math camp always provides a lot of good experiences and moments, and having thoroughly enjoyed my time there this year, I’m definitely feeling a massive hole with the break in routine* after 8 weeks. (*although routine is technically the right word, it certainly doesn’t feel like it. camp was temporary from the start, and I’ll probably never have that ‘routine’ ever again, but semantics.)

Usually playing games or finding something amusing/funny to do is my go-to distraction from real life, but after trying to play a game for 10-15 minutes I found my mind drifting to my separation from others, and I shut down the game without a second thought.

I unconsciously wandered over to the piano. Picking up old pieces from my piano bench and playing them lifted my spirits slowly, and I marveled at how the passing of time had been kind to my skills. I sightread pieces I remember struggling with ten, six, four years ago, smiling at my memories of my younger self loathing the slow practice. She was insensitive to any of the emotions I now would derive from a single, colored chord.

With this, I realized difficulty is a matter of perspective. It took years for me to get to the point where I could sightread pieces in minutes that would have taken me half a piano lesson when I was 13. Behind every polished performance is thousands of hours of practice and mistakes.

Behind every ‘trivial’ math problem is thousands of previously painfully solved ones.

Suddenly, I couldn’t hate myself for being “bad” at math. My hours had gone into so many other things that I valued over my math abilities. Was it really that wrong that I wasn’t at the level the people around me were at? Why did I even feel inferior when I had literally done the best that I had with whatever I did know?

Truly, I had let self-constructed perceptions of what I thought other people thought of me control my actions and create fear. (indeed, writing that convoluted statement out alone continues to make me realize how stupid it was of me.) Although “your strengths lie elsewhere” seems like a consolation-prize statement (and has been one I’ve rankled at for years), it has its grain of truth. I simply do not find myself improving at math unless I have the right mindset and spend hours on it. I can appreciate its structure and solutions, but just by looking at it, I might never be able to make that jump from one step to the next in a proof or a problem.

Music, on the other hand, is something I seem to be able to come up with ideas in a snap. I’ll hear a song and overlay another one on top of it, just for kicks. The only time I stop to think about a singing a harmony is when I decide whether to do it a third up or down. I make up new melodies with song lyrics that go with the chords of a song.

Most importantly, I’ve discovered that when I’m feeling emotional, I pick up the guitar or sit down at a piano–perhaps it helps me siphon off the excess pain, anger, and sadness. Rather than cry, I’ve begun to play the songs that express what I’m feeling inside. For when words fail, the music will speak in my stead.

College Visit Persuasion 101

Visiting colleges is crucial to making a good decision for your next four years (or less) of schooling. I strongly strongly strongly strongly encourage doing it if you haven’t already (and perhaps going again even if you have). Getting a feel for the people (administration, current & prospective students, profs etc alike), receiving information about programs and people, seeing the campus, understanding the facilities and resources, and most importantly, being able to talk to real live people in real live person, is so ridiculously important. Just like you wouldn’t buy and move into a house without actually visiting it, you shouldn’t haphazardly choose where your tuition goes and move into a college without visiting, either. (I often think about how many ultimate discs or pianos or cars I could buy with the money that’s going into my college tuition and sigh. Repeatedly.)

I highly recommend attending schools during their admit program/days/whatever fancy name they use (like Harvard’s is Visitas and MIT’s is CPW and Rice’s is Owl Days but you know, it’s fine) because that’s when you’ll meet the highest concentration of other admitted students (basically, you can scope out your potential classmates and see what sort of other students were admitted and if you think you’d jive with them) and that’s also when the school will be pumping out its highest concentration of resources for prospective students (aka more free goodies! but more seriously, that’s going to be the best time to find upperclassmen to answer your questions honestly because they volunteer to do it, and other important people like professors/admissions counselors/program directors/finaid, etc.)

Also! If you can stay overnight, do so. That’s the best time to actually see whether campus is safe at night, whether paths are brightly lit, if there are noise problems, what the dorms are like (aka are they partying hard or studying quietly heh), etc.

I’ve noticed the ability to visit colleges depends mainly on 3 things: your academic availability, your monetary means, and your parents’ opinion. I’ll advise you guys on how to work out the best circumstances for the first two and drop some tips for convincing the parentals!

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College App (Essay) Protip #5: Comma are salt, so don’t make me salty

Maybe you’re a responsible comma user. I’m proud of you if so. More likely than not, though, you aren’t. (Be ashamed.)

Welcome back, I’m here today to talk a bit about responsible comma use in your essays.  Continue reading “College App (Essay) Protip #5: Comma are salt, so don’t make me salty”

College app protip #4: Brainstorm, drainstorm

So, you’ve got to write an essay or two or twenty. Even if, like me, you like to write, essays probably aren’t your favorite flavor of the written word, much like licorice is of jelly beans. Additionally, you have to write about yourself (yikes).

You’ll likely hit a couple of prompts that stump you. I personally had a lot of trouble with coming up with an essay response to The Big One (the Common App main essay, dun dun dun).

So what do you do?

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College app protip #3: Organization 101

We’ve been told to be organized since we were in diapers. “Stack the bricks after you’re done playing with them!” “Put the baby back in the stroller, don’t leave her on the floor!” “This is why you put the toothbrush on the rack–so it doesn’t fall in the toilet.

…You get the idea. If you’re a neat freak, now’s your time to shine. If you’re a disorganized mess, this is the best time in your life not to be. Here’s some tips for those of you who are messes.

Continue reading “College app protip #3: Organization 101”