Amar Sarkar (Grinnell College '12) writes explaining right-fit

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

It's important to remember that there aren't any great distinguishing features between colleges. People look at rankings most often on, but there's something they don't look at: Next to the rank there's a number called the "Tier". All colleges belonging to the same tier are very similar to one another. I recommend choosing by tier rather than rank. Though I go to Grinnell, my experience is so different from a student going to, say, Carleton or Bates.

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?

Location did not play any role at all in my college selections, but that is because I'm indifferent to location. If you are someone who feels he needs a larger city or a smaller one, consider location carefully. If you don't particularly care about your environment, then don't give location too much weight. Remember, your ability to make friends won't change depending on the location, and it's the friends you make rather than the location that will make the biggest difference in your college experience.

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?

Rather than looking at the size of the student body as a whole, you should look at student to faculty ratio. At Grinnell, it is 7:1, which is quite impressive. For undergraduate education, aim for a smaller class size so that you can learn the skills (note, I'm saying skills, not content) to the best of your ability.

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?

The average class size for an introductory class was about 25 students. I was happy with this and wouldn't do anything differently.

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?

I am currently a Mathematics major, though I began as a Psychology and Economics double major. These interests change with time and that's no surprise. One of the main advantages of the liberal arts system is the ability to choose your major field and change your choice while you're there. As far a general education is concerned, a variety of courses in different disciplines helps cultivate the skills (critical reading and thinking, analytical skills, research skills and most importantly, writing skills) that the college is trying to teach you.

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?

Grinnell seems to have about the 8% International student population. I have never felt isolated or estranged on campus. In fact, all my friends are American.

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

Grinnell is known for being a firebrand school. One of the defining features of the student population is the tradition of community service. The student body also makes a very big deal of being politcally correct. This sometimes leads to the generation of an artificially accepting environment.