Universitas Blog

Fr. Smolarski

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Mistakes Filipino Students Make While in College in America

Wednesday, April 03, 2013
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I thought I'd take a departure from college admissions issues to what happens when you're already there.  For the Class of 2013, the admission decisions have been mailed and now the ball is on your side of the court:  deciding among the colleges with the good sense to admit you...who will have the honor of having you as a student?  We'll tackle the particulars of that decision in a later post.  For now, let's assume you've made your decision and are already in college and in the thick of it.  What are some of the mistakes international students like us make when we're at an American college?

1.  Not getting involved.  I think most of this comes from intimidation.  American students can be intimidating to us.  They're so much....taller! But kidding aside, accents can make us feel inferior.  Everyone is speaking perfect English and we can't get through a sentence without inserting a "kwan" or "ano".  Here's the first tip:  Americans don't care if you speak with an accent...they really don't!  Another tip:  they're all intimidated by each other!  It might not seem like it because they seem to make fast friends with each other and some are already holding hands (I remember being absolutely shocked when I saw this the first time.)  But in reality, they're all new to the place and they're all looking for friends...just like you!  So wade in there, get involved with campus or dorm activities and see what happens!  You'll be pleasantly surprised.  True story:  one of the first things I did when I got on campus was to sign up for Freshman Weekend, a religious retreat organized by Campus Ministry.  When I came back from that weekend, I knew more good looking girls than most of the American guys at my dorm.  They were asking me to introduce them to my new friends!  Another handy tip:  getting involved in activities like campus ministry or choir is a sure fire way to meet girls.  It's the happy hunting ground nobody knows about.  Everybody hunts for girls at frat parties.  Lame!

 2.  Hanging out exclusively with other Filipinos/Asians/international students.  It's understandable that you're drawn to those who have similar backgrounds and experiences but if you wanted only that,  you should have stayed home.  You're in America!  Make friends with the local wildlife. When I was a college freshman, my best buddy was Mark Love, a guy who lived down the hall from me.  He and I bonded over calculus classes, professional and college football (he taught me everything I know about the NFL), and a book entitled "1000 Offensive Jokes" which taught me all the racial stereotypes.  Mark was pre-med back then but is now a successful attorney, a senior partner in a big San Francisco law firm .  Another advantage of making nice with the locals is that you'll get invited to Thanksgiving dinner.  My seatmate in Introduction to Ethics was a lovely sophomore (I like older women) brunette music major named Gina Piroli. She invited me to spend Thanksgiving with her family.  Good times!  I wonder where Gina is now?

 3.  Not visiting your professors during their office hours. Actually all students make this mistake.   One of the things we need to get used to is how informal professors can be in America.  Some even insist on being called by their first name!  Professors are required to keep certain hours of the day open to allow students to consult with them.  I've had professors wail openly how lonely they are during these times and have even promised light snacks to those who will come to visit.  Go and visit!  Talk bout what you may be having problems with in his class.  Or just sit and chat about life.  Professors, especially in the small liberal arts colleges, enjoy teaching undergraduates and like to get to know them as people.  You also stand to gain from such a relationship because it is through them that you can score research opportunities and a great recommendation for a future job or for graduate school. 

True story:  I was in the middle of my first term of my freshman year.  I was taking Calculus I and was completely lost in a homework assignment.  My buddy, Jeff Pereira, and I decided to go see our professor for help.  The professor was a pretty straight laced Jesuit priest complete with white Roman collar and with a slightly imperious and formal attitude (he insisted on calling all his students Mr. this and Ms. that).  It was about 8 pm and fortunately, he lived in the next dorm as the Resident Minister.  Jeff and I went up to his room and found the door open.  We knocked gently and out came Fr. Professor from the back room (his bedroom), his starched Roman collar askew, his shirt opened at the collar, and best of all, in his right hand, was a bottle of Michelob beer!  Jeff and I were agape at the sight but we collected ourselves in time to ask for help on the homework which he graciously provided.  Fr. Dennis Smolarski, S.J. would later figure in some of my best college memories.  His imperious and formal attitude was just a front for a generous, light hearted interior.  And I would not have found out about it if I hadn't come to him for help that evening

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  Fr. Smolarski                                                                                             fr smo today

THE IMPORTANCE OF FIT (PART TWO)

Monday, April 01, 2013

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In Part One, we talked about why fit was important.  Now, we're going to talk about how one finds a good fit.

Unlike James Bond in the picture above, finding the right fit for college isn't as simple as calling a tailor.  As a matter of fact, you don't really need to call anybody except yourself.   To find a good fit requires you ask yourself these questions:

1.  Why am I going to college in the States to begin with?  Education?  Prestige?

2.   Will I feel more comfortable simply blending into the crowd and being anonymous or will I get lost in such a place and prefer to be in a more intimate learning environment?

