I know ICLP has been discussed here before, but the most recent substantial thread I could find is now several years old, so I'm hoping to generate some new discussion on the topic.
I'm learning Chinese in preparation for grad school in Chinese history (either early China or Ming-Qing history, but I have some time to decide that). I'm now in my third term at MTC, and I'm taking Mini Radio Plays (same level as PAVC Book 5). But most of my learning has been from other material I've studied on the side. I tutor English a few hours per week (I mean...I talk with friends in English and they give me 紅包 as a gift
), but otherwise my day is filled with studying.
I'm trying to decide whether to study at ICLP for the 2012-2013 academic year, or to save my money and continue at MTC. If I continue at MTC, I'll be hiring a tutor (who also teaches at ICLP) to help with the material I study outside of class. I have a generous friend who is a former ICLP student and gave me a lot of the material they use there already (several courses for each of levels 400-700, including the audio). I also have a bunch of 文言文 stuff that I'll really be focusing on, since I'll need excellent reading ability in 文言文 for either of the fields I'm considering. The 文言文 is one of the real snags for me here, because by the time the fall semester starts, I will have already finished all of the 文言文 books that they offer, aside from the 800-level courses which I've heard they pretty much don't let you take if you're in a lower level. I probably would be able to take them in my last quarter there, but up until then it would be slim pickings if I don't want to repeat stuff.
Everyone I've talked to in person who has been to ICLP has said it was "totally worth it". On the other hand, many of them have said that they learned because there was a lot of pressure to put in the hours every day. I don't have any problems with motivation, or with putting in 8 hours per day (or more) studying. I've also been told the real benefit of ICLP is more in their teaching methods and small class size than in their materials, but I'm wondering if having a competent tutor and working really hard is "good enough". I'd certainly like to save the several thousand US$. Another option, which I'm leaning toward as the "best of both", is to do the year at MTC plus serious work on my own and with a tutor, and then take the summer program at ICLP next summer, when I should be able to take some of the really high-level stuff they offer. I'll most likely be here another year after that (while my wife finishes out her work contract), but it will be spent working, with studying and reading in preparation for grad school being relegated to spare time. There is the possibility that I end up doing my MA here, but that's a little far off to be able to know yet.
One of the big positives for me of not going to ICLP is that I'd have a lot more autonomy in selecting material to study that is relevant to me and my field of choice (whatever that ends up being). This includes, like I said, a lot
of 文言文 stuff, history books, stuff on paleography, etc.
But then again, there's the reputation. When I'm applying to PhD programs and my application package includes a year of study at ICLP, that means more to an admissions committee than a year at MTC. And there's the fact that I've heard of several people who got into top PhD programs (as in, Ivy-league, Oxbridge, and the big ones on the West Coast) after a year at ICLP, even though their undergrad degrees had nothing to do with their graduate fields (which is also my situation). Those, to me, are big reasons for
studying at ICLP. The benefits of getting into a top program would be worth the few thousand extra and the lack of any social life for a year. But of course there are no guarantees.
If you've read this far, you're a saint.
Anyway, I'm particularly interested to hear from any former ICLP students on this, or anyone doing grad school in China/Taiwan-related fields here in Taiwan or in the West, or anyone else with experience relevant to my situation. I know nobody can make the decision for me, but any opinions or insight would be helpful. 三個臭皮匠勝過諸葛亮 and all that. Also, any discussion on ICLP in general, not only as it relates to my specific situation, would be excellent, because like I said it's been a while and the more info available online the better.
Thanks in advance!*I'm hoping to avoid any discussions of whether I ought to be going to grad school in the first place. For some reason that always seems to come up (though not at this forum yet), and I'm always told I should do an MBA instead. I'm trying to get OUT of the business world, not back in! I'd also like to avoid "these Mandarin schools are worthless, you should do X". Well, I'm familiar enough with the drawbacks of studying at a language center, and I'm willing to deal with them, and I now have my ways of more or less getting around them.