Abeer Saha comments on what made University of Virginia his right-fit school

Here are Abeer's responses to questions I had asked over an email interview:

1. How important do you consider rankings while evaluating schools? How have your perceptions changed about this now?
AS: Initially, rankings were the MAIN benchmark I used to evaluate schools. But having been at UVA, for a year now, has made me realize how little that number means! I feel 'over-all rankings' are good estimates of any university as compared to others. They are also great indicators of the level of satisfaction you will obtain from your college experience. However, department rankings, at the undergraduate level, have less meaning, as far as I'm concerned. Things to really take into consideration are no. of students in your typical undergrad classroom, the percent selectivity of the university as far as new admissions are concerned, etc.

2. Did the geographic location (NE, Mid West, West , South) and setting (urban, rural, suburban, college town) of your college impact your overall assessment of your college experience? Did you think about this when applying? How did your perception change with time?
AS: When applying, I honestly didn't give much thought to geographic location or setting. But once you actually get there, these things start to matter. So its important to consider things like, whether you like rainy, or cold, or hot weather. And whether you will survive rural/collegetown areas where there isn't a tall building in sight and little night life or just one shopping mall?

3. Did you consider size (student population) as an important criteria while choosing schools? What do you think is a size that is ideal for you? Why?
AS: I did consider size as an important factor. I would feel lost in a huge university with 40,000 people. Whereas, smaller universities, of 15000 or less students, are places where anywhere you go there's an odd chance of finding a familiar face.

4. What was the average class size of your intro classes? Were you satisfied with this? In what way did this change your perception of your academic experience? What would you do differently?
AS: Some intro classes are huge, with more than 300 students. It's not ideal, especially if you're serious about your studies. But as you start specializing that class size is bound to drop significantly. Even though its still possible to get the professors's attention, if you're scared of speaking up in front of hundreds of people then you might want to consider a smaller college.

5. What is your current major interest? Did this change over time? Explain if it did? Do you think that the courses you took to fulfil general education requirements were good? What would you change about the choices you made?
AS: When picking classes I was quite determined to try out new and interesting courses while also satisfying my requirements. Even though this meant taking on a few extra credits, I highly recommend it!

6. Was the ratio of international students/total population an important criteria in your selection of schools? Did you feel trapped in any sort of bubble or clique? Did your perceptions about diversity change while you were in college?
AS: I did not pay much heed to the ratio of international students vs total population because I love meeting new people and learning about their cultures. A pleasant surprise for me was that everyone seemed interested in who I was and where I came from; they wanted to know about India and its diverse people and culture. Going to big universities in America means meeting people from all over the world, it has been a fascinating experience.

7. Can you comment on overall personality of the student body?
AS: The student body at UVA is vibrant and consists of some of the brightest individuals I have ever met.