"You have to be odd to be number one." | A Stanford Alum's Advice on Getting into Stanford
We had an amazing privilege of interviewing Sruti Sarathy,
an alum of top private university, Stanford University in California.
a violinist, singer, and composer
We asked her about: Getting into a Top University
Here are some of her important tips:
"I have a nonconformist streak which probably comes through to anyone who knows me and in my application--maybe this quality is something that works with Stanford’s culture."
"Don’t be afraid to ask TAs and professors for help. These are the things I wish I had done more of in college"
"Think about why you want to go to XYZ school--what broader, deeper purpose it can fulfill, why it would be meaningful to you."
Q: Why did you choose Stanford University, and what did it have to offer you specifically?
A: I grew up in Palo Alto always looking to Stanford as a great community and place to get an education. So I was happy when I was accepted. I wanted to stay close to home. I was able to keep performing concerts and staying active within the music community in the Bay Area too. Stanford also is a very enriching place--it attracts all sorts of quirky people and professors. I learned a lot from many of the people I met at Stanford.
Q: What are some benefits/drawbacks you feel of going to Stanford?
A: The only “drawback” I feel is that I might have also enjoyed the experience of going to a very small, liberal arts college in a more remote location. That would have made for a different sort of experience, which I sometimes wonder about. But that unexplored possibility aside, I had an amazing experience at Stanford--I learned how to think on my own, how to read, how to turn art into a life’s work.
Q: What would you say made you stand out for Stanford, and what advice would you give for anyone who wants to display their ‘unique spike’ to colleges?
A: I think I have a nonconformist streak which probably comes through to anyone who knows me and in my application--maybe this quality is something that works with Stanford’s culture.
Q: What were some necessary steps you took while preparing for college? (researching schools, visiting campuses, choosing courses, etc.)
A: I didn’t visit campuses but in retrospect it may be meaningful. The culture of a place is the most important thing, so if you can get a sense of that beforehand, it may go a long way in helping you decide where you see yourself.
Q: How was your college essay structured?
A: I wrote about growing up desi in America and tied that to my interest in languages.
Q: How did you get inspiration to write your college essay in such a way that you made sure it stood out? (reading other essays, all the books collectively read over the years, external surroundings, etc.)
A: I’ve always been a huge reader. I had a sense of writing styles I liked, and I tried to make my essay artistic in some ways that appealed to me as a reader. I had fun with my essays! It wasn’t boring for me as a task.
Q: What type of projects did you undertake on your own? (experiments, forming a club, nonprofit, research, internships, etc.)
A: In high school, not much. I did study some French independently with one of my high school teachers.
Q: Were the opportunities in your high school more or less the reason why you got in, or did you make your own opportunities? If so, how did you accomplish that?
A: I went to an excellent public high school with inspiring teachers. I wasn’t involved in a lot of high school-sponsored activities like clubs, etc. but many of the people I met in high school were formative figures for me. My interest in French and literature all started in high school. So I am definitely indebted to everything my education since childhood has given me.
Q:If you had stubborn counselors or teachers in your school, how did you convince them to take an extra load of AP’s or courses that you needed for your dream college?
A: I was the kid refusing to take extra APs. I dropped a few APs that I had initially signed up for. I was lucky to have supportive teachers and counselors for the most part.
Q: Everyone always has an efficient study routine for them (helps them finish things faster, get high grades with less stress etc.) what would you describe yours to be?
A: I like to take notes by hand. I was good at studying in high school. I wish I had studied in a more organized way in college. One thing that took me a long time to learn in college is to ask for help. I didn’t have to do much of this in high school. So when things got challenging in college, I found I didn’t know how to study when the subject was really hard for me. So I’d tell people: make it a habit to go to office hours, to have homework buddies, to get started early on assignments. Don’t be afraid to ask TAs and professors for help. These are the things I wish I had done more of in college.
Q: What advice would you give to anyone who aspires to get into a top school?
A: Think about why you want to go to XYZ school--what broader, deeper purpose it can fulfill, why it would be meaningful to you. Then try to make sure your activities and actions align with those fundamental driving forces. An acceptance or rejection by a top school means nothing--it’s so much to do with chance--so it’s better not to attach to that too much.
Want to learn more about Sruti and her music? Check out her website here.