Moments of Gratitude on Day of Service

What do you think most college students are doing at 8:00 on a Saturday morning? I’ll admit: It can be difficult to start your weekends at an early hour. For the past five days, exams, club meetings and coffee breaks with friends have overwhelmed your schedule. For many students like myself, a Saturday morning is the time to get some rest and relax before another busy week. There is one Saturday morning in particular, however, that has students focused on something different.

Every September, the St. Thomas of Villanova Day of Service gives Villanova students the opportunity to give back to the community surrounding our university. When I signed up for Day of Service with my freshman orientation group, I remember feeling a little hesitant. Do I really want to get up that early on a Saturday? What kind of work are we going to be doing? Can one person really make that big a difference?

I had an absolute blast during my first Day of Service. I remember spreading mulch around a newly built playground in Philadelphia and picking thousands of weeds out of a community garden. Of course, I’ll never forget how appreciative the people were to receive our help, but what was just as rewarding were the memories I had made during that day. Freshman year, it was great to spend the day with the first friends I had made at Villanova. Sophomore year, I became even closer with members of my sorority who I thought I already knew. I saw that by working as a team, we were able to do something that much greater than ourselves, and the ability to see exactly how I can make a difference is comparable to that extra hour of sleep.

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Villanova University takes great pride in its dedication to service, and Day of Service represents just a slice of all the work students contribute. What I love most about Day of Service, however, is how much it reminds me of how grateful I am to be a member of the Nova Nation. One of my goals recently has been to focus more on the things I do have as compared to the things I might want. Nobody’s life is perfect, and as we complain about a stressful assignment or an argument with a friend, it’s important that we take a moment to look around and see what we already have. I have great friends. I am receiving an excellent education. I can make the choice to sleep in on a Saturday morning. Day of Service reminds me to not only embrace what I have, but help those who might not have what they need.

As I finish up my third year participating in Day of Service, I am that much more humbled by the work the Villanova community has done to help the larger one. There is nothing better than knowing you can make a difference in someone’s life. I can never fully repay Villanova for the opportunities it has given me, but I can use those opportunities to give back to someone else. Looking around and seeing the difference my friends and I can make in someone’s life is what makes picking weeds, spilled jars of paint, and one less hour of sleep completely worth it.

When Streaming Brings You Together

The Emmys are coming up this week, which means we’ll all have the opportunity to hash out which shows we think are the best with friends and family. If you’re anything like me, and you don’t watch Game of Thrones, you probably are feeling just as much of a social pariah as I am right about now as well. Thinking about how many group-viewing sessions I have missed out on because of this is quite impressive – this show has some really dedicated followers! There are full coffee houses that have been rented out to view the next episode of GOT in Copenhagen, which never ceases to astonish me. It’s impressive how much one show can bring people together. Whether it’s with your friends or family, there’s something comforting about gathering to watch your favorite drama or sitcom.

For my family, this would be 60 Minutes.

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Yup, that’s right. It’s that show that your old uncle probably watches. It’s been running since 1968 on CBS, and is still running strong. From the age of 7, I can recall watching news pieces about advancements in technology, interviews with famous politicians or celebrities and tensions overseas. It soon became ingrained in me that after Andy Rooney’s segment was finished, I could have Sunday dinner.

When I was in high school, I would get so annoyed with this tradition. My parents always made a point of calling us downstairs, informing us it was time for 60 Minutes. I would moan and groan about how it took too long to watch the whole program through, and that I was always too hungry by the time it was over. I always pretended I had better things to do, like homework (a classic high school excuse). But as I spent more time at college, I began to realize how much I missed such a tradition. I missed taking the time out of my day for just something I did with my family. I missed talking about what Leslie Stahl reported on at dinner, or joking around about something we learned about a beloved politician. For some reason, despite all of my complaining, I missed Andy Rooney.

I wanted to have a tradition like this at school, but didn’t know what to do. Luckily, in the midst of a conversation about how much I love Sophia Bush, I learned I could record real-time television shows online, right in my dorm room. Needless to say, this changed my life.

The girl who I was discussing Sophia Bush with then informed me that she records Chicago PD and watches it on Sunday (and that we should watch it together)! Again, this changed my life.

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So, that Sunday, we watched the new Chicago PD in her dorm room, with her laptop up on her desk for an optimal viewing position. And the Sunday after that, the next one. This then became our new tradition.

This is when I learned that family traditions don’t have to stop at your family’s front door. You can bring them with you, change them, alter them and make new ones. It doesn’t have to be in your family’s kitchen where you have your favorite dish for your birthday –it may turn into a tradition you start with your new family at Villanova, eating it your friend’s apartment. I didn’t have the comfort of my own family room, but I was able to create that tradition with a friend I now consider family, in a dorm room in Sheehan.

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To Apply Early, Or Not?

wildcat compWith the school year starting for high school seniors, things may seem somewhat busier than usual.  There are first meetings for your teams and activities.  Things can also seem daunting as your teachers discuss what needs to happen during your first days of classes.  And, of course, things can seem more pressing as this is your final year of high school. Added to that, completing college applications is a new task that is now on your radar.  You may still be deciding if you will be applying Early Action, Early Decision, or during the Regular Decision period. In today’s blog, we will provide some information that will hopefully help in that decision.

Up until this year, Villanova offered students the option of applying through our Early Action Program (deadline November 1) or through Regular Decision (deadline January 15).  New for this year, Villanova has added the option for students to apply Early Decision (deadline also on November 1).  We will tackle EA and RD first.

