Ratnika Prasad (Cornell) answers questions regarding brand value and right-fit.


1.What according to you works better at an undergraduate level, a small liberal arts school or a larger university? Does having to meet a core curriculum turn out to be an annoyance in any way?

The choice is extremely personal and to be honest, shouldn't be
something that makes or breaks your college decision. At the end of
the day, I have seen kids who loved both large and small schools and
kids who hated the size of their school.

I think the core curriculum is one of the areas where American schools
score over Indian ones. I do think there is a lot of value in having
to take classes across a broad spectrum of fields and I know many, many
people who end up majoring in something different from what they
decided after taking a class they loved. So don't be shy about
exploring subjects you know nothing about or revisiting those you
might have dropped after Class 10.

2. All the students know that rankings ARE important. But, how
important are they in your opinion?

As a junior who just completed the all stressful junior internship
search, I have come to realize that brand value is EXTREMELY important
for some things and couldn't be less relevant for others.

What brand value won't affect:

1. Your college experience. At the end of the day the majority of
colleges are amazing and your undergraduate experience will be amazing
no matter where you are

2. Your likelihood of getting into  grad school/ PhD/ research: How
far you advance in academia REALLY depends on your personal academic
effort- your GPA, the research work you do, your work experience etc.
If you look at graduate schools or prestigious scholarships (Rhodes,
Truman, Udall, etc.), no school ever dominates. The catch here is
however that it can be hard to pursue such opportunities if your area
of interest isn't something the college has devoted many resources to.
So if research and academia strike your fancy and your college isn't
the No. 1 in that field but has a decent program, you will be just

What brand value does affect:

1. The kind of companies that recruit internationals: Certain colleges
are known for being good in certain fields and that affects the kind
of companies that come to hire at your college. As international
students, this is something you REALLY need to think about because
fewer companies (and typically the most selective ones) tend to be
willing to hire internationals. As an example, a LOT of tech companies
and financial services firms recruit at Cornell- Goldman Sachs comes
about 20 times a year to hold events. On the other hand, the CIA or
State Department don't even hold info sessions- Cornell kids do make
it there, but obviously the numbers go down compared to say
Georgetown, which is known primarily for its great foreign affairs

I know thinking about your career after having your brain exhausted
from the college application process is hard, but job security is
something that is important and will matter later on. So if you think
there is a chance you might want to follow a certain profession out of
undergraduate, make sure to research on whether employers in that
field hire from your school.

3. While deciding on colleges what part did the geographical location
(NE, Mid West, West, South) and setting (urban, rural, suburban,
college town) play in your decision? Did your opinions regarding this
fact change when you joined college?

No role; I went purely by how good the college was in my field of
interest. If you come to the Northeast, expect to hear a lot of
complains about the weather (we are always jealous of all the sun the
California kids get). At the end of the day though, I like Cornell's
unpredictable weather and wouldn't trade it for anything.

4. A beauty of the American education system is that you’re not
required to commit to any subject the minute you join. Did this
flexibility help you in anyway when you joined college?

Definitely. I have been passionate about environmental conservation
since age 6 and going to college, I knew I wanted to go to a place
with a strong environmental program. However, I wasn't quite sure what
majors best suited the work I want to do and so I entered Cornell
undecided.  Cornell has over 20 majors that directly relate to
sustainability. Exploring classes and talking to faculty helped me in
my ultimate decision to major in Natural Resources and Applied

5. How important was diversity to you when you started evaluating the
US as an option? Have your notions regarding this factor changed over
a period of time? What part does the ‘diversity’ angle play in the
college lives of international students?

While applying it wasn't something I considered much. Having lived
here, I can safely say that being in a reasonably diverse place is
helpful- the stereotypes some students hold about people from other
countries is unbelievable, which is why being in a place as
cosmopolitan as Cornell is great. What I also love is that Ithaca,
despite its small size as a Collegetown is UNBELIEVABLY international.
Funny fact- it is the official seat of the Dalai Lama in North America
so don't be surprised if you randomly run into Tibetan monks!

6. Did you consider size (student population) as an important
criterion while choosing schools? What do you think is a size that is
ideal for you? Why?

I applied without considering size. Personally I am a fan of large
schools as a. there are no cliques and you never cease to meet new
people and  b. It is a much more representative microcosm of the world
than a small school.

My Academic Goals: My interests lie in environmental conservation, particularly working in low carbon development operations.

Major and Minor - Double major in Natural Resources and Applied Economics and Management with a minor in Climate Change.

What big plans are you working on? We'd love to know more.

Three projects currently- I am a US youth representative to the United
Nations Climate Change Conference and am currently working with my
organization (SustainUS) on planning our strategy for the next
conference in Warsaw as well as planning a workshop in India to be
held in May 2013. I am also working on a project to conserve
indigenous flowering species in India.

My Personal Branding Elements: Environmentalist, debater (I am a member of the varsity debate team), policy fanatic