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Episode Notes

Episode Title: Princeton Alum Avinash Nayak: Challenging Academics, Students’ Diversity, Bicker and Lots of Clubs.

Episode summary introduction: For every student, there is a college out there. The challenge, as we know, is figuring out which one. It turned out that for Avinash Nayak, Princeton had his number. Avinash went to study Computer Science and Cognitive Science at Princeton.

Avinash gives us an in-depth account of his undergraduate experience at Princeton University.

In particular, we discuss the following with him:

  • Choosing Princeton
  • Navigating Princeton as an undergraduate
  • Advice for Students applying to Princeton

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • Princeton - A Diverse Place [2:06]
  • Why Princeton? [4:13]
  • High School to a Challenging Environment [6:27]
  • Diverse Peers & Accomplished Profs [12:38]
  • “Lucky” with Dorms, Eating Club Bicker [18:31]
  • Lots of Campus Clubs [24:23]
  • Summer Internships [31:32]
  • Advice to Applicants and the Admitted [36:19]
  • Fondest Memories: The Conversations with People [43:07]

Our Guest: Avinash Nayak graduated with Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science & minor in Cognitive Science from Princeton University.

Memorable Quote: “An Opportunity can present itself from, seemingly nowhere” Avinash on landing an internship (he calls it “Incredible fortune”) for the summer after his Freshman year, after applying to 50 companies over 5 months.

Episode Transcript: Please visit Episode’s Transcript.


Episode Transcript

Transcript of the episode’s audio.

Venkat  0:11

In an earlier podcast, Shveta Bagade, a College Counselor said that for every student, there is a college out there. The challenge, as we know, is figuring out which one!

Hi! Welcome to this episode of College Matters. Alma Matters.

Avinash Nayak approached College Applications with a few Dream Colleges in mind. Things didn’t quite work out with the dream colleges, but he was accepted by an institution in New Jersey called Princeton University.

Yes. Princeton!

Avinash graduated from Princeton University with an undergraduate degree in Computer Science and Cognitive Science.

Today, Avinash gives us his take on Princeton, and shares his undergraduate experience.

Let’s go over to Avinash!  

Venkat  1:08

Hi Avi, welcome to our podcast, College Matters. Alma Matters. Great to have you on.

Avinash  1:16  

Yeah, thank you so much for having me.

Venkat  1:19  

So fantastic. I [am] looking forward to our chat around your years at Princeton. And, you know, get to hear about your experiences, your learnings, and hopefully some memories.

And that way our audience of international aspirants can learn a few things about Princeton and see, you know, how they can apply.

So, if you're all set, let's jump right in. Yeah.

Cool. So maybe at the outset, be great to just get your overview or an impression of your experience at Princeton, now, looking back a couple of years.

Avinash  2:06  [Princeton - A Diverse Place]

Yeah, for sure. I think that, overall, there's a lot to look back at and see from what I learned, and from the positive things that I learned, as well as the negative things that I learned.

Yeah, in terms of what I really liked about the school, I think that the thing that I'm most grateful for at the school was, you know, the diversity of students that I met, and also the, the, you know, the number of friends that I was able to make, and I mean, when I say diversity, I mean that in multiple ways, I kind of mean it in terms of, you know, cultural background and ethnicity, but I also mean, diversity of personality, diversity of thought, diversity of academic interest.

When I kind of look back and see all the, you know, all the different types of majors that people that I've met had had, and all the different types of interests that they'd have. I'm truly thankful that I got to meet, you know, that gamut of people.

Um, and, yeah, I think that, in addition to that, I think that it was, I think that my experience at Princeton was, certainly, I learned a lot from it in terms of seeing, you know, the way that certain organizations existed around campus.

So these were both organizations that, you know, I was a part of or contributed to, and also ones that I was a viewer of, kind of seeing the vocality of some of these organizations, I think, you know, it helped me, you know, build confidence for myself and find ways to express myself and grow and learn in different ways, and know how to change my mind, and all these different types of things.

So, yeah, I think that those were the things that I kind of liked the most about Princeton.

Venkat  4:03  

So maybe we can start with the initial step of why you ended up choosing Princeton. I mean, how did that come about?

Avinash  4:13  [Why Princeton?]

