Here's what Shruti had to say:
1. How important do you consider rankings while evaluating schools? How have your perceptions changed about this now?
SD : I think rankings do matter. In fact, while applying to colleges, rankings were all I cared/knew about, then I decided rankings were not important and fit was more important and now I've come to the realization that the happy medium between fit and rankings is the best option. Find several schools that seem like good fits, and then try to go to the objectively best option of those good fits. I think reputation/perception of a school matters considerably (Side note: I sometimes regret going to Georgetown when in India, just because the name draws comments like "what, Georgia Tech?" here, and figures nowhere on "international" rankings like the Times' or the Shanghai ones.)
However, it is very difficult for international students to objectively assess the fit and adaptability in great quality in a situation like this. I've not visited very many other schools (only Yale, NYU, Columbia) and they all seemed like they would have been good potential fits.
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?
SD : Geographic location and setting MADE my college experience -- there is no better place to study international politics than DC (unless you're at Harvard/Yale/Columbia/Princeton, where your schools can pull in the best speakers anyway).
I applied all over the board in terms of setting but only to schools on the East Coast between the DC-Boston stretch. Now that I'm looking at grad schools, I'm still looking mostly at the same stretch -- I don't know what the draw is for me, but it might be familiarity.
I don't think I would have been terribly happy at a rural school -- I love having the city around, so I can eat out, explore the nightlife, go shopping, volunteer and do tons of things. I also love that Georgetown is in DC, and yet, it's a proper college campus, in almost a college-town like setting.
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?
SD : The size was not an important criterion when choosing schools. I think around 5000 undergraduates is about the right size for me: there are always new people to meet, but there are also close-knit interconnected pockets of students within the school. I sometimes think even Georgetown's too small in that everyone knows everyone else's business, but perhaps at a small school, there would be more interaction of students with vastly different interests and personalities. (I guess I forgot HUGE state universities existed) I don't think I would be comfortable in a university with over 8000 or so undergraduates -- it would probably be so much harder to build connections with professors, administrators and even your peers.
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?
SD : A lot of our intro classes were seminars, which, frankly, I was not entirely prepared for my first semester, coming in from the Indian system. However, I adjusted quickly enough. Other intro classes (such as intro economics and political thought) were much larger (~150) but were broken into smaller discussion sections and the TAs and professors were all accessible.
I think "all" small classes would be great, but not without adequate forewarning to what that system actually entails.
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?
SD : My current major interest in International Politics, which is what it had originally been as well. For a while, I was swayed by the lure of a lucrative investment banking job with an economics major, but I discovered (much to the disheartenment of my poor GPA) that I didn't have a strong aptitude for economics. If I could change anything, I would've avoided taking that one extra economics course, and just stuck to studying what I enjoy. It's ALWAYS the best plan, and doing what you love always works out. The General Ed courses have been uniformly GREAT across the board, from Political Thought to Film Theory to The Problem of God (the required Economics are the only exception, though I know they're important).
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?
SD : It can be difficult for international students to assess the "fit" of a college, especially since some, like me, have never even visited the US prior to college. The international students/total population ratio was not an important criterion in my selection of schools. Yes, I did feel trapped in a bubble/clique -- not with international students or South Asians though. My perceptions about diversity became broader in college, since I started looking at diversity through a cross-cultural lens, rather than just an Indian lens.
7. Can you comment an the overall personality of the student body? What aspects of this did you like/dislike?
SD : Georgetown students, though diverse in many ways, generally have a few factors in common -- ambitious, mostly pre-professional and go-getters. I loved that despite the fact that most people here are very driven, they are incredibly willing to help out their peers: making study groups, sharing notes, informal tutoring etc. However, I don't like that there are parallel student cultures with very little intersection -- "the business school bros", "the bleeding heart activists", "the invisible nursing school students" etc. I wish there were actually more interaction between different "types" of students, because we are not actually completely distinct from one another. (Oh well, that's something for me to try and fix as a freshman RA for a 100 new babies this coming year :) ).