With campuses closed to visits from prospective college students, The Indian SCENE is bringing the college experience to you.
This time around, The Indian SCENE spoke with Ninaad Lakshman of Downington, Pennsylvania, a promising computer science major at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Located in the very heart of Atlanta, the institution offers a sprawling 400 acres campus with a total undergraduate enrollment of 15,964. The estimated cost of attendance for in-state tuition and fees is around $12,682, while out-of-state tuition and fees amount to about $33,794.
The Indian SCENE: Tell us about your high school experience.
Ninaad Lakshman: Outside of participating in school clubs like Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA), Business and National Honor Society, I tried my hand at starting entrepreneurial adventures. I started Canary, a startup that designs portable noxious fume detectors for third-world countries. Also, I created Gifted Gabber, a company that coaches students to reach their zenith. Some of my most notable awards are the National Merit Scholar & Finalist Award, University of Pennsylvania’s Management & Technology Summer Institute (M&TSI) Advertising Award, AP Capstone Diploma, and the Downingtown Alumni Scholarship.
IS: When did you begin your college search? What aspects of a college were important to you?
NL: I began my college search at the end of my junior year in high school. I started by heavy research, specifically searching for a rigorous computer science program, a strong entrepreneurial culture, and a community of technical people. You might be wondering why learning in a technical community mattered to me? Well, it all came down to my goal. I wanted to scale startups after college. Building lifelong friendships with people who had a knack for engineering would really help build quality products in a startup! That’s why, I really searched for such a community.
IS: Did you visit campuses? If so, when did you start? What were your takeaways from these visits?
NL: I did visit a couple of campuses, like the Northwestern, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Chicago. I began these visits in my junior year, and I would suggest you do the same! To me, the campus feel was not a priority, though I took notice of the atmosphere. I noted if it was particularly hectic or more calm simply because the environment plays a large role in your own state of mind.
IS: Tell us about the application process. Did you apply for an early decision or early action anywhere? How many schools did you apply to?
NL: I applied restrictive early action (REA) to Harvard and early action (EA) to Georgia Tech! I was deferred from Harvard and accepted to Georgia Tech. For anyone who is applying to schools early, I would say you have to leave your options open. Do not, and I repeat do not, bet on an early school and forget about other schools entirely. Continue applying to other schools, and do not be disheartened if your first-choice school does not work out. At the end of the day, an acceptance or denial often relies on luck. Overall, I applied to 25 schools. If you want to use my approach, which basically is applying to a bunch of schools and see what sticks, please keep your mental health in mind. Do not over-stress yourself and start as early as you can!
IS: How did you eventually decide to attend your college? Name a few things you enjoy about the setting of your school.
NL: I was accepted to Duke, UCLA, and Georgia Tech. Eventually, I decided on Georgia Tech simply because it fit the criteria of a rigorous CS program, entrepreneurial culture, and a technical community perfectly! I recently started my semester online, and I really enjoy all the opportunities for mentor-ship. There are countless webinars from mentors to attend, and the professors seem extremely open. The culture, though competitive, is enjoyable because everyone wants you to grow.
IS: Tell us about what you missed out on being a senior last school year.
NL: During quarantine, I really missed out on interactions with my friends. After the college process, you should use senior year to relax and unwind with your friends. I sadly could not be face-to-face with my friends and enjoy time with them for a couple months.
IS: What’s some advice you wish you got when you were going through the college application process?
NL: One major piece of advice is to forget about the admissions officer when writing your essays. Oftentimes, applicants have this pressure looming over them during the drafting process regarding the admissions officer perspective. I would say forget about that and really dig into who you are. Do not worry about the admissions officer. They love unchanged personal essays anyway! Also, I may have said this already, but it is worth repeating. Start early! You do not want to be overly-stressed about deadlines and dates.
IS: Tell us about your major/planned field of study and what you hope to do with it.
NL: I hope to use computer science to drive a business. I do not see myself as just being a hard coder in the future, but rather someone who can utilize technology as a means for adding value for people. As for what that value would be, I do not know entirely yet. I do know that I will work relentlessly to make a technology useful and profitable through a startup.
IS: What advice would you give parents of high school students when it comes to the college process?
NL: As a parent, it is important to give your child independence over the process. Let them decide what schools they hope to apply to. Sure, you can definitely add suggestions and they will likely heed them, but pushing your child will only make them more stressed. Other than that, helping with revisions would be something you could do as well.
IS: Add anything else you feel would be important (diversity on campus, traditions, etc.)
NL: Having a well-rounded experience in college is important. When you are in college, remember to broaden your horizons and pursue activities other than ones involving your major. It will definitely make the experience interesting and eye-opening!
…favorite thing to do with your family? Playing carrom with my family!
…favorite food? Chipotle Burrito (though it isn’t authentic, it still tastes amazing!)
…favorite artist (actor, singer, author, painter, etc.)? Musician Swae Lee
…favorite vacation spot? Dominican Republic (The beaches are phenomenal!)