Kushal Dalal (Princeton, ´17) on building a college list


How did your college list change over time?

My college list changed significantly through the entire application process. While rankings do give some idea about a particular college/university, one has to research in-depth and gauge the ‘fit’ of that institution – whether it meets your academic, financial and personal criteria. People do not consider things like climate and the size of the student body. But these little things add up.

One should have at least 3 ‘safety colleges/universities – institutions where the applicant has a reasonably good chance of getting in, given the criteria used for previous batches.

What did you find most challenging about the college app process?

The most challenging part of the application process was definitely essay-writing. Students in India are not used to introspective writing and/or writing so many essays at once. It took me a while to figure out the best ‘personal essay’ (Common Application) for me. It was frustrating but intellectually stimulating.

 What was your SAT and Subject Tests prep strategy?

The SAT (both reasoning and subject tests) test what we already know. So the key is to get familiar with the format of the tests. I spent a lot of time on mock tests. I identified my weak spheres and worked on improving them. While self-correcting these tests, one has to focus on the logic behind a correct answer and not just the correct answer itself.

What advice would you give future applicants?

Start the process early, especially the essay writing. Broaden your horizons – consider a wide range of colleges and not just the well-known/highly ranked ones. And above all, figure out what distinguishes you from the thousands of applicants – and centre your application on that.

What are you looking forward to the most about college?

I’m looking forward to the large variety of courses and to the entire college experience as a whole. I have lived a protected life till now and this change is both challenging and exciting.

What major/s are you considering? 

I am considering Economics as my area of concentration. Princeton offers ‘certificate courses’ instead of double majors/mionrs; I am looking at the Environmental Sciences certificate as well as the Engineering and Management Systems one.

What excites you about the courses you'll sign up for?

As I have mentioned before – the sheer variety and depth of courses. Courses which combine different areas of study (behavioural economics, for example) excite me as well.

What are your plans for summer? 

Apart from enjoying the freest days of my teenage/student life, I will take up an internship.