • AFROTC: crosstown agreement with Saint Joseph Detachment 750.
Arizona State University - Accepted
  • Major: Aerospace Engineering
  • AFROTC: on campus Detachment 025

Hofstra - Accepted
  • Not actually considering it.

Drexel - Accepted

Drexel has accepted me.

This is possibly the school I have least mentioned. They're pretty good with engineering stuff and have a neat co-op program.

Harvard - Denied

Harvard did not accept me.

And what is with sending out admissions decisions on April 1st? Does no one else think that's a terrible idea? How many cruel friends/siblings/anyone are tempted to call some poor applicant and go "Congratulations! You've been accepted to Harvard!", let them go crazy for a bit and then go "Gotcha! April Fool's!"

Even I want to do that, and I'm usually a pretty decent person.Is it really so hard to send it out in March like everyone else, or even just wait until the 2nd?

Cornell - Denied

Cornell did not accept me.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

5 Stitches

Apparently, I have the balance of a 5 year old.

I was sprinting across the house, over newly mopped tile, tried to turn, slipped, didn't quite put my hands out in time, and smashed the floor with my head. At first, I thought I'd managed to catch myself, then the headache caught up, and when I clutched my jaw, which had taken the brunt of the blow, felt the chipped tooth, and then noticed the blood on my shirt.

Checked in the mirror, and there's a little bloody half circle on my chin and blood running down my neck. I washed it off, it just looked like a tiny cut, and put a bandaid over it. Plus some rubbing alcohol, which stings like hell. 20 minutes later, blood was spreading out from the bandaid and my parents noticed. They took me to the emergency room for some stitches. I thought that was pointless, it looked fine, but they thought I should go; my father's main argument was to stop it from scarring.

So. I explained to the doctor what had happened and he laughed the whole time he was stitching me up. Apparently, this specific placement of the cut, and method of getting it is really common among 5 year olds, who are still learning how to walk, but haven't yet learned to put their hands out for a fall. I'm in college, people. This dumb cut took 5 stitches. He was pretty funny about it, actually, had me smiling while he pulled a chunk of metal and thread through my face.

I'm going to feel like an idiot explaining this to my friends.

ROTC Denied

Well, I got a call from an official from AFROTC, and despite my attempt to appeal, I was definitely denied.

The second set of SAT scores I sent were taken 3 days after the December 1 deadline. The only December SAT date is December 4th, why does the website say the last possible SAT test is the December test, when they meant "before December 1st?"

Bright side: I can apply for AFROTC almost immediately once I start college, and possibly get a 3-year scholarship.

Dark side: RPI is going to cost me 20,500 for my first year, not even taking into account international flights and everything I need to move into college. Which includes an obligatory laptop.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I learned about a week ago that my application for the ROTC scholarship was denied. I sent an e-mail to The Major asking what I could do to appeal, since the most likely reason I was denied was the miserable PFA scores, but that I had shown quite a bit of improvement on the second CFA.

He answered by sending me the information from my ROTC file and asking if it seemed complete. It didn't.
It was missing my second, and much higher, SAT scores.

I rushed over to CollegeBoard to see if I had sent them. I had. On the 19th of December last year. I remember it clearly because I had to pay extra to send the damn things because it was either past the 4 free score reports limit, or past the 2 weeks I had to send them for free. I don't remember how much it cost, but it wasn't particularly cheap.

So. Mad, because while I didn't study for the tests, they weren't exactly fun to take, because I was depending more than I should have on that ROTC scholarship to help pay for college, because I want to be an Air Force officer and that's the main way to do so as well as getting a degree, because those scores were paid for and never received....!

I typed out a page begging to be reconsidered, added the SAT scores, the second CFA and a print out from CollegeBoard saying when and to whom all my scores had been sent. I faxed it to AFROTC Headquarters, and sent another copy by mail. I would have sent some more by telegraph, morse code and messenger pigeon to make sure they got them, but mainly to make a point, but those methods are all extinct.

