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Ask a TASPer

Ask a TASPer

We have tried to answer as many questions about the program as we can on our FAQ page, but for some questions we thought you might like to hear the perspectives of recent TASPers instead.

Below are some common questions we hear, but we like the questions to come from you! If you have a question to ask TASP alumni, please send it to tasp-queries@tellurideassociation.org with “AAT” in the subject line, and we’ll do the rest. Check back periodically for new questions and new answers to old questions.

What did you like most about TASP?

Obaid (Oklahoma, UT Austin TASP ’09) writes:

Without hesitation, I would say the thoughtful, warmhearted, and creative individuals I met made the program an extraordinary experience. We meet people every day in our lives, but seldom do we get to know them at such a deep level. I ended up writing more than eighty pages of reflection in my journal, triggered by the atmosphere they created. Truly, it is this interaction that brings about the best learning experience: we all arrive as individuals and leave taking a part of each person with us.

Sarah (Michigan, Cornell TASP ’08) writes:

The best part for me was a simultaneous sense of belonging and diversity of ideas. In other parts of life it felt like in order to be part of something you had to be the same as everyone around you, but at TASP you were part of something because you weren’t the same.

Douglas (Florida, University of Texas TASP ’09) writes:

I really loved the people I met in TASP. The other students were wonderful academically and personally; they were extremely engaged, enjoyed talking long into the night about our ideas and beliefs, and formed a close bond in just the six week span of the program. The professors were also very good, because they knew their subjects, and were very inviting; the factotums were a little bit like peer mentors, and helped to keep the fun somewhat organized.

What is a typical day like at TASP?

Achyut (Arizona, UMich TASP ’09) writes:

I would get ready in the morning, grab some breakfast, and walk to our seminar at about 9:00. Seminar ended at noon, and we would walk back to our house and have a group lunch, often with our professors. If we didn’t have a guest speaker or outing previously planned, I would work on some reading and possibly go to the library, and then we would all end up doing something fun at night.

Maia (New York, UMich TASP ’09) writes:

There really is no such thing as a “typical” day at TASP since every TASP is so different. However, all TASPers attend seminar every weekday morning for three hours, and mealtimes are usually communal. Expect to spend a portion of the afternoon reading, but there is always more than enough time for leisurely activities in addition to the required scholarly pursuits.

Michael (Deep Springs, Michigan TASP ’08) writes:

The day starts groggily over breakfast, during which discussion of the previous night’s lights-off hide-and-go-seek game prevails. Seminar is a few blocks walk away and ends at noon, when we all have lunch. The afternoon is spent with a planned activity (canoeing, for example), an impromptu soccer game, hikes, field trips, card games, or course work in the library. Sometimes we’d meet at the gym for a swim, workout, or game of racquetball before dinner (don’t worry, I didn’t play before I got there either). We might have a guest speaker over for dinner, and then hear her/him talk afterward, before settling in with a movie, house meeting, or reading for the rest of the night.

How did TASP affect your college plans?

Trey (Oklahoma, Cornell I TASP ’09) writes:

TASP definitely confirmed my desire for a highly intellectual environment, and showed me that a place like Cornell and other similar institutions were a good fit for me. Seminar also showed me that I really have an affinity for philosophy; and since TASP, I have been looking much more into Humanities than I would have without the experience!

Ben (Michigan, Cornell TASP ’09) writes:

TASP allowed me the unique opportunity to become intimately acquainted with Cornell, an opportunity I likely would not have had through any other program. As a result, I applied to Cornell and to the House and am strongly considering attending. Further, the professors at TASP, in their conversations with us, helped me determine what I truly desire in a college.

Lisa (Delaware, UT-Austin TASP ’09) writes:

Prior to TASP, I half-expected everyone to be considering the most competitive colleges in the nation–and this was actually true for the most part. TASPers tend to be an ambitious lot. For me, the lifelong friends I made at TASP definitely influenced my decision to not apply Early Decision to any college, keeping my options open instead of making an early commitment. (Many of my fellow TASPers did apply ED, but I don’t regret my personal decision one whit.)

Was the seminar what you expected?