In previous years, I would advise students to wait to apply during Regular Decision if they believed that an improvement in their senior year grades or an improvement in either the SAT or ACT would help support their case for admission. Compared to many other schools, our EA program has proven to be more competitive compared to RD. At other schools, the reverse can be true.

pooh thinkingKnowing that it may be more competitive, students often ask about the benefits of applying EA.  Students have the advantage of knowing that they are admitted in late December. Students could certainly use that extra time to explore Villanova further, to explore their other options, to search for scholarships and to examine their financial aid packages, among other things. Also, to emphasize, EA is not a binding agreement, so students have until May 1 to make their decision to attend Villanova or to go elsewhere.  Students admitted under RD have just over a month to make their decision, a much tighter window.

Another idea to clarify is the notion of demonstrated interest.  Please see a previous post where we talk about this specifically. At other colleges, applying Early Action is a great way to indicate that a school is your first choice. Please keep in mind that when we are reviewing applications in committee, we do not use interest as a factor in making our decisions. While we certainly love knowing that you hold Villanova in such high regard, this will not affect your decision during the EA or RD process.

This brings us to Early Decision and part of the reason our office decided to offer it as an option beginning this year. As mentioned, we were not using interest as a factor during EA and RD. Many of us in the Admission Office felt badly that we were not rewarding students who really wanted to be a part of Villanova’s community. Early Decision allows us to change that.

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If you are unfamiliar with the difference with ED and EA, know that the ED process includes a binding agreement. So should you be admitted under the ED process (notifications will be released on December 15), you must withdraw all other applications from other schools and submit your non-refundable matriculation deposit by January 15.

Early Decision is certainly for students who have Villanova as their clear first choice for college.  Additionally, if financial aid packages or academic scholarships are major factors in your decision, our office advises that you do not apply as part of the ED process, as that information will be made available after you would need to make your decision.

As this is the first year that Villanova is offering ED, we do not have statistics that we could share with you about ED specifically.  However, please see last year’s statistics on EA and RD.

We will look forward to receiving your application!

Wildcat Abroad: Lessons Learned in Europe

It was the usual drive to the airport. Flying between Philadelphia and San Francisco at least four times a year, I feel like a professional. I know where to eat, what my usual gate is and how much time to leave myself to get through security. But instead of pulling up to my beloved American Airlines gate, I pulled up to the International terminal. I looked at my ticket for Scandinavian Airlines and felt unsettled. It reminded me much of the feeling I had when I left to start my first year at Villanova. The feeling of intimidation and excitement, knowing that the next adventure would hold some struggles and produce some precious moments.

 

I looked out of my window, nearing the end of the 11-hour flight, and instead of seeing a wooded Main Line landscape evolve into a Philadelphia city-scape, I saw wind turbines in the middle of the ocean. I saw lush flatlands of the greenest grass I’ve ever seen. I saw the weaving waterways and canals that help define Copenhagen’s geography.

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Instead of moving into Good Counsel on South Campus, I was moving into a quintessential European flat, positioned right above a coffee shop on one of the busiest streets in Copenhagen. With no Orientation Leaders to help us in, my flatmates and I struggled to pull our 50-pound bags up the staircases. All I wanted in this moment was to leave my bags in my room and go to Connelly to grab a caramel iced coffee with my best friends. I wanted familiarity and comfort. I wanted my best friends with me to help me navigate a new, overwhelming city where they spoke a funky language.

 

The first few days in the city, I felt like a tourist. Everything was still so new, classes hadn’t started and I was still meeting so many new people in my program. I kept forgetting what the time change was, annoyed my friends wouldn’t respond until a few hours later because I texted them at 3 a.m. I treated my first week here like a vacation, too turned around to go grocery shopping. I didn’t understand what the labels meant, the currency still felt like Monopoly money and I didn’t know what my schedule would be like yet. I couldn’t tell what was “expensive” for a coffee, and what was simply unreasonable. I then thought to myself, if I can figure out the differences between meals, points and MPES, I can figure this out. Once you get the acronym down (Meal Plan Express), you understand it’s just like a meal but you use it at the grab-and-go options. I have now figured out the easy conversion for Danish Kroner to US dollars (you just type it into Google).

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During my first day of classes, I started to feel more confident after seeing more familiar faces on my way to class and was very excited about all of the classes I would be taking (with the possible exception of Danish – nothing sounds remotely familiar!). After my first day of class, however, I came back to my flat and questioned what I was doing.

 

I saw photos and Snapchats of all of my friends reuniting after a summer apart. I saw all of the fun times they were having without me, all of the memories they would be making that I was missing out on. I longed to be in my apartment on West Campus with my friends, watching a movie or talking about something funny that happened on my way to class. I wanted to be where comfort and familiarity were. Yet, I had to remind myself of how I felt my first week at Villanova – that despite all of the kind people I’d met, engaging professors I’d learned from and exciting experiences I’d had, I still felt scared.

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Now, with Villanova feeling like home, I can see that these intimidating experiences often lead us to the most rewarding journeys. Once an incoming freshman, scared to move across the country, I now think of Villanova as one of the most comforting places to me. Now, a junior in an unfamiliar city in a different continent, I’m excited to see where this journey leads me. I look at how much I’ve grown since enrolling at Villanova, and I hope that this experience abroad will only help me further what I’ve learned.

 

Although nothing can replace the feeling of sitting by the Oreo with some of your best friends, nothing can replace the feeling of taking class in the middle of a beautiful European metropolis – both experiences will help shape an unforgettable college experience.