Yeah, for sure. Uh, I think that like the the first thing that pops into my mind for for why is the number one reason that that I chose it was was that I got in.

Yeah. Basically, I've been, I mean, I had in high school, I had my mind set on, you know, a lot of different schools. I don't know if I would have that same mindset now. But in high school, I kind of had all these schools that I, you know, that were kind of my dream schools and that I wanted to go to and through the college process, I was basically rejected from most of my dream schools, almost all of them, too, so I was you know, I was rejected from every other Ivy League school. I applied to other than Princeton, was rejected from Stanford and MIT.

And in the end, it kind of came to me deciding between three schools specifically. And those three schools were Princeton, Carnegie Mellon and Caltech. At that point, I was I was kind of looking at college as as what I want it to be a pretty holistic experience for myself. So when I, you know, when I went and visited Caltech, and I went and visited CMU, to be honest, at that time, I thought that they were a little bit too nerdy for me. Bit off, my experience, what I wanted my experiences to be in college.

So yeah, that's, that's kind of what was going through my head in high school. And it's, you know, how I ended up choosing Princeton, the end.

Venkat  5:54  

So you, but you are looking primarily at STEM related studies, right? I mean, so I'm gathering from what you're saying?

Avinash  6:02


Venkat  6:03


Venkat  6:05

So, you know, here you are at Princeton, you know, one of the top schools in the world? And how was your transition, if you will, from high school to college, maybe your first semester and just academically speaking, and then other ways?

Avinash  6:27  [High School to a Challenging Environment]

Yeah, sure.

Um, so I think that in terms of the academics, I kind of braced myself mentally, beforehand, that Princeton, would, would be a pretty challenging place academically. And I certainly would say that for all four years of Princeton, it was quite challenging academically, but the one thing that I think that I'm thankful that I did before I came to college was I, you know, I mentally prepared for that, and I kind of knew that it was going to be like that.

And so, honestly, when I was, you know, coming to college, for my first semester, I didn't feel like, I felt like the academics were quite hard, but I didn't feel like they were anything that I hadn't foreseen or expected, when I was, you know, preparing on going to college.

But, you know, that being said, I think that the biggest, you know, the biggest transition points, and the biggest challenges for me, actually came in, you know, a lot of social and cultural ways.

So, I kind of have a little bit of a funny recount of one of my, one of my high school teachers who taught me math, I think you're, if I remember, right. And he used to kind of, I had a great relationship with him, but he would always like, think of Princeton, and when he was talking about college applications and stuff, sometimes when you take a break in class, he would always call Princeton “Douchton”. He was the school that was reputed to be, you know, full of douchebags, or whatever.

And, you know, I came, I think that I have, like a certain, I think that this might be a West Coast versus East Coast thing. But one of the first things that I noticed when one of the first things that I noticed when I actually, you know, went to college and started meeting people was that there were certainly a lot more people with much drier wit, and a lot more sarcasm and cynicism than that I'd really seen in terms of world. So I think that like that, at first kind of turned me off, just in the in the first few weeks, and I kind of was thinking, oh, maybe my, maybe my teacher was onto something.

But one of the things that I think that I'm very, very thankful for is that I kind of persisted and tried to find, you know, the best people around me, you know, ways to have the best people around me. And in addition, I kind of also grew with the school. So I realized that, you know, a lot of times, people when they're placed in a new environment, especially, environment that's, that has a pretty high reputation, not necessarily their most authentic selves when they're starting off. And this is, this is kind of something that that exists anywhere could exist when someone joins a new company, or when someone puts themself in a new country or a new place to study.

Um, so I think that overall like that, that my first impressions were like, Oh, my high school teacher could be right. But I think I'm really thankful that I've grown to appreciate certain parts of the school, um, that, you know, we're different from, you know, how I actually grew up and how in high school, and I would say that outside of those things, you know, two other things that I can think of off the top of my head that was pretty different was the weather was certainly a massive change. Yeah, I honestly feel like I'm, I feel like I'm pretty. I'm pretty Californian in the way that I prefer one weather. So getting the snow and the windchill specifically, was quite difficult.

And also, you know, to compound that seemed the way that people dressed. And like the way that people had, you know, wanting to present their fashion, I think was actually kind of comical to me, because when I went to the first lawn party that they had at Princeton, which is kind of an outdoor festival type thing where everyone dresses very formally very preppy, and enjoys music and food and other kinds of stuff.