Michael (Deep Springs, Michigan TASP ’08) writes:

My seminar, The Environment and Our Health, wasn’t actually my first choice. But once I got there, I was surprised by the interesting material and the professors, who worked hard to engage the students and bring them into discussion. Debating the ethics of DDT use, visiting brown-fields and great lakes on field trips, and reading policy proposals opened my eyes to a field of study I had never considered and made me aware of the greater implications of economic development and growth.

Charlie (California, Cornell II TASP ’09) writes:

My seminar far surpassed any of the seemingly earthly expectations that I had. I found in the seminar a stimulation that was both intellectual and emotional in nature, and was surprised by how rapidly a topic that was so foreign became so personal.

Lucas (Ohio, UT Austin TASP ’08) writes:

My TASP seminar started out pretty much as I’d expected, but it soon took a whole new form. We soon found ourselves down different (and exciting) avenues of inquiry that neither us nor our professors could have foreseen. The relationship between professors and TASPers is key; in many ways it defines the TASP/seminar experience as a whole.

How did TASP compare with your high school classes and extracurricular activities?

Lisa (Delaware, UT-Austin TASP ’09) writes:

I’ve been lucky to find a few intellectually-minded friends at my high school, but what struck me about TASP was the normalcy of intellectual conversation. At school, my friends prefer to quickly end intense discussions; at TASP, we might complain about the preponderance of Truth, but no one ever interfered to stop a serious conversation (humorous distractions were another matter).

Jane (California, UT Austin TASP ’09) writes:

TASP was a whole new experience for me. I attend a relatively large public school, where a class usually has more than 30 students. TASP seminar was engaging, tight-knit and personal, and I could express my opinions freely without the fear of others judging me.

Marybeth (Pennsylvania, UT TASP ’09) writes:

Seminar at TASP was active; everyone contributed to conversation, challenged each other, and brought up interesting points that forced me to think in a way I never have before. Readings and writing assignments have purposes, and through each I grew as a writer, reader, and thinker. Apart from being wholly challenging, TASP is also ridiculously enjoyable. People are incredibly interesting, funny, and caring; each person is “that person” in her own high school, the one that continues to surprise and impress everyone around her. There is no way that my sleepy rural high school could ever compare.

Kyle (California, Cornell I 2008) writes:

While my high school classes and extracurricular activities were challenging and rewarding in a traditional sense, my experience as a TASPer was challenging and rewarding in an extra-ordinary sense. My peers in high school cared more about getting by successfully in a system that was designed for them, not about their own creative and intellectual autonomy. TASP was different. At TASP my peers and I created our own system, using the collective energy of a community of exceptional people to uncover something intellectually intense about ourselves, within ourselves, and for ourselves. I can say that what I learned and experienced in high school shaped who I was before TASP, but after TASP, I began to identify myself using a different method: my own.

How hard was the coursework?

Jonathan (Pennsylvania, UT Austin TASP ’09) writes:

The coursework was challenging but not overwhelming. One of the best things about the TASP environment academically for me was the fact that everyone else was always available to swap ideas about how to approach the assignments, and this made everything more enjoyable, even late nights writing papers. I think my coursework was hard in the sense that I had to do things I had never done before—like interview total strangers and analyze philosophy–and that was more of an exciting challenge than it was a burden.

Maia (New York, UMich TASP ’09) writes:

The coursework was challenging in the sense that there was quite a bit of reading (approximately 20 to 60 pages per night for my TASP) and that it was of the sort rarely encountered in a high school setting, but the assignments were for the most part very compelling and enjoyable. The writing was very open-ended and was more of a chance to meditate further on the discussions held in seminar than a concrete assignment for evaluative purposes.

Are you still in touch with the people from your TASP?

Roy (California, UT Austin TASP ’08) writes:

Absolutely: some of my strongest friendships were forged at TASP. After the program, my TASP started a blog to keep in touch, and many of us wrote letters and lengthy emails to each other. We also have had many opportunities to meet up to see each other after the program in person, which is remarkable, considering that many of us live in very different parts of the country.

