When she was in high school, SoFlo Tutor Aditi Ravindra knew she wanted to integrate both CS and business in her college studies. After nailing the SAT (she scored a 1550!) and writing about her experiences in STEM research and passion for singing Indian classical music, she decided to attend UMass Amherst due to its student diversity and strength of academic programs. Learn more about Aditi’s college application process, including her study strategies for the SAT and her approach to choosing which colleges to apply to!
How Did You Approach Your College Applications?
By my senior year of high school when I started writing my college applications, I had decided that I wanted to pursue a BS in Computer Science, so a school’s CS program was the main factor that I looked at when applying. I also knew that I had an interest in studying Business on the side, maybe as a minor or double major, so I kept that in mind whilst applying as well. As a California resident applying in the graduating class of 2022, I did apply to almost all the UCs (except for UCR and UCM), but I also knew that I wanted to maybe move away from home and explore a change of scenery. I was very attached to my home (literal house, city, and people I was surrounded by), and as a CS major, I knew that I would ultimately move back the my home city as I live in the Silicon Valley, so this would be my one chance to go out and explore something new.
I applied to the University of Wisconsin Madison, UMass Amherst, Purdue, Penn State, Northeastern, and UMich outside of California. These were mostly schools that I knew to have a good CS program, many research opportunities, as well as a good school of Business. I didn’t apply ED to any schools because I knew that I couldn’t commit that early. I’m very indecisive, so I ultimately knew that I would probably want to change my mind later, and so, deciding on a school so early into college apps was not in the books for me. I did, however, apply EA to every school that offered it, just because I wanted to honestly force myself to finish my apps earlier. I knew that if I applied regular decision, I’d probably push working on it, and I didn’t want to do that and leave myself with a ton of work to do in the second semester of my senior year in high school.
One regret that I have is not applying to any Ivy Leagues, even though I’m super happy with where I go to school now. I didn’t apply to them because I thought you had to found a business or do something crazy to even be considered, but I do wish I’d just turned in apps to see what would have happened.
Why Did You Choose UMass Amherst
When I got my decisions, factors that influenced which college I chose definitely included location, diversity, and scholarships. Coming from the Bay Area, which has a very diverse population comparatively, I knew that I’d probably feel really out of place at college if the setting wasn’t at least kind of similar. I was honestly kind of already overwhelmed with the idea of having to move even though I also simultaneously was excited, so since UMass is known to be especially diverse, that was a huge plus. I have had many extended family members go there in the past, and I know the CS program is really great there as well as the school of Business, so it really intrigued me. The school also offered me a great scholarship, so I chose to go there, and I’m very happy with my decision!
What Was Your Testing Journey Like?
I started my test prep journey way back in the summer before 9th grade honestly because that’s when I took my SAT prep class at Excel Test Prep (where I actually ended up having my first job at!). That was a super helpful resource for me to kind of get an idea of what the SAT was and how to approach it. After that, there was a big gap in prepping for the SAT since there were a few years to go. Around the start of my junior year is when I really started prepping. Honestly, I think the most helpful thing is just to take practice tests. I took all the ones on the College Board website, as well as all the ones in my test prep books. After that, I looked up SAT practice tests on Reddit and took those.
Khan Academy was great for me too, especially for the English sections. Math came pretty easy to me, so I didn’t have to worry about it too much, but it was great to be able to do certain types of Reading passages or pinpoint specific Writing skills with Khan Academy. It’s not too much work, I would usually take like one a week, and the week leading up to the SAT, I tried to do 1 SAT every 2 days, just to really get into the zone. Taking practices and reviewing them was the best thing for me. My score goal for the SAT was 1550 or above, so I ended up taking the SAT two times: once in December of my junior year and once in March, where I scored a 1480 and then a 1550.
What Did You Write About In Your College Essays?
I wrote about something different for every school, but for my common app essay I wrote about how this research program that I’d participated in reflected on me. I had done some research involving the toxicity of AB42 aggregation using computational chemistry software, as well as research on earthquake patterns via linear, lasso, and random forest regression models. I talked in detail about how I used my collaborative skills to persevere through some issues we’d faced during a particular research project. For any questions that asked about personal things or my creative side, I wrote about my singing hobby – I’d been taking South Indian classical music lessons for about 12 years, which definitely had a huge impact on me.
For UMass specifically, the questions were very short and just asked why I wanted to attend UMass and why I chose the major that I did, so I just wrote what I felt for those; I talked about the programs that interested me, as well as why I was interested in combining Business and CS in my studies. It’s different for everybody, so I definitely suggest researching the school and seeing what interests you.
Any Advice For Students Applying To Colleges And Taking The SAT/ACT?
For students applying to college right now, I think my biggest takeaway is really that you should be yourself. Try to make your college applications more personal and about things that impact your life (hobbies, people, etc), so that your essays are more specific to you and it’s not an essay that could be anybody’s. Also, one thing that I learned during my process was definitely to apply everywhere if you are able to! By everywhere, I mean to really keep a range of schools, safety, target, and reach schools! Even if you think you’re not going to get in but you really want to go to a particular college, if you’re able to, just apply and see what happens so you don’t regret it in the future! I also think that it’s super important to consider things like location and diversity when you’re looking at which schools to apply to because you want to make sure you’re comfortable where you end up.
For students taking the SAT/ACT right now, I don’t have a whole lot to say, but honestly, just practice, practice, practice! Keep taking those practice tests and make sure to review! Try your best to understand where you’re going wrong and pinpoint those particular types of questions/problems. You’ll get there!
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