Thoughts on College Admissions.

It’s the time of the year that most people are busy getting their college apps in place, getting transcripts ready, recommendations written, resumes polished. It’s time consuming and probably the most important piece of paperwork you will file as a young adult (taxes come later). So for those of you venturing into the unknown, I wanted to give you some advice, maybe an anecdote or two from someone who has done this before.

First of, I have a only ever applied to schools in the US, Canada and UK. I have zero experience with the college application process for India. Hopefully a few of my friends will chime in and fill that void.

What follows is a quick guide to what I think are some important aspects of this application process.

Major

We all assume , that your college pick is the most important choice. The place, name the brand. But I disagree, i think the most important choice you will make in this process is what major you pick.

I really believe that if you are doing what you are interested in, you will excel at it you will care about it, you will try and make a difference. So pick a major you care about.  This is lnexun so for a lot of you it will pick computer science or engineering.. Just be sure that what you really want to do. Are you willing to be up for four days straight working on a project in this major? Do you care about what you a learning?

College

Even if you can’t pick a major (some of you might not be sure), don’t sweat it. You probably have a field or area you are interested in. You should base your college picks based on your major/field. Not the other way around.

I did what I think makes the most sense, I made a list of about 12 schools i would apply to. You have limited time and want to put maximum effort in all you applications… So be judicial about your choices. It’s pretty easy to pick 12 colleges you would really like to be at – harvard, Princeton, Yale, MIT, Stanford just roll of the tongue. But that not the point of the exercise… This isn’t a quiz to name all the ivy leagues, it’s an exercise in find a set of colleges that will suit you, your interests and, unfortunate but true, increase the odds of you getting into at least a few of them. That means you have to do research, visit the websites, figure out if they offer the classes you might like to take, talk to people who go there.. Find out what its like.

I picked 3-4 schools that i thought would be really awesome to be at.. My dream schools. These are the easiest ones to pick I think. If you are set on being a computer scientist, Stanford, CMU, MIT to name a few are obvious choices. Aim for the highest pedigree of college here.. The best of the best… Don’t get sidelined that your SAT scores are lower than your friends or that you didn’t get a 99.9999% in the boards.. Just go for it.

The next 4 schools are the safe bets. Now safe school doesn’t mean shitty college, it means you are pretty sure you should get in here, and would be perfectly fine going here. Still base these picks on majors not college names. This is your fallback, option C. Always have a backup plan.

The last 4 I think are the hardest to pick, the colleges you would really like to go to but may not be held in the same league as the dream schools. 90% of the time the education at these places is just as good if not better than those 4 dream schools, they just aren’t that well known. One just example of this is for computer engineering is urbana champaign i think. It a really really good school for computer engineering and is often overlooked by people. Picking these schools is where you have to do the most research… Pick wisely.

College Rankings

All college rankings are just wave guides.. Take them as pointers, not a matter of fact. There is are a lot of silly facts that go in determining rankings that aren’t made public.

Application itself.

There are a lot of people that will be applying to the colleges you want to go to. A lot of these people will have better scores or grades than you. You need to stand out, find what you are good at, showcase that. Be honest about it. College screeners aren’t stupid, don’t try and pull fast ones. Make sure you are the one writing the essays, make sure you personally pour over every detail, every comma on that application… This is the first impression they have of you, make sure they see you, not your advisor or the person you asked to write your essay.

One thing is for certain, colleges are looking for human beings, not numbers or data. Not endless lists of extra-curricular activities that mean nothing. They want to know you – as a person, Your passions. What drives you and motivates you? And then they decide if you ideas and ambition aligns with what they want in their student body.

If you ask me what are the exact traits colleges look for in a person, I would have no answer. Personally I didn’t think my scores and grades were anywhere close to good enough to get into half the schools I did, so really I don’t know. Its highly probable that there is no single list of things you can do to guarantee admission into a certain college.

All you can really do is put all your effort into the process.

Time management

This is important. You need to give your self enough time to work on these applications. Don’t wait for an answer from one school before you start working on other apps. Start early, make sure all your paperwork (resume, SOPs, recommendations) will all be ready on time. Start talking to you professors and advisors early. If you are definitely going to be applying to schools outside india, then you have no excuse to be late on this.

In conclusion…

this process is long and sometimes mind numbing, but if you are writing about the things you enjoy and applying to places that excite you, it can be fun.

Leave your questions in the comments, and I’ll try and answer them. Hopefully others will help out. Best of luck for Exun2010 and college applications. And excuse any typos, first draft was written on a glass keyboard.

5 thoughts on “Thoughts on College Admissions.

  1. Nice advise, man. The application process does seem daunting, but once you get into it, it becomes easier to bear 😉

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