Vani Mohindra (U Penn ´17) on the importance of talking to current students

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What advice would you give future applicants?

The one thing I wish someone had told me about the application process was that it is essential to start early and manage time. I found myself giving all my SAT and SAT subject tests in Grade 12, while also gearing up for the Boards, and finishing the college applications before the deadlines. Not only was this extremely hectic, but my schoolwork also suffered because of all my failed attempts at multitasking.

I also think future applicants should talk to current university students, counselors or read through Fiske’s College Guide before finalizing their college lists. I found it difficult to differentiate between colleges or understand what they would be like through their websites, which is why I found it really helpful to talk to students who were already in college. There is no point wasting valuable time applying to a college you are not excited about attending.

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

Writing essays for the Commonapp as well as the various college supplements was definitely the most challenging and time-consuming part of the college application process for me. Between juggling CBSE pre-boards and SAT subject tests, I found it hard to find time to sit and think of ideas, write drafts and re-edit again and again. Though it was fairly easy to write responses to direct prompts, the many questions that were more general and open-ended posed a problem for me, and definitely made me regret procrastinating.

What was your SAT and Subject Tests prep strategy?

For the SAT, I focused on doing practice papers as they helped me improve my score tremendously. Giving these 3-hour papers in one sitting replicated the setting of the actual SAT and hence gave me a clearer picture of what my strengths and weaknesses were. I found the Princeton Review and Collegeboard SAT material to be the most accurate in terms of what came on the actual day.

Compared to the SAT, I found the subject tests a little bit harder to study for. Being a commerce student, Math 1 and 2 were the only tests that had a course similar to the one I had studied in Grade 11 and 12. I chose to take Math 2, went over the concepts once to clarify doubts and then started practicing. I then chose to take Biology and World History, because I felt it was important to show understanding of at least one science and one humanities subject as well. For these two subjects, I read through Barron’s and focused on understanding the concepts. I found the mini-tests that Barron’s had after every chapter very useful as well.

How did your college list change over time?

Initially my father was adamant that I apply to only the top colleges. However, that list was rather daunting and so after a lot of coaxing he finally allowed me to add 4 ‘mid-range/ safety’ colleges to my list. I also applied to the UK as a back up. Besides this, my list did not change considerably.

What are you looking forward to the most about college?

The independence, flexible curriculum, meeting new people, and having the chance to explore many new extra-curriculars

What major/s are you considering? 

As of now, I intend to learn more and hopefully major in Behavioral Economics. 

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

I have always loved Economics and Finance so the fact that I can specialize in those fields at an undergraduate level at Wharton, while also taking classes at Penn is something I’m really excited about. I am also really looking forward to taking Photography classes, and studying abroad for a semester.

What are your plans for summer?

I am currently in the midst of giving my AP’s, but after them I don’t really have a specific plan. For the next few months I just intend to catch up on much needed sleep, watch TV and literally just chill. I might do an internship with a trading company – but that’s later.