The Journey- How I got to Cal (Part 2)

Published Monday, February 14, 2011 by Tarang

Ah, kiddies, back for more. Well, I promise it’s going to get a little more exciting in this part. No more musing in my living room about which colleges to apply to because I now had some tough choices to make. Was it worth it to apply to a California State University or Stanford?

Last time, I delved into my influential experience of visiting my father’s alma mater. Now it is time for me to talk about my mother’s alma mater: CSU East Bay. My mother had received her Bachelors in Civil Engineering from a college in India, but after moving to the United States, she became besotted with a love for computers and Java (the programming language, not the island). Thus, she decided to pursue a Master’s in Computer Science from CSU East Bay- great graduate programs and close to home, not to mention career placement in the Silicon Valley.

Just like my mother, I saw the beauty of the CSU system as well. While on paper, CSU schools don’t have high rankings like private schools and UC Berkeley, but they have some other great features. Firstly, they have greatly reduced tuition. Secondly, their undergraduate programs poise them well for placement into high ranking graduate programs. For example, CSU Long Beach offers a comprehensive map on how to get a Master’s of Public Health. That same type of counseling is not always readily available in larger colleges like UCLA.

However, in the end, despite my opinion at the time, my parents did not think I needed to apply to the CSU schools. One good reason was they knew if I got into one of the good UC schools like Berkeley, Davis, or LA, then I would choose them over the CSU. Secondly, they were pretty sure I good get into the UC system. I, on the other hand, was suffering from my pre-college episode of self-doubt.

That left one school: Stanford. Before I get there, though, you may be asking what happened to the University of Southern California. To be honest, I really wanted to stay in Northern California so it didn’t make sense for me to go to a school in the south and pay that private school tuition.

On to Stanford! I signed up for the Discover Stanford program (http://www.stanford.edu/dept/visitorinfo/tours/prospective.html) to basically spend a day touring Stanford, meeting faculty and current students, and learning about the admissions process. The school was beautiful as always, and all the facilities are state-of-the-art. For example, if their library does not have something, you can request and they will order it for you at no cost. However, the application was a bit of a downer. As someone who had only considered applying to the UC schools, this was a very involved application in terms of essays and letters of recommendation.

In the end, perhaps I became lazy or too fond of Cal. I decided that Stanford’s application was a lot of work for a school where my chances were slim and scholarship chances were even slimmer. On the other hand, if I could get into UC Berkeley, I could go to a school that was as good and not have to worry about scholarships just to make my tuition affordable. While all schools have their merit, the UC schools were great institutions, affordable tuitions, and competitive but not impossible to get into (thanks to some in-state preference).

Check in next time to see how my application process goes!


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