I was really surprised with how seriously people, took the, took the preppy look. So, um, yeah, I think that in that way, I kind of grew to have an appreciation out of it after a little bit of time that people, you know, maybe like, dressing a certain way and present in a very different way than I would see in California.

Venkat  11:13  

Huh, interesting.

So, on the, on the academic side, you said that it was work, but it wasn't. It wasn't something that was overwhelming is kind of what I got from what you just said. Right. On the…?

Avinash  11:29  

I think it was certainly overwhelming. I think I was prepared for it to be overwhelming.

Venkat  11:34  

Okay, good. So you handled it? Well. Yeah.

Avinash  11:37  

I tried. I certainly tried.

One of the things that I was really thankful for, through my academic experience is that on, I think that most of the reasons for the things that I was able to do well, in college were because of other people. I think that there was a pretty, I can't speak for every major, but for the classes that I took, yeah, I was very thankful that there was a pretty collaborative, you know, way of doing things in terms of assignments.

And you know, that we would have small collectives, of people that would work on specific assignments. So we kind of form groups of like, you know, anywhere from like three to six people and kind of tackle assignments and problem sets in that way. And that was certainly nice to see.

Venkat  12:31  

How are your classmates and peers? How would you characterize them?

Avinash  12:38  [Diverse Peers & Accomplished Profs]

Yeah, so I think that, um, I mean, the school is, the school has a pretty strong reputation for not being diverse historically. And that there's a lot of, I mean, I want to say that there's a lot of truth in that. Yeah. Especially leading, you know, leading up to the end of the 20th century. There's been, many, there's been even prominent, you know, minorities that have discussed how they've, they feel like they've not fit in and they haven't been welcomed. Even, you know, Michelle, Past First Lady, Michelle Obama talked about how she was discriminated against at Princeton.

But I think that in terms of my classmates, and classmates and peers, what I saw, and what I think I was fortunate to see was overall, and incredibly diverse, you know, varied group of people, if you put the time to put yourself out there and meet different kinds of people, as a student, you can have a lot of success in getting to know different types of people.

You know, there were people that were past Olympians, there were people that were, you know, very, very, led very normal lives, maybe grew up in Middle America, or, you know, the south and came to college. And, of course, there were also like pockets of quite wealthy people.

But overall, I certainly think that there was a pretty good diversity of, of students and types of students at school.

Venkat  14:15  

How is the teaching? How are the professor's? How are the classes?

Avinash  14:21  

I think that the classes were honestly pretty, in some cases pretty hit or miss.

Again, I can't really, my perspective is one of many, right. So I can't really speak for most students, especially ones that weren't in my major.

I think that in terms of my professors, and so I was, I was a Computer Science major and Cognitive Science. But in terms of most of my CS professors, they were to me, they were incredibly accomplished people, but we're not great teachers.

So lot of I think that Princeton has somewhat of a reputation of being a school that actually has professors being quite involved in student work. And I think that it exists in some classes, but not sure that it exists throughout the entire university.

Um, you know, that being said, I did have a few incredible professors and TAs that I'm really thankful for. And, you know, I had a, I had a professor named Dr. Ahmadi, along with Georgina Hall, who was an incredible TA for my optimization class. Professor Jen Rexford, who I don't completely remember but I believe heads the CS department now [Yes, that is correct]. I have she was, she was a phenomenal teacher for Systems.

And you know, Julian Zelizer, where it was, it was one of my favorite history teachers and Dr. Fellbaum, was a, was someone that I researched with that was also an incredible teacher. So I think that there were, there were a good amount of teachers, that level left a pretty positive impact on me.

But, um, I'd say overall, Princeton teachers are probably better. They're better researchers and teachers overall, at least the ones that I came into contact with.

Venkat  16:16  

Okay, fair enough. Now, how big were the classes?

Avinash  16:21  

It's actually quite, it's, it's, I think that like most classes were rather small. In terms of, especially, especially as you get to the higher levels, the initial classes were, you know, that they were they could get pretty big.

So I think that if you look at like the intro economics classes, and the interest, yes, classes, I think that they can get up to, you know, 400 to 600 students and the entire course, because, I don't think it's as big as like, some of UC Berkeley's courses, because they're, like, close to the 1000 level.

