Raghav Chandra explains why UC Berkeley worked for him

Read Raghav's comments given below:

1. How important do you consider rankings while evaluating schools? How have your perceptions changed about this now?

RC: Initially, rankings play an important role while evaluating schools. Its one of the ways you can filter schools. However, the rankings can be biased and criteria may be different. It might not address the point you are interested in. Initially, ranking played an important role as the resources were limited. Now, I feel that rankings give a general idea about a school but not good enough for fine-tuning. There is a lot more to a school than what the rankings are based on.

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?

RC: My school is based in an urban/college town setting, close to a big urban city as well. The geographic location is perfect for the field I am in, i.e. Software engineering and Silicon Valley. The weather is also good; sometimes windy, sometimes sunny. This plays an important role as well. While deciding the school, it did play an important role, but as time passes, it gains significance as ultimately you have to live in it for a long time, and the experience of the school (interacting with friends, commuting, etc) depends directly on this. These factors affect me more now because they have enhanced the experience, for eg, due to the pleasant weather, I tend to socialize more outdoors, and be involved in sports. Being in an urban environment, close to a big city allows me to enjoy more resources, for eg transportation.

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?

RC: Being a big public university, size was a concern initially. There was always the question of being lost in the crowd. It is true that in smaller places, one tends to have stronger ties with friends. It is majorly because of the fact that you are in the same classes as the others, unlike in bigger universities, where due to the numerous sections and options, one might have different classmates every semester. Though, it exposes you to a larger diversity and a more vibrant culture. Though another disadvantage is that a larger place has a lot more competition, hence it is harder to get noticed by the crowd.

For me, I would like to be a part of a school which is big but has smaller divisions (based on the department, classes, etc) providing opportunity to get close to a smaller group, giving the best of both worlds.

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?

RC: I would say around 200. I had a class with 700 students as well (intro classes). I did not face a problem. People are comfortable in asking questions while the lecture goes on and after , though its not that personal with the professor as smaller classes. You have to make an effort to go to office hours to interact with the professor. For both the above points, the criticism of a large university is heavily based on lack of attention from the professors(intro courses). On the bright side, it teaches you to do your own work efficiently relying more on your resources, because at the end of the day, you will have to put in effort to understand the material.

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?

RC: My current major is Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Earlier, I was open to both electrical and/or software. Now, I have shifted more towards software, because of my interests and also because of Silicon Valley. As wished, I also manage to take a few Economics courses.

*The core courses are hard and competitive. I advice students to give their APs, even if they are in an Indian system, as it might help them skip a lot of courses which they might have done in high school. This will save a lot of time, effort and money. A lot of other interesting classes could be taken instead of these mandatory classes which could be waived via APs.

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?

RC: Being a public university in california, their are only 10% international students. However, there are a lot of 2nd/3rd generation americans with international (especially asian) origin. This makes it culturally diverse, so it is easier to settle. Hence there is a rich blend of culture from all over the world, giving a homely feel while providing a totally different cultural environment.

7. Can you comment an the overall personality of the student body? What aspects of this did you like/dislike?

RC: The student body is very active at berkeley. Especially this year, due to the economic crisis, a lot of protests were there. Being a liberal place, people are expressive of their ideas. This makes for a very lively student body with a lot of thoughts and ideas floating around for people to absorb.