My parents got a call yesterday from someone we will refer to as The Captain. I'm at the University of Costa Rica during the week (and I suppose they don't have my cellphone) so my father got to talk to him. He told me a bit later what he said, and as far as I can tell, this is the gist of it (remember, you can't cite 3rd hand sources, not if you want anyone to believe you, so as far as you're concerned, these are all rumors):

They got my fax, saw my scores. The Captain repeated various times that the scores were really good (well, they were, 2110) and that I possibly deserved the scholarship. A bit about needing more leadership ability (I think I mentioned in there that my school doesn't really have any clubs, and being class president of a group on 21 students doesn't really count for much re:leadership), and that he was looking at my second CFA scores and they weren't too bad. He thought I might even have a reasonable chance at being accepted by the Air Force Academy. He didn't make it clear whether they already had the scores and I was denied for a different reason, or if they had just gotten them now. Honestly, I would rather they already had the scores and decided I wasn't good enough than have lost the chance because of a bureaucratic error.

However, and here things get ugly, they can't do appeals. The budget has been used, all the money assigned to other applicants, and I could always try again next year.
Well, it was really quite nice of him to bother calling. And I sent him an e-mail to that effect.

The real problem here is whether I take out loans to pay for the first year of college at a school like Rensselaer and ask for the scholarship once I'm in. If I get the scholarship, all is nice and flowery and rainbows. If I don't, I can either cut my losses and return to Costa Rica, or go deep into debt for a nice degree.

Other solution: stay at the University of Costa Rica, change my major from Mechanical Engineering to Medicine, get a degree in medicine (either 4 years plus 1 year working at a state hospital, or 5 years and one working). Either way, I'm younger than pretty much anyone else with a medical degree in the US. Apply to various schools and scholarships using that degree as leverage and study what I want to study. That's what my parents, uncles, aunt-in-law, and neighbor are suggesting. Also, I'm kind of making this sound like I don't like medicine, but up until about 2 or 3 years ago I was completely decided to become a surgeon. I still think it would be interesting and useful to society at large, but I have other interests as well. And this route kind of takes me bit farther from the Air Force than I wanted. I suppose it would also be easier to gain entry once I have a decent degree.

There. It felt good to get that off my chest. Excuse the novelization, but this is the rest of my life we're talking about.

RPI Acceptance

Accepted at RPI. Major of Choice: Aeronautical Engineering.

They gave me some financial aid, but without the ROTC Scholarship it won't be enough. It's actually more complicated than that. I can pay the first year reasonably, and apply for AFROTC again once I'm in the first year of college. However, if I don't get it again, then I really kind of have to drop out. I could take out an incredible amount of loans and graduate with a lot of debt and start my career already God-knows-how-much-money behind.

More on ROTC on the next post.

ASU Acceptance

Accepted at ASU, Ira [something] Fulton School of Engineering. Major of choice: Aerospace Engineering (aka Astronautics).

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Harvard Interview: Anticipation

I sent my Common Application to Harvard on the last possible date. I sent my SAT scores even later. Regardless, my online profile says everything has been received. Except the (voluntary) interview.

According to the website, not being able to set up an interview will not have an adverse effect on the applicant's chances. Now there's also a list of counties where international interviews are possible, and I hoped Costa Rica wasn't on it. It was. Since I suspect that not trying to set up an interview would look bad, I sent an e-mail asking who I could get in touch with. I got an answer telling me all Harvard alumni had gone on a mass migration to faraway parts of the world and that I was therefore saved. Hurray!

Actually, I got a list of names and e-mails and the interview is tomorrow.

Interviews are hard. At least I suppose they are, I only ever had one other with The Major, and a phone interview at that. See, the thing about a phone interview is that there's an escape route. If things go badly and I panic and I decide "Screw this, I'm frightened and I don't want a degree" I can slam down the phone and never face the person again. What am I supposed to do in person, make a break for the door? Wait 'til they turn their backs and try to sneak out the window? I don't think so.