Obaid (Oklahoma, UT Austin TASP ’09) writes:

Already, my fellow taspers have had many visits and reunions. Whenever we visit a state another TASPer lives in, we always holla. I went up north for college visits this year, and set up some rendezvous with friends. It’s insane how spending 6 weeks with strangers made them closer friends than people who I had known for years. There is not one thing we haven’t done to stay in touch. With the technology boom of this era, it seems likely that I’ll know ’em for the rest of my life!

When you applied, did you have a clear idea about your plans for your future? Did TASP change your future plans?

Sarah (Michigan, Cornell TASP ’08) writes:

When I applied to TASP I had a lot of really specific plans about what college I wanted to go to and what I wanted to become–I was planning on going to a local state school or community college and majoring in something practical rather than something I enjoyed, actually. Going to TASP taught me to expect more out of myself and gave me a better idea of my own abilities, so when I started filling out applications I ended up choosing a completely different college that I never would have considered before, and I’m incredibly thankful for that.

Sonya (Chicago, Cornell TASP ’09) writes:

Going into TASP, I had no idea about what I wanted to do in the future — I even wrote one of my essays about that! I suppose I wasn’t looking for a clear-cut answer to my career questions at TASP; rather, I expected to have my eyes opened to something new or to ideas I hadn’t though about in certain ways. And although I still don’t know in which direction my future will take me, I can say that I was definitely influenced by TASP to begin leaning towards a more humanitarian career.

Aaron (California, Cornell TASP ’09) writes:

I personally had a quite lucid vision for my future plans in the field of law, which was reflected in my TASP application. Indeed, having these plans was actually part of the reason I ranked my TASP seminar (which was about criminal justice) in particular as my first choice. TASP did not significantly change my future plans; indeed, the topics presented in my seminar increased my burden for the career path that I have chosen, and solidified my resolve to accomplish my goals in that area of expertise.

Keyanah (New Jersey, Cornell TASP ’09) writes:

Before TASP, I had every intention of studying Spanish when I went to college. I also entertained the idea of going to law school and studying law. After TASP, however, I realized that I had a very surprising affinity for philosophy and critical theory, so after having just been admitted to my dream college, I’m thinking about majoring in either Philosophy or Gender and Sexuality studies. In some ways, TASP helped me learn to appreciate the power and significance of human thought and rationality, and being surrounded by so many beautiful minds also made me realize that I wanted a life in which I could surround myself with people who were also interested in thought. I now want to be a professor, and although it may be a bit cliche, I want my chance to try to inspire young minds and create a new appreciation for thinking simply for thinking’s sake.

Douglas (Florida, University of Texas TASP ’09) writes:

When I applied, I had no clear idea about my plans for the future, but TASP motivated me to begin making plans. I met amazing people, some who were clearly better students than me, and I started solidifying my own plans for the future.

Were all group activities mandatory? How did you deal with activities that didn't interest you very much?

Maia (New York, UMich TASP ’09) writes:

Several group activities are mandatory, including seminar, guest lectures, PubSpeaks, and house meetings, but these were never a chore to attend. Other activities were optional, but I found myself participating in a majority of them simply because being with such a great group of people made everything fun and interesting. However, if there is an activity in which you really do not want participate, it is not too hard to find other things to do. After all, there’s always reading to be done for seminar!

Marybeth (Pennsylvania, UT TASP ’09) writes:

It varies, really. Usually we would vote on activities to do as a group during weekly house meetings (e.g. go to Blazer Tag, the movies, Barton Springs, etc.), and if a majority of people voted to go to an event, then we all went together. There were some other things that were mandatory for everyone, like seminar, PubSpeaks, community service activities, and guest presentations, but these are all things we wanted to attend, so it wasn’t a big deal. Also, there are plenty of group things that people did that weren’t at all mandatory for the whole group; going to the gym, grabbing junk food at 7-11, going to a Spoon concert, going shopping downtown, etc. Basically, it’s a mixture–one with which few people have problems.

How would you describe the living arrangements at your TASP?

Jane (California, UT TASP ’09) writes:

The eighteen of us plus two factota lived in a beautiful sorority house on UT Austin Campus. Four people were assigned to a suite that included a sink, bathroom, and two rooms. There were many common rooms in the house for all TASPers to hang out together and engage in some deep conversation. We had delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner fully prepared by the house staff every day (except on Sundays).

