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 Riya Doshi of Bloomfield Hills, a rising sophomore at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Doshi is majoring in Medicine, Health, and Society — a field of study comparable to public health — and Philosophy, with a minor in Communication of Science and Technology.
Undergraduate enrollment at Vanderbilt is around 6,800. The estimated cost of attendance before financial aid is around $76,000 a year for students living on or off-campus.
The Indian SCENE: Tell us about your high school experience (what clubs you were involved in, awards received, etc.)
Riya Doshi: I was the editor of my school’s newspaper, captain of the forensics (speech and debate) team, and president of our HOSA chapter. I also was a founding member of a nonprofit called Engage18, which was dedicated to increasing youth voter engagement and turnout. Outside of school, I took voice lessons and attended Solo and Ensemble as well as State Honors Choir. I spent my summers volunteering at Bloomfield SCAMP, which is a day camp for children and young adults with special needs. My senior year, I was named a 2019 Outstanding Graduate by The Detroit News for my work in journalism.
IS: When did you begin your college search? What aspects of a college were important to you?
RD: I started researching schools the summer before my junior year. I knew that I wanted a medium sized school to have a strong sense of community on campus. I also wanted to go to a school in or near a city so I could volunteer or intern with local advocacy groups. Since I’m interested in medicine and healthcare, I looked at schools with strong science and public health programs.
IS: Did you visit campuses? If so, when did you start? What were your takeaways from these visits?
RD: I started touring schools when my older brother did, which was after my freshman year of high school. Vanderbilt was actually the first school we toured, and it was completely by chance – we were in Nashville because I had a HOSA conference and my mom suggested that we tour Vanderbilt to get an idea of what a college tour might be like. During my tours, I focused a lot on how the students talked about the school because that was information I couldn’t necessarily get from the school’s website.
IS: Tell us about the application process. Did you apply early decision or early action anywhere? How many schools did you apply to?
RD: I applied early action to schools that offered it and regular decision to the others; in total, I applied to 11 schools. I didn’t apply early decision anywhere because some of the specific programs that I applied to required that I did not apply early decision to any schools.
IS: How did you eventually decide to attend your college?
RD: I was able to narrow my options down to the University of Michigan and Vanderbilt. My merit scholarship was a huge draw to Vandy, making it a very affordable option and giving me admission into the school’s honors program. After getting in, I visited Vanderbilt during Anchor Day, which is an admitted students’ day. I ended up staying an extra day, which allowed me to sit in on a class, explore campus on my own, and talk to students about their likes and dislikes of the school. What immediately stuck out to me was how friendly everyone was: they were willing to talk to a complete stranger and some of them even gave me their phone number or email in case I had more questions. I also really liked the smaller school size for social and academic purposes.
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).
RD: Vanderbilt prides itself on providing a great first year experience which I definitely think is true. There’s an entire section of campus where all the first years live, which makes it much easier to meet people and establish a sense of community. Freshmen also have a lot of freshmen-specific programming which can be a great way to meet people as well.
Diversity is definitely something that is improving at Vanderbilt; I was initially worried because I’d been told that it was very white-dominated, but I would consider it pretty diverse, especially in comparison to my high school. There are students from all over the world with a variety of racial and economic backgrounds. Even though it is located in the south, the environment is not like that of a traditional southern school.
I would say the best thing about Vanderbilt is the community. It’s a very collaborative environment; people love to help others and see them succeed. I’ve met so many caring and passionate people who are genuinely enthusiastic about meeting and connecting with others. The school’s size lends itself to creating a strong sense of community – every time I go somewhere, I see at least one person I know which is really comforting when you’re far from home.
IS: Give us an overview on housing as a freshman and how you found your roommate.
RD: Freshman housing is ten dorms in one section of campus, each of which has a faculty member whose family lives on the first floor. My faculty head is someone who I really enjoyed getting to know and continue to keep in contact with even though I am no longer living in that dorm. Each house and floor has its own programming, which is how I met a lot of my close friends on campus.
I found my roommate through Facebook, but my class was actually the last one at Vanderbilt that could pick their roommate for their first year. From now on, rooming will be based off a survey that incoming students fill out about their living habits and preferences, which I recommend filling out very honestly. I know there’s a lot of pressure to become best friends with your roommate, and a lot of roommates do become close with each other, but your roommate really just has to be someone who you can live well with.
IS: What’s some advice you wish you got when you were going through the college application process?
RD: I think it’s really important to do your research and be honest with yourself throughout the entire application process. There’s a lot of emphasis upon ranking, but don’t apply to a school just because of its ranking. Look at the location, size, available majors, curriculum requirements, and what students say about the school’s atmosphere. I know a lot of students who don’t like liberal arts but chose schools with extensive liberal arts requirements, so pay attention to things you might not think of when you first apply to a school. Of course, you might not be as excited by your safety schools as your reach schools, but ensuring that you like your options will help keep you from deciding between schools that you don’t actually want to go to.
Scholarships are also really important to research and apply to. A lot of top schools like Vanderbilt, Duke, and USC offer full tuition scholarships that students can apply for, but know that these are quite competitive. Our area offers a lot of local scholarships that are either state school-specific or can be used towards any school. Even accumulating a few smaller scholarships can help to offset the costs for books or housing.
IS: Tell us about your major/planned field of study and what you hope to do with it.
RD; I’m double majoring in Philosophy and Medicine, Health, and Society with a concentration in Health Policies and Economics. I am also planning to minor in Communication of Science and Technology. I hope to get an MD and a graduate degree in Health Policy or Public Health. My career plans are still evolving, but I want to be a practicing physician and serve in a health policymaking or advising role.
IS: What advice would you give parents of high school students when it comes to the college process?
RD: Supporting your child is the best thing you can do for them. The college application process is very difficult to go through, so just being there for them and understanding that they’re under a lot of stress is very helpful. Also, providing them with advice without creating added pressure or strain will help them and make them more receptive to your feedback.
IS: Anything else you feel is important?
RD: Talking to current and former students is the best way to get a feel for a school, especially if you aren’t able to tour. I recommend reaching out to people who went to your high school and family friends if you already know someone who goes or went there. Otherwise, the school’s admissions office can help you get in contact with a tour guide or another student who would be willing to talk to you. Students are generally pretty honest about what their school is like and their experiences can help you to make a decision.
…favorite thing to do with your family? Watching movies together
…favorite type of food? Sushi
…favorite artist (actor, singer, author, painter, etc.)? LANY
…favorite vacation spot? Japan