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Freshman Files: Liberal arts on a block plan

March 5th, 2018

Today Amy J. shares her unique experience as a first-year student at Colorado College.  CC is one of only a handful of schools that operate on a block plan:  full immersion into a single course, devoting all energies to completing a semester’s work in 3 ½ weeks.  Over the course of the academic year, students complete just as many courses as they would in a traditional semester schedule.  The students and professor become a team, in a way, and as classes at Colorado College are small it’s quite a remarkable environment.

We’re grateful that Amy is willing to share her experience as a new student at Colorado College and wish her continued success and happiness ahead!

Academics: Block plan makes the academics at CC pretty intense. All freshmen start … with the First Year Experience (FYE), a two-block class of their choice … and the professors teaching FYE usually offer more help to these freshmen for their transition to college. My FYE was introduction to comparative literature, and it was especially challenging for me due to the fast pace of a “block” – we finished our discussion of a book in two to three days on average, and sometimes it was just one day for one book. The first week was probably the hardest: we finished Homer’s Iliad in five days! … But luckily, … I found our professor’s lecture so fascinating. … She also invited us to her house for the first Sunday’s brunch, and it was a great experience!

We had another professor teaching us for the second block of FYE …The reading load each day was still a challenge to me, but … I gained confidence in my writing through the paper grades and my two professors’ encouraging comments. …

The third block I took elementary French I, and … learning a language in a block was intense in that we had 3 hours of online practice as homework every day…

Activities: … My Priddy trip (a five-day outdoor and service trip mandatory for every new student to participate before school starts) to Santa Fe was actually my first time going overnight camping and seeing the starry, starry night. … The last night in Santa Fe national forest was my favorite – our group merged with another group that camped nearby, and sitting around a bonfire, we got to know each other, chatted, and asked our leaders questions about CC life. The ambience was fantastic. …

My next outdoor experience at CC was rock climbing on the first Saturday after school started. Again it was my first rock climbing experience – although it was scary at times when I couldn’t find a spot to place my feet, it was a lot of fun! From then on, I began to love this sport.

The third one was my FOOT trip, a 5-day backpacking trip during the first block break specially organized for freshmen to further experience the outdoors in Colorado. We went to a place called “Lost Creek Wilderness” and I was really impressed by the beautiful aspens whose leaves turned yellow in late September. The views were fantastic, as if in a dream. …

The fourth one was another rock-climbing in a nearby mountain. It was a trip included in the “rock school” – a class teaching rock climbing skills that I signed up for …

My fifth outdoor experience was phenomenal: I went on a 10-day road trip to several national parks with some other international students and some Americans who did not go back home during the Thanksgiving break. We went to Canyonlands National Park in Utah, Monument Valley and Grand Canyon in Arizona, and Zion and Bryce national parks in Utah. I witnessed, for so many times, the magic of mother Nature in this trip… Amazing. I was so so lucky. CC is definitely my place.

Something about CC’s outdoor culture:  The Outdoor Education Center is a big part at CC. Students can take trainings to become a backcountry level 1, 2 or even level 3 leader, or a leader in other tracks such as rock climbing and skiing. Then these student leaders can plan and lead their trips.  Students can simply sign up for a trip on “Summit” (a website) and most trips do not cost much. Therefore, people who love outdoor sports will definitely love CC!

Overall, my first semester at CC was wonderful and full of new and exciting experiences. I think that block breaks really give students a lot of opportunities to travel and to have fun. …

Though blocks are hard, my first semester’s experience clearly proved what I had said in my application essay: CC is my best fit.

Summer Plans

February 19th, 2018

The recent glimpse of springlike air coming into Kentucky has me daydreaming of warm summer days.  Summer is a great opportunity for students to take a break from their regularly scheduled academic activities and focus on developing themselves in other areas, or go deeper in an area of significant interest.  

Gaining experience through volunteer work, internships, travel, research and just taking time to read for pleasure are all important ways to reflect on who you are and begin to discover your purpose.  Of course, a little down time is important, too!

Many of our students already have their summer plans well under way.  My hope is that today’s article link from the College Board will help you brainstorm more ideas for summer activities that foster personal growth and development.  Making constructive use of much of your time in the summer should be your top consideration, and you’ll find myriad ways to do so.  

You can change the world.  Let your summer experiences help you build your capacity to do so.

Article below referenced from College Board

Summer break is a perfect opportunity for your students to gain experience through paid or volunteer jobs, internships and other summer activities — pursuits that can also demonstrate a student’s sense of responsibility to college admission officers. How can you help your students choose the most rewarding summer activities?