Roy (California, UT TASP ’08) writes:

The first word that came to my mind when trying to answer this question: mansion. The sorority house at UT we stayed in was well-furnished and large. We all stayed in suites of four, with two rooms of two people per suite. We each had a bed and a desk, and we all shared a bathroom and a refrigerator. We spent most of our time in the house, which had many spacious rooms, televisions, comfortable chairs and sofas, and a looking pool. We also had access to the nearby gym and library. I never had any issues finding a place to do work or to socialize with someone else. Privacy never became a problem for me.

What level of supervision did you receive?

Lisa (Delaware, UT-Austin TASP ’09) writes:

The level of freedom I experienced at TASP was remarkable compared to other summer programs that I had attended in the past. This is not a “camp,” although the factota are somewhat analogous to camp counselors. Of course we had house rules and curfew–no bedtime, just stay in the house–but very few days were fully “scheduled” (and even those usually gave us the evening free, for homework and socializing).

Six weeks away from my musical instrument would be very difficult for me. Have you ever had serious musicians (I mean scales/etudes every morning, pre-dawn usually!) attend? -- dedicated double bassist

Elston (California, UT TASP ’08) writes:

Well I’m a pianist, and during TASP I definitely managed to put in a good deal of time practicing piano – there will definitely be a place for you to practice, as well as people willing to listen. Transporting your instrument will probably be the biggest struggle, but more significantly, it may be hard to tear yourself away from your fellow TASPers. I came in rather motivated to practice daily, especially because I had a major event soon after TASP, and this motivation is possible to sustain; during the latter half of TASP, I maybe practiced an hour a day. Thus, TASP should not be a major obstacle in terms of maintaining yourself as a musician.

Sarah (Michigan, Cornell TASP ’08) writes:

My TASP had a number of dedicated musicians at it. My roommate played the double bass, but was unable to bring it with her from home, so we used part of our budget to rent one for her. She and a number of our other TASPers ended up forming a little jazz band. On any given night you could hear piano, violin, and even saxophone coming from different parts of the House.

Ben (Michigan, Cornell TASP ’09) writes:

At Cornell last year we were fortunate to have three musicians in residence: a pianist, a violinist, and a guitarist/vocalist. All three were quite diligent about practicing, and their level of public involvement varied. Our violinist primarily practiced in his room, but at times would open his door for all to hear. Our pianist was at first somewhat shy about public performance, but listening to her practice each day while reading was divine, and her accompaniment for various musical escapades was very enjoyable. Our guitarist/vocalist was a delight to hear practicing, and she found inspiration in our seminar that led her to compose several songs.

I would advise the questioner that TASP is an excellent place for musicians and that the community as a whole is very open to listening to practicing and performance. If the questioner is rather private about practicing, perhaps TASP will at first be somewhat difficult, as people are very eager to share in whatever others are doing or experiencing. Therefore, I would advise the questioner to approach the program with an open heart and an open door in an effort to share the experience and emotion of music with the fellow TASPers. (I am a french hornist, though I chose to leave my interest at home while doing the program primarily due to the hassle of transporting in on an airplane.)

Marybeth (Pennsylvania, UT TASP ’09) writes:

I am a fairly serious musician (I don’t wake up at 7 a.m. to hit the chromatic scales and arpeggio exercises, but I do attend a local music conservatory and participate in a lot of ensembles), but it wasn’t an issue for me not to be able to practice daily, since I didn’t apply to music schools. I think it’s very possible to devote a block of time to practicing your instrument regularly if it’s important to you, but your first priority should definitely be getting to know the incredible people you’re living with and the topic you’re studying.

I notice everyone who answered the questions are from the U.S.; about how many out of 60 kids were from other countries? Did a good amount of diversity exist? Any cultural exchanges?

Audrey (Virginia, Cornell TASP 2010) writes:

I considered my TASP diverse not only in nationalities, but in life experiences. One of my fellow TASPers kept bees for a living, while another was part of an anarchist collective that delivered books to prison inmates. Cultural diversity was also present, however–there were teens from Macedonia, China, and Brazil!

