Dhrupad - Univ. of Southern California - Class of 2009
student photo

It was very difficult to apply to only five colleges. Websites such as CollegeData helped my research with lots of information [such as] admission stats.

I decided in junior year to focus my college education on math and science, particularly applied to aeronautics. So I knew that my college classes were going to be tough. I wanted a campus with a good social environment to balance that out. I also wanted to go somewhere besides my home state, Virginia.

Hometown: Springfield VA

High School: Public

GPA: 3.88 / 3.9 (weighted)

SAT: 1330*

ACT: 30

Major: Engineering

Goal: Airline industry career

*Writing score not included



University of Southern CaliforniaAttending
University of ChicagoAccepted
Rose-Hulman Institute of TechnologyAccepted
Purdue UniversityAccepted
University of VirginiaAccepted
Virginia TechAccepted
Freshman Year Update

College is much harder than high school. Grades are determined by a few tests instead of many. Also, it's hard to get away from campus without a car, so I spend more time than I want to on campus.

I am still interested in engineering. I have a new minor interest in the business of running a technology enterprise.

Sophomore Year Update

I've adjusted well to the college scene by now. My grades in sophomore year have been significantly higher than those from freshman year, so I hope that trend continues. I have a particular group of friends which I seem to spend most time with, although I also try to spend time with other friends too. This fall, I intend to hit the career fairs and start preparing for job applications.

Junior Year Update

NOW I'm finally getting used to college life. Last semester was my best semester academically as I finally made Dean's List! Plus, I landed an internship at Walt Disney working for the corporate office, which is a rewarding experience. Everything is going great, although I'm still not getting enough sleep!

Senior Year Update

I'm happy to say I am graduating this May. Also, I've been very lucky in this economy to get a job with one of the Big Four accounting firms doing IT-related work. While many people are relaxing during their final semester by taking only the few required courses they have left, I'm taking a bunch of electives to strengthen the skills section of my resume. So my advice is to get all your requirements out of the way as soon as possible, so you can take the classes that you really like (or that bolster your resume) during your last semester or two.

Limiting applications

My parents limited me to five colleges. They said they would not spend extra money for application fees. I choose Purdue due to its rolling admission, thus early nonbinding acceptance. Chicago had been sending me mail since my freshman year of high school, so I decided to give them a shot at early action too. I wanted an option in a warm climate. I decided to apply to USC (especially after seeing their football team beat Virginia Tech's!). University of Virginia and Virginia Tech were my backup in-state schools. I used libraries and websites, plus college visits, to find schools with strong math or engineering programs.

Making a final choice by keeping my options open

As I got accepted to all the schools I applied to (which really surprised me!), I began to focus on minor factors, such as campus appearance, location, and academic options. I quickly ruled out Virginia Tech and UVA, since I did not wish to remain in Virginia. I also ruled out a fine school, Purdue, because its town was not appealing to me. So it came down to Chicago and USC. Chicago was cut next, since it does not offer engineering. I was considering a physics or computer science major, but then changed my mind. I chose USC because I could easily change majors if I decided to back out of engineering.

My ups and downs

It was very difficult to apply to only five colleges. Websites such as CollegeData helped my research with lots of information about admission stats, scores of admitted students, college size, and location. Comments from students attending colleges were also helpful. However, comments in discussion forums from students applying to colleges were a waste of time. People there said my scores were too low to get into my first-choice schools, and I wound up getting into all of them.

Essay writing was also extremely difficult for me. Taking senior English over the summer was a boon, because the teacher focused on the college essay and worked intensively with me to develop it. I used it in all but one of my college apps.

A great moment was getting the early admission from Purdue. I was quite relaxed about getting the rest of the acceptances.

What I learned

The difficulty of the application process seems overhyped. It wasn't that bad in my experience, especially after I got over the hurdle of writing my essay.

If I could do it again I would apply to more schools likely to take me. I wished I had applied to Stanford and Cornell.

The money factor

My parents pay, supplemented by my own savings and work. I work 20 hours a week at the university library. I got this job on my own initiative, not through work-study.