Here are my notes of the panel discussion at the College Bound event held at India Habitat Center today afternoon. Errors and omissions are my own. Credit for good stuff is to all the panelists.
Shantanu, CMC - I didn't know how distribution of credits worked so I signed up for courses that were GE requirements. The general ed courses helped me experiment and that is how I discovered my love for PPE which is a multi-disciplinary course involving Philosophy, Political Science and Economics. One more thing, our school system doesn't teach us how to write and I found the Writing Seminar I took challenging but one of the best learning experience.
Kush, Berkeley - The Berkeley event calendar rocks! I learnt so much by attending random events. Once I attended a talk by Johny Depp and sampled a class where mostly 30 year old women discussed their PhD topics.
Nikita, UChicago - At UChic courses are divided in 3 categories - Core, Major and Electives. I was pretty clueless when I got there but my academic counselor was really helpful and helped me pick classes. The argumentative writing and papers that I had to submit were the hardest part in my first semester. Make sure you reach out to tutors at the writing center.
Tanvi, Columbia - Class registrations at Columbia is in order of seniority so first year students get to pick last! This leads to a mad rush and you get to key in your preferences 2 days before the start of your semester. Classes are allotted in a lottery system so one needs to be careful in picking classes. That also means that you have less chances of getting popular classes. I didn't get most of the classes I wanted but it turned out to be okay. I ended up doing classes I picked spontaneously and most were great. Professor ratings for each class is a good way to decide.
Angad, Stanford - Going in with IB credits I took 2 classes in term 1 because I wanted to take it easy in the beginning. This gave me time to sample classes and meet professors during their office hours. It was great to meet people like Prof. David Kelly who heads Stanfords d(design).school. Meeting seniors and peer mentors also helped in many ways. With my free time I did fun things like attending the big games at Stanford. I am a sikh with a free flowing beard. I once painted my beard red for a game night. People saw me on ESPN twice and that was pretty cool.
Varun, Mudd - At Mudd students learn to burn the candle on both ends. There's so much to do and the core requirements are pretty heavy. The HSA program can be fun too. College offers you uninterrupted time when you can devote to learning so make the best of it. I audited several classes before signing up for one and this helped me understand the width of courses on offer at Mudd and the 5 Claremont colleges. In my first year there was so much to do and I just didn't get enough sleep. This didn't bother me much as I was able to balance the load with fun by participating in extra-curriculars. I learnt skate boarding and ballroom dancing and made random connections with people on campus.
Sid, Brown - Like Columbia at Brown freshmen got to pick classes last but it wasn't bad since there were so many great courses on offer all the time. At Brown you could take a few classes Pass/Fail and not worry about your grades. This allows students to take classes for fun, experiment and develop a love for learning. The humanities seminar topics are great and I loved my courses. Talking to professors during their office hours is another tip. You could end up doing research with them. Brown is known for independent study or independent concentrations it offers its students. This is a great way to specialize in a particular discipline and get fantastic resources to support your area of study.
Srijit, Oberlin - Research classes. Seek peer mentors. Talk to people above you and also to your juniors.