Ben (Michigan, Cornell TASP ’09) writes:

While I don’t know the specific number of students who attend the program from outside of the US, in my program there were students from South Korea, China, and Turkey. A great amount of diversity exists in each program, and the students from within the U.S. come from a variety of traditions. As such, a central aspect of the program is the experience of living and learning within a diverse community.

I was wondering, how are the boys and the girls separated in the house that they live in? Do boys sleep on one floor and girls on another? (We also asked responders to comment more broadly on their interactions with each other.)

Maia (New York, Michigan TASP 2009) writes:

During my TASP, we all lived together on one floor. Roommates were all the same sex and boys and girls shared different bathrooms from each other.

Marcus (Florida, Cornell TASP 2010) writes:

Life at TASP is very difficult to encapsulate. Essentially all of the decisions made in the house that impact the lives of TASPers are made by TASPers. That’s one of the unique things about TASP, anyone who has an idea about… anything, really, can suggest it in House meeting and get it adopted by a committee.

Bea (New York, Cornell TASP 2010) writes:

At my TASP we organized everything from a hair-dying extravaganza to a soccer tournament to a trip to the local children’s garden for volunteering. Almost everything that happens at a TASP happens because someone decides they will figure out how to make it work.

I'm curious as to how many of you were speech and debaters, more specifically extemporaneous speakers.

Peter (Utah, UT Austin TASP 2010) writes:

At my TASP, there was a large group of speech and debate students, though probably not a majority. Overall, debaters are fairly common–probably because debate is one of the more intellectual activities in high school. More specifically, the Public Speaking component of TASP is basically an extemporaneous speech with a few weeks to prepare, for which my speech experience (Policy, Public Forum, Extemporaneous) unmistakably prepared me.

Tucker (Louisiana, Cornell TASP ’10) writes:

I know that we had at least one person who was actively involved in a school debate team/program. However, he did Lincoln-Douglas debates. As a matter of fact, his pubspeak was on LD debates. But if you want the honest truth, we were all debaters before the end of the program. :)

How important is it to follow strict formal essay-writing rules like an all-encompassing introduction? Should we also use only formal writing and avoid using contractions? Or should it be more of a free-flowing essay?

Ella (New Jersey, UT Austin TASP ’09) writes:

I would say you definitely should not constrain yourself to formalisms, especially with the personal (non-analysis) essays. As with most writing, the important thing is to express what you are trying to get across clearly, so as long as the “liberties” you take do not distract from your ideas, I think that you should choose a form and style that serves you best. I remember my essays being pretty casual in that I included unusual phrasings etc, because I thought those were the best words to convey my ideas — according to how I actually thought them, instead of according to some external vocabulary or structure.

Karen (New York, Cornell II TASP ’10) writes:

Just be yourself in all your eloquence and personality. So whatever method works better for you, formal writing or free-flowing, just go with it. Of course, use personal discretion when displaying your personality!

Is the coursework difficult?

Amanda (Missouri, Cornell TASP ’10) writes:

Well, I’m sure the difficulty of the coursework varies from professor to professor. In my seminar, we had reading assignments every night and group discussions every day. We wrote two major papers and did a couple of smaller assignments. One was an art project, and that was really fun. Our coursework was challenging, but not insurmountably difficult. In my opinion, the group discussion was actually more difficult (and more rewarding) than the coursework.

Ho Jun (Brazil, UMich TASP ’11) writes:

Yes. We read various texts that are often discussed at the undergraduate (and some even the graduate) level. We had several pages of reading to do every single day and a weekly essay to boot. But, ultimately the work, despite being challenging, was extremely rewarding and an intellectual experience as stimulating and rewarding as TASP is hard to come by.

Rachel (Ohio, Cornell TASP ’11) writes:

On any given evening, our seminar might require 10 to 200 pages of reading (though usually on the lower end). Although the coursework was very interesting (and different from anything I’d studied before), it never seemed overwhelming or too difficult. After all, there are different kinds of reading, and our professors understood that: you can read 150 pages of a good novel in one night; for more academic, philosophical material like Judith Butler, 40 or 50 pages works better. Moreover, seminar work at TASP didn’t feel like “homework” – it was part of our lives, something we talked and joked about even when we didn’t have to. Reading philosophy doesn’t feel like work at all when you’re on the porch of the Telluride House with five other people who are reading the same thing!

