Admit Guru is back with another episode of Pathways to Success**! On March 19th, we spoke with Admit Guru co-founder, MIT alumnus, and current Stanford MBA student Sravya about her experience during the high school/college process:
Tell me a bit about yourself.
In high school, I was interested in all sorts of things; in fact, I think it actually started in middle school; and so I was all over the place. I was probably what you would call a well-rounded student: I did speech and debate, I did the school newspaper, I did the science fair, computer programming, etc. I honestly didn’t know what I wanted to do, and when my family moved to Louisville, Kentucky in my junior year of high school, I just kept doing the same things I was doing before. Ultimately, I ended up applying to colleges for engineering, because I realized that the one common thread I had was that I love problem-solving, and I went to MIT.
What did your high school experience look like? Was it stressful or relaxed?
I personally don’t think I would say that my high school life was very stressful but that’s, not to say that it was relaxing. I definitely did not have a lot of free time; I kept very busy, but I think I enjoyed what I was doing. I enjoyed the activities I was involved in and because of that I didn’t feel stressed. I also balanced my social life by not focusing on it too much. I had friends, of course, that I really liked and that I spent time with, especially at school, but I focused on those other things when I came home from school more than I focused on my friends.
How important are extracurriculars in the application process?
Being involved in extracurriculars is definitely important, and I think it’s important both to be involved inside and outside of school. This includes school clubs, but you can also be involved at your local library or start an organization of your own, or join a local nonprofit. I think it’s super important because that shows that you do more than just what is asked of you; you do more than just attending school and studying; you take it to the next level.
How significant of a role do standardized test scores play in college admission?
I ended up submitting my ACT score actually; I took both the SAT and the ACT, but I did just a little bit better on the ACT (36) and decided to send that instead. I definitely think it depends on where you’re thinking to apply to school. If you’re thinking to go to one of the top 10 schools, I would say your test scores are important in the sense that they verify your academic prowess. However, that’s not necessarily all they’re looking for; it shouldn’t be the only thing you focus on. Furthermore, I would say, doing well, does not mean getting a perfect score.
What did you write your personal essay about?
The way that the common application works are you have the CommonApp essay that you write and submit. and then some or most colleges require additional supplemental essays. The supplemental essays are where I would talk about being a stem major and why; I did not really talk about that too much in my personal essay, but there was definitely a hint of it. I did write about dance, but I wrote about dance’s relevance in my life and why I wasn’t pursuing dance as a full-time career. And so, I was able to use my dance story to discuss why I wanted to pursue engineering instead.
How did you choose which schools to apply to without knowing what you wanted to do?
When I was thinking about where to apply to colleges, I definitely had no idea what I wanted to do at that time. I thought about various different paths: Oh, do I want to go to MED school? Do I want to be a doctor? I knew that I personally did not want to be. Thus, I could cross off at least the pre-MED track of my list. Oh, do I want to pursue business? For me, I considered doing business; I liked working with people, and I did an internship over one of my summers and I really enjoyed it. Do I want to do research? I did science research before, but I liked working with people more than I liked working alone, so I was able to cross that off my list. And so following this process I was able to at least have a couple of buckets that I was interested in, and then I had a shortlist of majors that would fit that. To select the actual schools, I actually took a purely data-driven approach to it; I didn’t visit any of the schools that I got into. However, it’s different for everyone: for some people it’s helpful, but for me, I personally just didn’t really care much about the location or the campus. I was more interested in what am I going to get out of this school, and where it would put me post-grad.
How was your experience at MIT?
My experience at MIT was amazing. I think I got everything out of it that I wanted, but I think I was also very clear about what I wanted out of it. I very intentionally chose to go to MIT over other schools because I wanted a strong technical background before I ultimately went to business school. I also wanted to get a really great job at a big tech company. And I think I definitely got those two things out of it. I also just loved being surrounded by other like-minded individuals. Everyone there is very passionate about whatever they do and has something they’re focused on. It was also really hard, though; I’m sure, if you guys have read the blogs from MIT admissions, everyone knows MIT is not an easy school. But, I think that the school teaches you a lot about how to work harder and smarter than you ever had in your life. And what you realize after you leave MIT, is that you will never work as hard again in your life. That was actually amazing because you’ll end up doing very well in your job after graduating from the new skills you would have picked up.
How was the transition from STEM to the business field?
I think, for me, it was pretty okay, but that’s because I have a huge affinity for business. I was never a very passionate programmer or anything like that. For me, being a computer science major was about learning how to think about problem-solving and applying that in the workplace. I worked at Microsoft as a product manager, actually, which has a lot of technical details, but it also has a lot of business and so I think it was a really seamless fit.
Note: this post covered a small portion of the episode. For more specialized questions, exclusive information, and personal advice, please attend our live sessions.
Which career/field would you like to be covered next?
**We have decided to modify the structure of Pathways to Success to a lot more time for audience inquires. Each episode will now include a brief 10-minute introduction of the guest, and the remaining time will be reserved for audience-speaker interaction.