With campuses closed to visits from prospective students, the Indian SCENE is bringing its own college tours to you. This week, The Indian SCENE spoke with Anika Dholakia of Sandy Hook, Conn., a recent graduate of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. Michigan, located in Ann Arbor, boasts several notable alumni, including CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, President Gerald Ford and the playwright Arthur Miller. Undergraduate enrollment at the Ann Arbor campus is around 31,000, and the size of each undergraduate business school class is around 625. The estimated cost of attendance before financial aid is around $31,000 a year for in-state residents living in on-campus housing and $67,000 for out-of-state students.
The Indian SCENE: Tell us about your high school experience.
Anika Dholakia: Growing up in Newtown, CT, I was one of three Indian kids in my class. It was difficult for me to embrace my culture when I was young as I felt the need to assimilate into American norms. However, as I grew older, I embraced my Indian heritage more and more, realizing that it was a part of my identity and something I was proud of. I have been a Girl Scout since kindergarten and in my junior year of high school, I received the highest achievement within the Girl Scouts of America – the Gold award for implementing and teaching a basic technology skills program for senior citizens at the local senior center. I was also actively involved in the student government and class council throughout high school.
IS: When did you begin your college search? What aspects of a college were important to you?
AD: I was initially introduced to the college search through my sister, Ayesha. She is four years older than me so although the idea of college seemed far off for me at the time, I still tagged along for several east coast college visits. I started to make my list at the end of my junior year of high school. We had a counselor’s workshop class each week dedicated to helping us with our future plans.
I was adamant on going to a school out of state – change excites me and going to school a few hours away – by car or plane – was intriguing. I also wanted a sense of school spirit – a work hard play hard mentality where academics and school spirit went hand-in-hand.
IS: Did you visit campuses? If so, when did you start? What were your takeaways from these visits?
AD: I visited a few colleges on the east coast during my junior year of high school. I really liked some of the Boston schools but still hesitated on whether or not they had the type of college campus I was looking for. A few weeks later, I went to Michigan for a college visit and left there in awe. I remember telling my dad that this was it; I had to go there. It scared me being so set on one school but I was ready to give it my all. If Michigan had an early decision option — an action some schools have in which you apply early and upon admittance, if given, must commit and cannot attend any other school — I would have done it in a heartbeat.
IS: Tell us about the application process. Did you apply early decision or early action anywhere? How many schools did you apply to?
AD: I applied early action to the University of Michigan – undecided. I really did not know what I wanted to major in. At the time, students had the option to apply to the Ross School of Business and could be ‘pre-admitted’ or, as I did, apply at the end of freshman year. As of last year, the process has changed. Now, the majority of students apply directly into Ross. There are still students that apply at the end of freshman year but less than those in previous years.
IS: How did you eventually decide to attend your college?
AD: The University of Michigan was always on my radar as most of mom’s side of the family lives there and has attended U-M. It had the right balance of all of my criteria — far but not too far (and I had family there), academic rigor and a Big Ten standing, and the flexibility to pick my path as I was going in undecided.
IS: Tell us about campus life (e.g. ease of joining clubs/greek life, diverse population, ease of meeting with professors, workload, getting registered for classes, anything else you’d like to include).
AD: I was fortunate to have found a great community at U-M from the start of freshman year. Every fall, U-M hosts ‘Festifall’ in which hundreds of clubs from the squirrel feeding club to the Model UN team to the elite hip hop dance teams set up tables and recruit students. I remember leaving Festifall with a handful of fliers, trying to figure out which info sessions I should attend. That semester, I joined MPowered, the largest and oldest student-run entrepreneurial organization on campus. It opened my eyes to a new way of thinking. I was able to learn valuable skills, meet some incredible people and start figuring out my career path. From there, I got involved in the Entrepreneurs Leadership Program and continued to get more involved in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
IS: Give us an overview on housing as a freshman and how you found your roommate.
AD: I lived in Mary Markley Hall my freshman year. It was an all freshman dorm and although the rooms were small compared to my friends in South Quad or West Quad, I would argue that the friends I made and times I had in that dorm were some of the best memories that I will carry today. I met my roommate over Facebook and we hit it off from the start. During sophomore year, I lived in an off-campus apartment with three other roommates.
IS: What’s some advice you wish you got when you were going through the college application process?
AD: One piece of advice I wish I had gotten when I was going through the college application process is try not to compare yourself to your peers. Put your head down, focus and envision what you want. Don’t let others distract you from getting there.
IS: Tell us about your major/planned field of study and what you hope to do with it.
AD: I graduated with a BBA degree from Ross and this September, I will be returning to Bloomberg L.P., where I interned last summer, as a Financial Analyst. At Ross, everyone takes the same core classes and then has the option to take electives across various business topics. The recruiting efforts at Ross are exceptional; there are several career fairs dedicated to BBAs as well as on-site interviews, informal coffee chats and an active and impressive alumni base.
IS: What advice would you give parents of high school students when it comes to the college process?
AD: One piece of advice I would give to parents is to actively observe and listen to your child during the college search process whether it is at the visitors center during a college tour or at home during a dinner conversation. Maybe he/she asks a question about the class size at the school or shows an interest in the track and field program. It may not always be the school that is ranked number one or has the highest average SAT score. It is important to find the right fit – the school that compliments your child’s strengths and challenges your child’s weaknesses.
IS: Anything else you feel is important?
AD: Although the end of my senior year was cut short due to the pandemic, the past four years at the University of Michigan have without a doubt, been the best four years of my life. I challenged myself, grew as a person academically and socially, and met lifelong friends. I am proud to be a Michigan alum and to know that even if I go across the world, I’m sure to hear a ‘Go Blue’.
…favorite thing to do with your family? Play board games
…favorite type of food? Fettuccine alfredo or tacos
…favorite artist (actor, singer, author, painter, etc.)? The Weeknd
…favorite vacation spot? Orlando