Interview with Aditya Vijay (Upenn '17)

How did your college list change over time?

My college list constantly changed from time to time. This was due to many reasons. Initially, I jotted down those colleges which I really wanted to attend. But I realized all the colleges I was keen on were highly selective ones, and so I had to have some backups. The list then came to about 25. There were too many! It was then that I started to go deeper and read more about the colleges. Their course catalogue, information regarding the economics department (my intended major), various clubs and student organizations. To my surprise, many colleges which superficially seemed fitting for me were not so. This caused a wholesale change of the list and I finally settled on about 13 colleges, which included dream, midrange and back up schools. Reading in depth about these colleges is when you'll truly find out of it's the right fit for you or not.

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

The entire college application process provided me with a great opportunity to do some intense introspection, and through this process I learnt a lot more about myself, my passions, strengths, weaknesses, etc. For me, the most challenging aspect was deciding on a topic for my CommonApp essay. While my mind was brimming with ideas from my life experiences, I wanted to select one that was unique to me and that would elucidate my character development well. After a series of unsuccessful essays on topics that seemed mundane or clichéd to me, I settled on recounting an anecdote during the Everest Base Camp trek. So in my experience picking an appropriate topic for my essay was the biggest challenge.

What was your SAT and Subject Tests prep strategy?

Trying to 'learn' vocabulary by memorizing word meanings a month before test day is the worst possible way to prepare for the test, and I say this with a touch of personal experience as well. No one can learn English by memorizing words and meanings. Reading is the best method of improving your grammar. Fortunately, I was an avid reader and that not only improved my language, it also increased my reading pace, which is very important for the SAT. Regular practice of different question types will be more than sufficient for math. The SAT Subject Tests were an easier ride for me. I gave the Chemistry and Mathematics Level 2 tests. The content of these tests was covered in the syllabi of Grades 11 and 12 and so I already had a thorough understanding of most topics. A good grasp of the concepts will go a long way in ensuring you get a great score.

What advice would you give future applicants?

For future applicants, my advice regarding finding suitable colleges is simple: You don't need every aspect of a college to suit you for it to become a dream school. If it feels right for you, if you feel that this particular college will help develop my interests, then that should definitely be in your list. There will always be certain things about every college which may displease you, but since every college has it's pros and cons, don't let them bother you.

As for the essays, you can pretty much write on ANY topic that interests you. There are no restrictions, so take some time to think, or better still write rough drafts on various topics, and you will discover which one works best for you.

What are you looking forward to the most about college?

College is when students leave the protective environment of high school and take their first foray into the real world. What's most enticing for me is the opportunity to learn many new things that had always intrigued me in high school. As I read about the clubs and organizations at work in Penn, I rediscovered lost or buried interests on various things. The opportunities are endless and it's exciting for any incoming freshman.

What major/s are you considering? 

At this moment in time my mind is juggling between various majors. International Relations with a focus on Economic Relations is currently my first choice for a major. But I'm also considering Macroeconomics theory, International Trade and Communication. Penn, as do most schools, require students to declare their major only at the end of sophomore year so I've plenty of time to decide on what is best for me.

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

 The flexibility in the curriculum will allow me to opt for certain other courses like Ancient History or Linguistics (which I might do a minor in) which have keenly interested me.

What are your plans for summer? 

This summer I have registered for AP Chemistry and AP Physics B which will give me college credits (provided I get a 5 in each) and will allow me to skip intro classes. Other than that I plan to read, meet up with friends before we part ways and just kick back and relax, given the intense year of Grade 12 that I had.