Jacob (Maryland, UMich TASP ’11) writes:

The work at TASP challenged me, but not in an off-putting way. The daily reading assignments averaged around 50-120 pages of dense material, but the texts were certainly worth the read. The other major component of the coursework, writing papers, was again thought-provoking but intense. Within the seminar itself, creatively contributing to discussions and occasionally leading them was the only classwork. Importantly, none of the assignments remotely resembled mindless “busy work”; I never had to rote memorize something or to do repetitive tasks. Though not for the faint of heart, someone who loves to learn will definitely enjoy the work at TASP.

Alaa (Texas, UT Austin ’10) writes:

I attended the UT Austin program in 2010 and our seminar focused on cultural and public diplomacy, mainly with the Middle East. The coursework was challenging and extensive, but it was very rewarding. One of the best things about TASP is that it isn’t a competitive atmosphere; everyone is there to learn. In that sense, you are encouraged to ask questions and swap ideas to get a better grasp of the material. Class discussions were based on the readings, and the professors were more than willing to answer questions, clarify ideas, and give their opinions on certain texts. The more you delve into the reading, the more enjoyable the discussions are because you get to present your views and support them with text, which is a valuable tool you can use the rest of your academic career. Take it as a chance to challenge yourself, decode the assignments and relate them to other texts from the class. It will make your experience that much more enjoyable.

What did you do for fun when you were done studying and reading? Did you have free days?

Matt (Oregon, Cornell TASP ’10) writes:

There’s definitely free time, though free days might be pushing it. What you do to have fun is basically up to you. Our TASP planned soccer games, volunteering, movies, trips to professors’ houses and to waterfalls; not to mention plenty of things inside the Telluride House (hint: a lot of foosball was involved). But you should know that the biggest part of your time will probably be spent talking to the people around you.

Robbie (Florida, UMich TASP ’11) writes:

There are plenty of mostly free days; seminar at my TASP was on weekdays, and on a few days almost nothing was scheduled at all. I had time to rest and be alone. But most of the time, I wanted to be taking part in the life of the group.

Recreational activities in which I personally took part: playing foursquare in the basement and soccer in the Arboretum, going swimming, going to the movies to see the last Harry Potter film, walking downtown to get bubble tea and play Apples to Apples, dance parties in the basement, a citywide scavenger-hunt, paddling canoes, a Fourth-of-July picnic, splurging on Chinese food from a nice restaurant (TK Wu’s), holding a poetry reading, and doing a talent show. TASP offers plenty of flexible time, and my days were fun and exhausting. The best activity was just talking to my fellow TASPers – intense discussions on subjects ranging from origin of morality to the definition of a sandwich.

KiRim (Korea, Cornell TASP ’11) writes:

At my TASP, the absence of the internet made us find the most childish and primitive, yet best ways of having fun. We had a cape night, water balloon fights, Ultimate Frisbee games, cross-dressing day, talent shows, improvisation workshops, etc. We went to the local production of Shakespearean plays, volunteered at a local soup kitchen, danced at mini-concerts on the campus, went to watch Harry Potter and went to the farmers’ market. Being the only Korean TASPer, I taught the others how to distinguish between Korean, Japanese and Chinese characters. Those activities can be decided by house meetings. Also, at night, we sat out at the porch and talked and stargazed. Free days are the weekends–we usually packed them with activities. Believe me, anything the TASPers do together will be fun.

How was the subject of electronics handled?

Tuong (Texas, Cornell TASP ’11) writes:

While it wasn’t totally prohibited, TASPers would not want to miss out on the chance to interact with people. Sure, there were times when we had to use our computers or laptops to write, and perhaps listened to music in a quiet moment, but it did not interfere with our continuous conversations and quality time with everyone else.

