Sejal Pachisia's (Princeton University, NJ) response to my survey questions on right-fit

1. How important do you consider rankings while evaluating schools? How have your perceptions changed about this now?
I think that top ranked schools are the top ranked schools for very good reasons, and so I think they are a very important factor to consider. I have never believed they should be the only consideration when choosing schools, but they are important because they do take into account small class sizes, the strength of the previous graduating classes and their success, job opportunities that the university's students get and the facilities and the professors at the college, which I think cover almost all of the important things about a college. Rankings don't cover a college's "personality" but that's something you can only truly know when you get there.

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?

Yes geographic location was certainly considered. It wasn't a huge factor when choosing between schools next to two major cities, but it was when I was considering a school in the middle of nowhere (I decided to rule it out for that reason precisely). If you visit the colleges this factor becomes more important as you get a feel for the location. I thought about this while applying but in retrospect almost feel like I should have thought about it more! Because now being in New Jersey, I'm only an hour and a half away from NYC and I'm so glad that I am - but I didn't realise how important this was before!

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?

I did consider college size - I think everyone "considers" it, the extent to which they do varies. I definitely didn't want a huge public school with over 10,000 kids in undergrad because I knew I'd feel very lost and didn't want my teachers to not know my name. I feel most comfortable in a very small school, like liberal arts size with 400 people per year, but I ended up getting into a good school about three times that size (1200 people per year) but I felt it wasn't too big and was worth the fact that it was slightly larger. I also wanted a change - I didn't want college to feel just like high school but in a new location. It's nice when every single person doesn't know about what's happening in your life, which tends to happen in liberal arts colleges.

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?

Intro classes really vary - princeton is extremely good with class sizes overall, so my math and physics intro classes were split up into smaller sections most of the time, and only once a week for physics I would have to sit in a hall with 100 other kids. Otherwise I still receive personal attention in smaller "precepts" - which most big schools try and do for personal attention. It really depends on which subject you take - philosophy was a very big intro class (but also had precepts, just not with the professor but a grad student). On the other hand if you opt for "freshman seminars" it's only 12-15 students with the professor at all times. I was satisfied most of the time, but in colleges generally I would like more class time with the professor and less time to just try and figure out the work outside of the classroom.

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 have never been sure about my major - I am thinking of doing mechanical engineering but might switch into psychology. In my first year I decided to fulfill all the engineering requirements to keep my options open.
5b) I really think your question about general education requirements is separate from my major so I'm splitting the response up. General education requirements are designed in such a way that to fulfill a requirement you can choose between at least ten classes all of which satisfy that requirement, so I mean as long as you choose wisely the requirements are alright - I've loved all the classes I took so far, though I am yet to complete my historical analysis requirement and I'm really dreading that one. I wouldn't change any of the classes I've taken so far.

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?

I think that every single american school I was considering focused on diversity and an international population so much (they keep mentioning it on all their websites) that I knew I didn't need to factor it in. I think every school is getting a diverse population, so I knew I would have that pretty much wherever I went, it's not really something anyone needs to be overly concerned about. I never felt trapped in a clique - if you make friends based on who you get along with rather than who is of the same ethnic background as you, and everyone around you does the same then there never is a problem. Sure I have indian friends because sometimes it's nice to be able to talk about the latest bollywood movie and it might be comforting to be around people from the same place as me, but they're not the only people I hang out with - it's just about getting a balance. In college I met people from all over the world with different cultures and ways of thinking and that's what diversity is so it didn't really change my view, just exposed me to more.

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

I dislike how intense people in Princeton are - they're almost too focused and slightly workaholicish, but again that's a generalisation so if you try hard enough you can always find people who aren't like that at all. I liked how intelligent, funny and engaging they all are, and the number of interesting conversations and debates I got to have.

8. What were the two or three things that you discovered about your school that really worked for you (after you joined)?

I got a lot of personal attention from some absolutely fabulous teachers which was great.
- The social life doesn't revolve around getting drunk but at the same time there's a lot of dancing which also really suited me
- The performing arts on campus are mind blowing - I went for some of the best plays and dance shows I've ever seen and some of them were life changing.