What makes it all the more nerve-wracking of course, is that it's Harvard. Nearly no one is qualified for Harvard and that goes double for me.

My GPA is 3.72. My highest SAT score is 2140 (+ writing, 1410 without), high, but hardly Ivy League. And we're both going to know this and I still have to go in and convince him that they are.

Here are some depressing numbers: the most recent estimates (The Choice, New York Times College Admissions Blog) say that roughly 35,000 students applied to Harvard this year, up from 30,489 in 2010. Last year, only 7% were accepted (CollegeBoard).

Cheerful thought.

Air Force updates.

I mentioned before that I got a chance to re-take the CFA. Now the absolute final deadline for all forms is February 15th and I'm starting to feel I'm pushing my luck. O f course I have to find a Phys. Ed. teacher to apply the test and this so much harder during summer vacation (December to mid February over here). I tracked one down, however, and will be doing it this week.

There has been some measurable progress. I can do about 2 1/10 pull ups (ok, still pathetic, but it's up from 0 and I'm getting better fast). Around 35 push ups (up from 24), and a faster mile by about 30 to 45 seconds. My crunches seem to be deteriorating, but I dot hem and a hard surface and sway from one side to the other to avoid crushing my tailbone. It's about 100 times easier on a math.

As for ROTC, last time I checked (today) I was told that I was doing fine (read: send everything) and someone would be getting in touch with me for and interview.

That someone is The Major. I already did an interview with him and he told me he could do an evaluation from that. Good. Efficient system, I just expected to be assigned someone at random, really.

Financial Aid: CSS Profile

Big part of the whole college thing is paying for it. This is done mainly by filling out lots of forms asking for someone else to pay for it. In my case, this is made susbstancially easier by the fact that we can answer about 99% of the questions about income with $o.

The CSS Profile was a fairly simple form, if a bit repetitive. Also, the help codes assigned to each question often didn't actually lead to any help. This is perfectly understandable in some cases, like "Student Name" ("Please check your ID, ask your parents, or check your underwear's waistband. If you still cannot figure this out, reconsider whether you are ready for colllege."). For pretty much anything else it should be obligatory, even if it only says "You are clearly to tired. Please get some sleep or caffeine".

At the end, there are some nice (passive-aggressive) telling me where (they think) I made mistakes. "No, we don't owe any taxes", "Yes, I am sure", "$0", "ASK ME ONE MORE TIME I DARE YOU".

All submitted, I get a little worksheet telling me the CSS Profile questions, the equivalent FAFSA questions and my answers. All to make this an easier process, or at least keep my stories straight.

Drexel and ASU

At this late date (even past a lot of admissions deadlines) I still get e-mails from other universities. I still ignore most of them, like the ones is Switzerland or an average SAT score of 900, but there are a few good ones.

Of course, it's worth remembering that my sole knowledge of universities comes from TV (so brand name recognition), my father (who has been out of the US for over 20 years) and the e-mails I get. Since there's no chance of my looking up any university I've never heard of, I probably miss a bunch of good schools.

So. Drexel. Excellent engineering school, co-op program (options of 0, 1 or 3, for a degree in 4 or 5 years). Considering how hard it is now to get a job with no prior experience, (and I haven't even worked in a fast food chain, isn't that like a teenage rite of passage?), getting some experience in your chosen field before you even graduate is pretty neat. Although should everything go well, it's the Air Force for me, anyways.

As for ASU. I lived in Arizona for a short 5 years, most of elementary school. I never considered going back for the simple reason that I didn't know there was anything to go back for ("for which to go back"? My father is a stickler for grammar, he actually insists on the use of "Am't I?" in lieu of "Aren't I?"). Turns out it gets a space-grant, offers and Aerospace degree and has a well-known Honor's College. Also, my uncle lives there (in Arizona, not the Honor's College) and it would be nice to have a family member nearby when I'm moving 5 countries away.