Ian (Florida, UMich TASP ’11) writes:

Electronics were allowed, but there were certain restrictions on when and how they could be used. TASPers were completely free to use laptops, phones, ipods, and other electronics with the exception of the following situations: In seminar (laptops for notes only), during group meetings or activities, during formal house meetings, and at times when the factota, other TASPers, or guests needed our attention. Infractions upon these rules were usually handled simply; the few times it happened, the factota would just quietly ask the offender to put it away.

Outside of the situations where electronic use was expressly forbidden, there was a conscious effort by the factota to ensure that no one missed out on their TASP experience due to excessive immersion in the digital world. We were encouraged to put our phones and computers away at communal meals, and the factota constantly emphasized the importance of group activities, getting out of the house, and interaction with our fellow TASPers rather than our friends back at home. I agree wholeheartedly with such policies and I believe they contributed positively to the experience; TASP would not have been the same intense, semi-monastic bonding experience that it was if there had been no emphasis on getting away from the screen and back to the community.

Erica (California, Cornell TASP ’11) writes:

TASP’s policy of semi-monasticism means that most TASPs will have rules that limit the use of electronics. At my TASP, there was no television, although we did watch movies both as part of our seminars and just for fun. We were allowed to use our cell phones, but were discouraged from calling home too often to avoid disrupting the community atmosphere. In terms of internet access, we could ask our factota for permission to use their laptops to work on a project, but other than that, the internet was not allowed in the house. However, there were libraries with full internet access less than a five-minute walk away. The first day of TASP, I balked at the prospect of limited internet access. But to be honest, I grew to really appreciate the policy. The fact that we weren’t constantly distracted by emails and social networking sites meant that we could concentrate on building a community together rather than on staying in touch with the various communities we would rejoin after TASP was over. So many of the best experiences of my TASP involved experiencing something that I would never otherwise have, things that made me much more aware of myself and my habits. These sorts of experiences, though they may seem odd or difficult at the time, are things to be embraced.

How does having a strong background in philosophy and the humanities affect the TASP experience, and how significant are the "diversions" into other subjects?

Noreen (UT Austin TASP ’10) writes:

I don’t feel that your prior knowledge of philosophy or the humanities has a significant impact on your TASP experience. You are applying to the seminar that you choose because it interests you, not because you know everything about it. Surely, having background knowledge on philosophical, historical, literary, etc., questions is an asset since you will have a base of information and opinions to draw on, but lacking this background does not detract from your TASP. TASP is about learning something new; if you don’t know it, you’ll learn it, as I did.

As for diversions, this probably depends on the seminar and on your factotums. I participated in a seminar about diplomacy and the Middle East, but I was also in my factotum’s book club in which we read about the philosophy of scientific advancement.

Grace (New Jersey, UMich TASP ’11) writes:

I attend a pre-engineering high school where everyone talks about physics and no one talks about philosophy. TASP was a revelation. On one hand, I did feel that my limited philosophy background made some of the assigned texts more challenging, but TASP provided me with an incredible forum for intellectual exploration. I can’t imagine a better way to learn: instead of reading a philosopher’s work and then reviewing an editor or scholar’s interpretation, I listened to my fellow TASPers give articulate defenses of their views and then synthesized conclusions of my own. For those with a strong humanities background, you’ll be able to watch as your opinions make a real difference in the intellectual development of your peers. And for those who, like me, had a ramshackle humanities education, please don’t worry about being left behind. Your knowledge of science or math (or your autodidactic adventures in the humanities) will come in handy remarkably often. Everyone has something to add to the incredible conversation at TASP.

Was it hard to be away from home for so long? Were you able to keep in contact with your family/friends?

Nooreen (Virginia, UT Austin TASP ’10) writes:

TASP was the first time I had spent an extended period of time away from home. However, I wouldn’t say it was difficult at all. Think of it this way: for a period of six weeks, you’re exchanging one set of friends and family for another. That is really what is feels like by the end of TASP, so much so that you’ll find yourself not wanting to go back home when it is all over. Over the course of the program, I probably called my mother once every week and a half or so, and I texted my best friend from back home all of twice. At least at my TASP, we had a policy of “semi-monasticism”– meaning immersion in the TASP experience and minimal engagement with the world back home. That’s the best way to do it, really, if you want to have a meaningful TASP experience.