But certainly, as classes become, as you get, like, higher numbered classes, and you, you go into sophomore and junior year, most specific classes will have, you know, if it's a class that people have to take as a departmental, so it's specific to their department. Yeah, why not have more than around 60 people, I'd say that the, of course, like for each class, there are, there are preset sessions where you kind of preset the recitation sessions, which they call them at other schools. You kind of get into smaller groups of students, maybe like, you know, anywhere from six to 12 students or so, you kind of discuss what was talked about in the lecture as a follow on so you talk about you talk about the topics that might have been discussed in lecture, but then you do practice problems, and you kind of review a lot of these concepts.

Venkat  18:00  

Cool. So um, so it looks like, yeah, that's that seemed like a standard process.

Of course, Princeton’s a much smaller school, people wise, a student wise compared to Berkeley, so you know, you're obviously going to see better, better numbers.

Venkat  18:18

Let's transition to outside the classroom. And talk a little bit about life on campus when we start with the dorms and the food.

Avinash  18:31  [“Lucky” with Dorms, Eating Club Bicker]

Yeah, I think that sounds great. Honestly, if I look back on, I look back on my dorm experience. I, to be honest, but I got pretty lucky with my roommates. You know, I didn't end up living with them. I lived with three other roommates, freshman year, and then sophomore year, I lived with two other roommates. Mm hmm. And I'm pretty thankful that I don't think I ever had a really bad roommate. I thought that, um, most of them were, they were kind of from a pretty cool, collective of backgrounds. So they had different experiences to bring and share within our housing and within our living situation. And overall, I did decide to, I moved to a single junior year and senior year, I was like, kind of a residential advisor. So I had my own room during that period of time. Over the first 2 years, I think that my roommates were, were pretty great. If I, if I could say so.

And I think that I definitely would also say that I got I was fortunate with my housing, um, because there's kind of a housing, I think there was like a housing lottery. That is right before we joined so people have preferences such as you know, they want a single room or they want you know, to live in a place that is, you know, substance free, or something like that, um, I kind of didn't really have too many strong opinions on where I'd want to live.

But I knew that coming in from high school into college, I'd want to live, I want to start off living with a few other people, at least, because it would just give me a kind of a social base to go off. And, you know, just a group of people to talk to you by default if I needed to. Um, so yeah, I kind of, I put off, you know, I think I've filled out a questionnaire that was sent to all the students coming in, and I was placed in housing that was fairly newly created. So I think that the housing, I was it was the residential college was called Butler. But the housing was the specific house that I was in was, I think it was more around 2009 or 2010. So it was called Yoseloff. And that was, certainly it was certainly nice to be in a piece of housing.

For my preferences, it wasn't like super old and rundown and it kind of had like, it was kind of near it was a little bit central, maybe a little bit south campus. So his social life is actually kind of nice there.

Avinash  21:24  

And, how about the food? The cuisine?

Venkat  21:28  

Yeah, the food is so Princeton's, like, located in a it's, it's very unlike certain colleges that you'll find located and more urban metropolis is so yeah, the town of Princeton is actually an incredibly isolated town. There's, there's not really that much to do and Princeton specifically for people that are that are younger.

So a lot of the social life that existed as part of Princeton students was, was on campus. And in terms of food for like the first two years that someone goes to school there. It's pretty common for students to just be on a, you know, on a dining plan. I thought that the food on the dining plan was honestly pretty decent, but in some ways, it, you know, it gets old and repeated off. Uh huh.

So there's actually an option for a lot of students coming on campus to try to bicker or rush in more non Princeton terms, an eating club. And eating clubs exist on campus as basically it's basically a coed frat, I think that's the best way to describe it. Yeah. You can bicker, if you're, if you're like, if you're a sophomore, in your second semester of sophomore year, you can picker, an eating club, and then have the opportunity to, you know, eat there as your meal plan, and also there for junior year and senior year.

So, in terms of food, like my, after, like, you know, two years at the dining hall, um, I decided to join, I decided to bicker an eating club in the spring of sophomore year. And I was, you know, I just, I was able to go through the process or whatever. And I was there for junior year, but then I kind of dropped the eating club after junior year, because it was pretty expensive.

