Visiting the Tigers and, Of Course, Benjamin Franklin
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Stuyvesant’s Senior Caucus hosted a tour of Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania on August 19, 2023. Fifty Stuyvesant students, ranging from rising sophomores to seniors, and four parent chaperones met at Stuyvesant in the morning to take a coach bus to the college campuses. The event marked the first college tour open to the entire school since pre-COVID times. Since it was hosted directly by the presidents of the Senior Caucus, students were expected to pay $31 per ticket, which was used solely to cover the cost of the coach bus and tip.
To many students, this opportunity was a relatively affordable option. “The UPenn and Princeton tour was to give Stuy kids interested in those universities a feel for their campuses. It was incredibly convenient because of how affordable the whole tour was—only $31, which I thought was super awesome,” senior Erica Liu said in an e-mail interview.
Senior Caucus Co-Presidents Anthony Chen and Zidane Karim had long been planning the event. “As soon as we were elected, [government teacher and Coordinator of Student Affairs Matthew] Polazzo started talking to us about plans, and he mentioned that one of the things that previous caucuses did was college tours, but that was a long, long time ago,” Karim said. “COVID definitely [interrupted] it, and then after that, [the problem] was finances.”
The students were given a combination of group alumni-led tours and self-guided tours once they were on campus. “At UPenn, we had a Stuy and Penn alum give us a tour, and then we gave the attendees some time to either go on a tour themselves or eat lunch,” Chen said. “All the attendees had freedom [at Princeton]; they could tour and go wherever they wanted.”
The tour differed from past tours in that it was not directly in partnership with the college office or Stuyvesant Parent Association (PA). “Our Junior Caucus reached out to the college office, and the college office said that because the majority of these schools are so selective, they don’t want to sponsor these trips [where] it’ll make [students] feel like those schools are the only schools they should strive for,” Karim said. “So instead, what I did was we found this bus company that worked with the school a lot […] and I reached out to him about the bus planning, he found the bus company for us, and we just started working with him.”
All in all, the Senior Caucus considered the event to be a success. “This was the first time that I managed such a big event like this, especially one that involves a coach bus, so I was really surprised to see how nice[ly] everything came together[,] how much the chaperones helped me and how well the event overall went,” Chen said. “Also, for the college tour experience, this was my first college tour ever. I really liked the experience of having more freedom to explore the campus and also being able to give Stuy [students] opportunities to do that.”
Students also enjoyed the duality between the freedom they were given at Princeton to complete a self-guided tour and the more structured tour at the University of Pennsylvania. “The freedom to explore the school on our own definitely was a highlight for me. Being able to separate from the group and see unique things on my own was really nice,” senior Bishesh Shah said. “At UPenn, we got an incredible tour guide. He was open to all sorts of questions, from dorm[s] to socializing to academics, [such as] where is the library, what are the best classes to take as an incoming freshman, and stuff along those lines. Even though he was an older alum of Stuyvesant and UPenn, he was very knowledgeable about the field and definitely made me more excited about entering college.”
Despite the generally positive feedback, some participants felt that the college tours should mainly be given to rising seniors. “I would say just make it a rising senior thing because this year, they also let rising sophomores go on the college tour, and that was a really big hassle for us because they got lost, and when we were all trying to meet up to go back to the bus, we couldn’t find them and they couldn’t find us,” senior Karen Chen said.
Looking ahead, Chen and Karim plan to host similar events soon. “We decided to bring it back on our own, and we’re open to hosting more in the future. It’s mostly based on bus availability and scheduling,” Karim said. “We were thinking of having another one in October again, except by then I know a lot of students will have already started working on their applications and probably finalized their college lists. So while the college visits could probably help, I don’t think anyone would be using them to solidify a new school.”
To avoid seating conflicts, particularly for seniors who will be applying to colleges this school year, and therefore have the most need for an event like this, the Senior Caucus plans to alter some of the logistics of the event planning process. “To push marketing and make sure that we could host the trip for everyone, because we didn’t want to cancel the trip and have to refund everyone their money, we decided to open it up to all grades,” Karim said. “I know that the amount of underclassmen that went on the trip might have hindered the experience for some. Moving forward, I think what we are going to try to do is do a longer planning and sign-up stage so that we can ensure that most seniors can go on it.”
Overall, the caucus event proved to be successful for the student body and many are in anticipation of upcoming tours. “It was a super well done, well-planned event,” Shah said. “They shocked me in an extremely good way, […] and I’m excited to see the other events that they are going to hold.”