Chuan (China, Cornell TASP ’11) writes:

Although you might seem secluded from your friends and relatives, the intimate relationships you form at TASP will help to alleviate your homesickness. I had a very good boarding experience at the Telluride House. As long as you put yourself forward and socialize with your fellow TASPers, you won’t feel the need to constantly call home and old friends.

Joy (Pennsylvania, Cornell TASP ’11) writes:

Being away from home for six weeks (especially if it’s your first time away from home) may seem like a long time at the beginning of TASP, but by the end of the first week, it was difficult for me to imagine being anywhere but TASP. Part of the Telluride experience is a culture of semi-monasticism, so contact with family and friends from outside the program is somewhat limited. That being said, I frequently wrote letters to my friends from home–the slower pace of letter-writing was actually something TASP taught me to enjoy.

How did you deal with all the new people and the different personalities? Was there a lot of drama?

Abraham (Louisiana, Cornell TASP ’11) writes:

I don’t remember TASP or TASPers as people to be “dealt with” per se, mostly because everyone was friendly, brilliant, and easy to get along with. It’s true that TASPers as a whole have a very wide range of personalities, but I found that I shared common interests–or at least an appetite for discussion–with everyone at the program. There are inevitably going to be some problems and confrontations when thirty two high schoolers live together for six weeks, but those issues at my TASP were minor and infrequent. I found that it was very possible to put aside my differences with everyone else at the program and just relax and have a good time.

Chuan (China, Cornell TASP ’11) writes:

The people that I met at TASP are the most friendly people I have ever seen. Even if you are shy, they will come forward and talk to you. Everyone is treated equally. You won’t see the social drama typical to high schools.

Joy (Pennsylvania, Cornell TASP ’11) writes:

I found many TASPers to be exceedingly friendly and unrelentingly curious–not only about academic subjects, but about the lives of the people around them. Get to know as many of them as you can! As with any large group of people, our TASP had its disagreements (What is progress? Were Romeo and Juliet in love? Should we go see the seventh Harry Potter movie?), but all of them were handled civilly and with a minimum of drama. We still haven’t figured out progress, though.

If you had other serious commitments you wanted to maintain during TASP (religious, athletic, artistic, etc.), how difficult was it to do so?

Jacob (Maryland, UMich TASP ’11) writes:

During my TASP, the trip to the Harry Potter movie premiere, which the group had organized at House Meeting, coincided with a time I needed to go to services. The factotums helped me find a synagogue (two blocks away, as it turned out), and no one pressured me for not going to the movie. It’s thus entirely possible to maintain personal commitments while at TASP. Importantly, though, keep in mind that TASP is an almost all-encompassing experience. Between seminar assignments, activities, and (most importantly) interacting with the other TASPers, there’s a lot to do. Nevertheless, for the type of motivated people who choose TASP, balancing commitments was rarely a problem.

I found that trying to integrate and share my commitments with fellow TASPers often helped me. For instance, I needed to do summer runs to stay in shape for cross-country season. Some of the other TASPers and I organized an informal running group, which held runs to a riverside park at least once a week. When the weather was bad or when no one else wanted to to run, I used the treadmill in the basement. Other TASPers who played instruments or sung turned their practices into miniature concerts. Obviously, not all commitments can or should be shared, but when they can, it helped the community at large.

Erica (California, Cornell TASP ’11) writes:

From what I observed from my fellow TASPers, maintaining such commitments was not an issue. Our chef, for example, was extremely accommodating and always offered vegetarian and vegan dishes, so people with dietary restrictions for religious or personal reasons should not worry. There are various religious services in the area, and we were free to attend as long as we informed our factotums in advance. A number of TASPers even attended the religious services of different faiths in order to gain more understanding of them, and we even had several non-Muslims fast for Ramadan in solidarity with their Muslim peers. In terms of music, we had musicians of various levels at our TASP and we all felt free to practice at the house during free time. In addition, Cornell’s music library and practice facilities were made available to us. In summary, TASP is very accommodating of any previous commitments that you might have.