3.  What is my learning style?  Lectures?  Active participation in class?

4.  What is most important to me in college?  Social life?  Intellectual growth?  Job opportunities?

There are any number of these kinds of questions you should be asking yourself as you take this important (and expensive!) step in your life.  Consult with people you trust:  your parents, older siblings and even you high school counselor to help you with your self-evaluation.

Teens don't enjoy self-examination (few people actually do) but it's time well spent to know yourself as well as you can. Always remember:  there's no such thing as a best college out there only a best college FOR YOU.

Good luck!

Good luck!!!!

Saturday, March 30, 2013
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We interrupt our two part blog entry for this special good wishes bulletin.  The US college search season for the Class of 2013 is coming to a close.  Although many colleges and universities have been telling their applicants their admission decisions for about a week or two now, the big guns (the Ivies, Stanford, etc.) released their yeses and nos at 5 am this morning, March 29, 2013, Manila time.  To those who applied, good luck.  And follow my advice about looking for the good fit.  

The Importance of FIT (Part One)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

 

 

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As a former high school teacher, I'm often asked by students:  what is the best college out there?  Is Ateneo better than La Salle?   Kids always hear:  it depends on what you're studying...if business, then Ateneo, if engineering, maybe La Salle.  It goes on and on.

Very often, when parents and students are interested in college in the States, they ask what is the best college in the States?  They turn to publications like US News and World Report's America's Best Colleges for the answer.  I have serious problems with this publication but that's an issue for another day and another blog post.  

My answer to the question what is the best college (in the Philippines, in the States, and in the world) is this:  you're asking the wrong question.  For me, the important question is not what is the best college out there but what is the best college out there FOR YOU.

For many families, the search for an American college boils down to what is the most prestigious college I can get into?  And it normally boils down to the usual suspects, the usual names:  Harvard, Yale, Princeton (what someone I know calls "The Holy Trinity of American higher education"), the rest of the Ivy League and their clones like Stanford, UC Berkeley and for the technically bent:  MIT and Caltech.  While there is nothing wrong these fine schools, to base your search on where you will be spending what is arguably the most crucial four years of one's education on a university's name and perceived prestige is at best misleading and at worst, downright destructive.

If you buy a suit, the most important thing is that it has to fit.  I don't care what fancy designer or label is attached to it, how much it is, or what the material is...if it don't fit right, you'll look silly wearing it, if you wear it at all.  If the suit fits right, it feels great, you look great and you feel like a million bucks.

So it is with colleges.  If you go to a college that FITS you, you'll learn more, you'll flourish, you'll get better jobs, and you find yourself looking back on your college years fondly after you've graduated and living the legacy of your alma mater (which literally means "nourishing mother").  Strive to find this fit in your college search and no matter how the race turns out in the end,  you'll be the winner.

But how do I find this FIT?  Ah...that, grasshopper, is Part Two

 

 

reed building

Friday, March 29, 2013

Hello World!

Thursday, March 28, 2013
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 Hello world indeed!   My name is John Sy and this blog is all about applying to and attending US colleges and universities.  It is written specifically for students from the Philippines who want to do their undergraduate (bachelor's degree) work there.  While it is not directed specifically to graduate  students (master's and PhD), some similarities may come up and I'll be sure to point them out when that happens. Right now, I am working towards a professional US College Counseling certificate from UCLA Extension (www.uclaextension.edu).  It's an online course of study that consists of six required classes and an internship.  I've already finished three classes, I'm enrolled for two more for the spring term.  I hope to start the internship and the final capstone course in the fall. Besides being an upcoming counseling professional, I'm also a former international student...twice!   In 1983,  I went to Santa Clara University in California to get my bachelor's degree in physics (which I earned in 1987).  I returned to the United States in 1990 and got my master's degree in physics from Washington State University in 1992.  I've been a teacher most of my professional life (even during an 8 year stretch doing IT consulting in New Jersey I was still teaching).  I am also the proud father of two boys, of whom the elder, Tyler, is just days away from finishing his college search process and will soon choose where he will be spending his college years. So I come at this from various perspectives:  student, parent, teacher, and professional.  I hope I can share with you, through this blog, my various adventures in and opinions about the labyrinthine process that is US college admissions.   And yes, my sarcastic and sardonic (and occasionally R rated) sense of humor will be featured as well. 


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John Sy, President and Senior Counselor
Universitas College Counseling
203A CM Recto Street
San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines

johnsy@universitasph.com
+63 (917) 833-3825


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John Sy, President and Senior Counselor
Universitas College Counseling
203A CM Recto Street
San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines

johnsy@universitasph.com

+63 (917) 833-3825

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