Teevrat Garg graduated from Lafayette College, PA and is now headed to Cornell for his PhD in Economics & Management. Find out what worked for him.

Here are Teevrat's responses to the survey questions I had posted.

1. Rankings: Often students focus heavily on rankings. This tendency is even more prevalent amongst international students who often don't have access to college visits or meeting with alumni. However, I would actively discourage students from using the rankings as the only indicator. Sure, there is going to be difference between the #10 and the #100 university on the list, but rankings can hardly be considered accurate in differentiating between a #10 and #12 ranked place. The important question is NOT how good a university/college is. Rather the far more important question goes further and asks "How good is the college/university FOR ME?". Simply put, Harvard isn't for everyone.

2a.Geographic Location: Mattered very little to me. It was either a 16 hour flight or a 17 hour flight from home and I don't have relatives in the US.

2b. Setting: Did not influence my decision. However I know a lot of people for whom this matters. One Indian girl decided to transfer because she liked big cities and Lafayette wasn't "happening" enough for her. Its important to note however that colleges and universities in the US spend a lot of time, effort and money in student life. They organize concerts, comedians and a host of other events. There are also several clubs and organizations that my college funded through the student government. In general, most campuses that aren't in the middle of a bustling metropolis do a lot to keep students busy and interested. If you want to find something to do, you usually can. I often say this about Lafayette College: "If you're bored, you simply haven't tried enough."

3. Student Size: Did not consider it at the time, but in retrospect a small-medium size is ideal for me. My college had a total of about 2400 students. I think the size is ideal because it lets you develop a strong individual identity and enough latitude to seize opportunities. For instance at Lafayette, I got the chance to do research with Professors and get published - something that is very hard to do at a much larger university where the primary focus is often on graduate students. Similarly, it means smaller classes (see next point). The flip side is a smaller alumni network and not being able to take graduate level courses.

4. Class Size: The average class size in intro level courses (100 level) was about 20-40, but I was in the busiest departments in the college. Economics comprises of 15% of each graduating class and Mathematics services a lot of other departments. But once I got to intermediate (200 level), the class sizes rarely exceeded 20. Once I hit advanced classes (300 level), the class size rarely went above 15 and I had several classes with just 5-6 students. Those classes were the most fun because we got a chance to develop a very strong relationship with the professor. The mood was casual and we went indepth into the material. One such class was Advanced Monetary Policy which prepared us for the college fed challenge, a competition organized by the Federal Reserve Bank of the US (similar to India's RBI), where students present their recommendation for monetary policy and then defend it in front of a panel of Fed economists. The small size of the class made the preparation of each of the 6 students so strong that Lafayette proceeded to win the national title defeating Harvard and Northwestern and Rutgers in the final round. (picture attached)

5. Majors/Interests: I applied to college as an undecided engineering major, but by the time I got to Lafayette I had decided that I wanted to do Math and Economics. I stuck with those interests though I took a number of classes outside my major including classes in Government and Law, Music, Art, Physics, Theatre, English etc. I found that these classes complemented my understanding of my majors and provided a more holistic education. If I could do college all over again, I would take more classes in philosophy and anthropology. The general education requirements seem annoying at first but they are very thoughtfully designed to give students a broad based education. You may ask, "If I am an engineer, what good is a history class? Or philosophy?" And the answer is that taking a history class increases your depth of knowledge and makes you a well rounded person. You learn a different skill set - analyzing historical events or learning the art of reason and logic in philosophy. Similarly, an English major is required to take lab sciences to get a taste of the scientific process. College is not about a degree, its about learning.

6. International Student Ratio: The ratio at Lafayette was about 5%. It wasn't much of a criterion for me and I tried very hard to not get trapped in the International Student bubble. Its easy. These are students very far from home, and they are also aliens to the culture, lingo, food and general behavior. Like yourself, these students don't have family visit on every college parent/family event. But realize that there is a college beyond that 5% and its full of wonderful, very friendly people. My closest friends at college were American and they were very helpful. Their families would invite me home for breaks  and were always happy to help me. As a freshman, everyone looks for comfort zones. Try to expand yours and meet people. You'll be surprised at how many people would be happy to talk to you. And make friends across classes. Its not like school, where you only talk to people in your class. Make friends with seniors, juniors and sophomores.

College campuses in general strive for diversity and market their diversity initiatives. Being different isn't bad. It can often make you stand out and give you a chance to shine! Professors are usually very understanding of the circumstances of international students. My Piano professor invited all international students staying on campus over winter to their house for dinner one cold evening. And several professors agreed to conduct my exams early so that I could spend more time at home. American colleges WANT international students.

7. College campuses are very diverse in student interests and personalities. More often than not, your friends will be people whom you spend time with in extracurricular activities (sports, clubs, organizations) than people in your major (though, homework groups tend to make strong friends as well). Don't stereotype people and don't try to have a checklist of qualities for a person. You'll find that each person is unique and the college's environment allows them to express this uniqueness. You'll find interests you never knew you had and you'll make friends with whom you'd never thought you would. Enjoy the experience.