First, encourage students to talk to adults in their lives who can help them find activities that match their interests.

Read more at College Board >>

Juniors: open your eyes to scholarship opportunities

February 5th, 2018

Shrop Ed families know that despite urban myths, most scholarship assistance is offered by colleges directly.  Still, there are “external” scholarships for which students can apply, and their review processes are often highly competitive.

Most scholarship applications will be due in the fall, but there is one major scholarship deadline for juniors to pay attention to this spring:  that of the Bryan Cameron Education Foundation.  The Foundation limits the number of applications it will review for its Cameron Impact Scholarship and for that reason, it’s best to jump on the application well ahead of the posted May deadline.  The competition for these awards is daunting, as you’ll see when you read the statistics, yet we’re thrilled to have had two seniors in the Finalist round this year, one of whom was named a Cameron Impact Scholar!  Being a top student AND changing the world are important criteria for the award, and we’re thrilled to see intentional and excellent accomplishments recognized.

As we receive word of other major scholarship competitions, we’ll share information with the Shrop Ed community.  In the meantime, we urge all juniors interested in scholarship funding to set up an account on Cappex, which has a scholarship search engine that will match your profile to opportunities.


Read more at Bryan Cameron Education Foundation >>

Freshman Files: First year in Scotland

January 22nd, 2018

Winter break is a great time for college students to reflect on their first semester and their personal and academic growth while adapting to newfound freedom.  I love to use this opportunity to check in with former students and learn about their experiences thus far.  It is always great to hear how students navigate through this journey and understand the challenges that come along with this change.

Our first report this year on the transition to college is from Natasha, a first-year student at University of St Andrews, in Scotland.  She is the most recent Shrop Ed student to enroll at St Andrews and I am so pleased she has agreed to let us share her open and honest description of the first few months abroad.  What an exciting opportunity to gain perspective into her life as an international student.

I could write a book on this last semester–it’s been absolutely wonderful. Everything I hoped for and more. I’ve especially been enjoying the academics. I take International Relations, Arabic, and Philosophy, and I’m getting a joint degree in the first two. I got a job immediately and began working, which I highly recommend as it is the only way I know any locals in St Andrews. It’s also a really good way to meet older students. 

I can’t think of anything that didn’t go smoothly! Moving internationally is a logistical nightmare, but it’s completely manageable if you do everything in the right order. My visa, flight, baggage, cell phone plan, bank account, and tax forms pretty much got figured out without a hitch. This is the only time in life when I’ll be able to, quite literally, just up and move to a country of my choice without worrying about visas or jobs. And I don’t think I could have picked a better one than Scotland. The people are so kind, the countryside is gorgeous, and the cost of living is nothing compared to London, especially if your income is in pounds instead of dollars. 

My view of the world has changed a little, but it’s hard to say as I think I had a more international upbringing and mindset than most to begin with. But, for example, I know so much now about the atrocities the English committed in Scotland for hundreds of years, rather recently. Or, for example, how Churchill saved all the English soldiers at Dunkirk but left the Scottish 51st Highland Regiment to die on the beach. There’s a very interesting other side of the story, and the Scottish have definitely not forgotten it. It’s made me very curious about other sides of history in general. 

Just about St Andrews in general: My lecturers have been absolutely amazing. St Andrews has the top IR and Philosophy departments in the country (read: ahead of Oxford and Cambridge, which we’re very proud of), and the School of Modern Languages is just behind at second in the rankings. So I’ve been lucky enough to benefit from all the funding they’re receiving, which has especially reduced class sizes. I have tutorials with eight students and a professor or graduate student. I chose to have graduate students as tutors for IR and Philosophy because I was more interested in their specialties than the specialties of the professors, and I chose a professor for Arabic because I wanted someone who knew how to teach well. The social scene is very fun–I’m in McIntosh Hall, which is the best hall in terms of community and events. I am the Hall Sports Rep, which means I coordinate intramural type activities and get people to come compete for us. Even though it’s a small town, there are always tons of events going on. In the fall there are loads of balls–Opening ball, Welly ball, Reeling ball, and Christmas ball are very popular–and the spring is fashion show season. If you get bored of St Andrews, it’s really cheap and easy to get to Dundee or Edinburgh by train or bus. 

I honestly could not recommend St Andrews enough. I’ve had the type of first semester where I’m getting worried about the second, because it couldn’t possibly top the first. 

We’re grateful to Natasha for allowing us to share her insights – especially impressive is her note about her new understanding of history, now viewing it through a new lens.  Wishing you continued success and happiness, Natasha!

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