College Things

It has been quite a while since I talked of my pursuit of higher education. In fact, were it not for the change I made to my "about me" profile snippet at the top right of this blog, ("He is now preparing to attend Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service this fall."), I believe there wouldn't be any way that anyone reading my posts would even know that I ended up enrolling in any college at all.

The last post I made on college was long long ago in April, when I described experiences visiting colleges on the east coast. It may be noted that my attempt to write about each day of my trip was a complete failure; I was only able to write two posts before my removal from the immediacy of the experience lessened my zeal to relate the details of what I did. Unfortunately, my two college visits that I did write and publish about - Princeton and Yale - ended up being the least important. In June, Yale informed me that its class of 2013 was overbooked and that it was accepting no one from its wait list. Just a few weeks ago in early July, Princeton finally informed me of my admission status, which was that while they did accept students from their wait list, I was not one of the students selected.

Truth be told, this has not been all that disappointing; what attracted me to the three schools that rejected me (Stanford, Princeton and Yale) was not the schools' programs but their prestige - and more importantly, their cost. I believe the promise of incredibly generous financial aid from these schools is what has driven more and more students to apply to them, just for a chance at getting in. I was one of those students - and although it seems Yale and Princeton recognized me as a student worthy enough to join their student bodies, it seems I wasn't an attractive enough applicant to shine out in a sea of similar academic records. To use the college admissions lingo, I am after all a W.A.S.P., and living in Ketchikan, Alaska with sedentary inclinations is no good combination for a student wishing to build a "spike."

As I said though, it was not the programs of these big-name schools that convinced me to apply for admission to them. There was, however, a university with a program for me that I was attracted to from the very first moments I began learning about it. This was Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in Washington, D.C. (And yes, I enjoy writing all that out.) I don't even remember when I began thinking about Georgetown. I believe though that unlike many colleges that sent me ceaseless unsolicited mailings, it was I who contacted GU first, and I remained interested in the college and committed to applying there even through all its vague and unemphasized loopholes. (Unlike other colleges, which would pepper me with a dozen mailings and emails whenever I had something to do, Georgetown really left everything up to me.) GU was even one of the two colleges I had to do interviews for - and of my two interviews, I thought I did much worse on the one for Georgetown. When it came to my essay, GU had a word limit, which meant that my monster of a story that I had put with all my Common Apps had to be cut down in ways that made me hesitant. Despite all these things, I was accepted, and at this point that's really all that matters.

When it comes down to it, GU SFS is probably one of the best places in the world for me to go to school. If there is a single academic field that I would want to devote myself to, it would have to be international relations. And the best part is that IR involves many fields of knowledge - all fields of knowledge, if you really think about it. And Georgetown's School of Foreign Service is probably the best place to study international relations on the North American continent; I think it's really the place to go. But let's get down to the interesting stuff!

Four days ago, on July 22nd, I took an online test to give me an accurate idea of the class level I should enter in learning French at Georgetown. I had known about my need to take the test for quite some time, and I had to take it before preregistering for classes, which could only be done up to the 24th - so in essence I had largely saved it for the last minute. The French department also had class recommendations based on one's SAT Subject Test scores, and mine indicated I should go to Advanced French I - or French 101 (which despite its number is a second year class). So in planning out the other classes I would preregister for I worked with the assumption I'd go to French 101, but it was still strongly recommended that I take the placement test for the most accurate recommendation. My signing up for classes waited on the French test.

My excuse for being so late was that I had wanted to study and brush up on my French before taking the test, but in truth I hadn't done much of that. In reading the information on the placement test I knew that it would involve writing, so I assumed that I would have to be writing responses to questions in kind of a short and simple French-essay format - to be graded subjectively, of course, and analyzed by people who'd be able to figure out where I belonged from my writing. In that vein, my studying focused mainly on learning new words in French that I find essential to my writing in English - however, for example. I may not have used a "however" in this paragraph, but if you've read many of the sentences on this blog I am sure you must have noticed its abundance. It might even be an apt analogy to say "Peter Stanton is to 'however' as Sarah Palin is to 'also,'" just as one can say "Peter Stanton is to high school as Sarah Palin is to political office..."

Regardless, I read through a variety of French books, did a little speaking, a little writing, and thought myself as ready as I'd ever want to be for this little placement test. Then I went online, logged in, went to the test - and I realized that although there would be a lot of writing, none of it would be subjective. There would be no use of my "howevers" whatsoever.

The test was a long one. Its structure was that the majority of the questions were "fill-in-the-blank," and you were to type the single correct answer for the question - perfect spelling and all - right below the question. There were however two sections of multiple choice questions based on reading passages, as well as two sections of "vrai ou faux" over the same. Many of the questions were difficult, and there was an entire section where the instructions indicated that one had to write the verb provided in the correct tense and mood based on the context in the sentence - and I had absolutely no idea how the sentences indicated any certain way to conjugate the verb. On most sections though I did have some idea of what I was doing. The problem was with the program.

Every five minutes or so, the program running this online test decided it had to take me back to the beginning, or even before it. In other words, it transported me off the page with the questions on it and back to the page where I had clicked "proceed to test" or "ok" or whatever other things I did on my way to beginning the questions. Every time the program did this I would have to click my way back into the exam.

In the instructions for the test I read that it was suggested that one save after every ten questions or so. When I first got to the exam, I saw that there were "save" buttons next to every question. After the first five I clicked save by question number five, and then question ten when I got to that. Then the program did its first take-away. When I got back to the questions, the places where I had put in my first answers were blank - all except for questions five and ten. I was forced to click "save" by every single question.

In addition to having to save every one of my answers because of this program's hitch of taking me away from the test, the take-aways became increasingly harder to tolerate. As questions became more complex there was more for me to write in the blank before I could click save, and so if I was taken away from the test before completing my answer I would have to write it all again. And as I moved on down the answers, it took longer and longer for me to scroll from the beginning of test back down to the spot from which I was so rudely taken away. To top it all off - there were points where my teleports away from the test were unbearably frequent. At one point I counted that I was transported away from the test six times before being able to type out a single answer. The program gave me just enough time to reenter the test, scroll down to the question, and then boom! ... I was back at the "Welcome to the test" page.

Despite all these pains, I did in fact finish the test. And given its entirely objective structure, I was able to get my result immediately. Unsurprisingly, it said that I should be in Advanced French I - the class I was planning on going into all along. And so, the following day I preregistered for the classes I will take in my first semester of college. Here they are:

Advanced French I
Introduction to International Relations
History of Asian Cultures
Principles of Microeconomics
and a proseminar - classes taught by different members of the faculty on varying topics in ways designed to introduce us to college work and core concepts at the SFS

This may have been a very long and tedious way to go about saying it, but I'm really looking forward to college.


  1. I'm so excited that you have found a university that seems to fit you so well! I think you will be very interested in and challenged academically by your courses at GUSFS. I'll always be rooting for you, Peter! Go Hoyas! Love, Mum


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