In terms of the meal plan, it was, it was almost, you know, 3K a year more expensive than what you would, what one would have to pay on on a standard dining plan. So, um, yeah, but overall, I think that in terms of the quality of food, it was, I think it was pretty reasonable. And there was also a group of restaurants that existed on Nassau Street, right above the right north of the campus. So overall, I don't have, I wouldn't say I have too many complaints about the food.

Venkat  24:14  

So how were the, how is the social and cultural clubs and social activities on campus? What is that like?

Avinash  24:23  [Lots of Campus Clubs]

Oh, there were, there were so many. They were everywhere. They had this there was this club fair that happened, or that happened, every every start of the year. And during the club fair, all these clubs, um, you know, I think either leaders or representatives come to, you know, exhibit themselves to incoming students or students that just want to visit and see if they want to join you clubs.

And there were, there were, there were so many clubs. There were clubs that were kind of, there were some clubs that were more like scientific focus, so they were like research clubs and communities. There were certain clubs that were entrepreneurial focused. And there were also a lot clubs and every type of art that you can think of. So there were clubs and visual art, clubs, in theatrical art clubs and dance, music, all those types of different forms of art.

So, in terms of the ones that I was mostly involved in, I would kind of say that I, I tried out a lot of different clubs. I don't think that I had a very strong, like allegiance to any single club, but I tried out a bunch of different ones.

So freshman year, I joined, like, two clubs, where I was putting in a good amount of time, which were the entrepreneurship club and a Glee Club. And Glee Club is basically a choir and go, you know, we go and perform at, we go and perform in concert, you know, in concerts, on campus and off campus. So, in the fall of freshman year, I remember visiting, I think I remember visiting Yale for a concert that we had, which was really fun.

And yes, part of the entrepreneurship club freshman year, I helped out with organizing the university's hackathon, which I think happens twice a year, if I remember right, right now, that was also I'd say, that was also a pretty cool experience.

Venkat  26:37  

What did you do the other years? Did you continue in these clubs for the second third years as well, or…?

Avinash  26:43  

I actually, I didn't really continue. And as I said, Before, I didn't really continue, like strongly in any one club. Okay, I kind of had the perspective that I wanted to see what was out there and try out a lot of different things.

Um, so sophomore year, I actually joined a, like a fusion dance group on campus. And that was pretty fun, because it was a club that I think wasn't super intense in terms of the amount of work that it required. But it was, you know, we'd have one show every year, and I think that was in February or March. And it was kind of a very, it was a very social club, in that like people did a lot of stuff within the club outside of just the standard hours of practicing dance or preparing for performances and things like that.

And, oh, yeah, in senior year, I also joined the club tennis travel team, which was quite fun. I actually only joined during the spring semesters. So the fall semester, I wasn't really like doing, I think I was actually kind of busy with recruiting. Yeah.

But for the spring semester, I was, it was a pretty nice group of people to have, because, you know, it was all four years of people that were in the club, and we even went to a tournament in DC. So I got to travel to Washington, DC. And that was certainly like a great experience to have. Because it was again, it was just part of senior year, and it wasn't, you know, it wasn't like there were a lot of requirements as part of that club. But it was a nice group of people, a social group of people to be around.

Venkat  28:29  

Sounds good. Now, one thing you mentioned earlier that I wanted to sort of talk to you about, as you mentioned that you in the fall in the senior year, you were a residential advisor.

So right, it was that, was that, did I get that...?

Avinash  28:45  

Yeah, I was. I was Yeah, I was technically an assistant residential college advisor. So I was my goal was to be kind of an advisor, social advisor for students that were not freshmen coming in, first coming in, but were rather sophomores, juniors and seniors.

Venkat  29:07  

Okay, so what, what exactly did that entail?

Avinash  29:11  

It entailed a collection of things.

So the first thing was that I had kind of a weekly study break that I was on Sundays. And this study break was kind of a way for students in the dorms to come get together and just find, find a break from what a lot of work that they might have going on, and connect with their peers and play board games and other kinds of stuff like that. So I'd host that on, I basically, I think if I remember I'd always host those on Sunday evenings. Mm hmm. Because that was kind of like I thought it would just be kind of a nice, relaxing, peaceful way to start the week. Yeah. And I hosted those along with The pure academic advisor, which was another type of advisor, for instance.

So the pure academic advisor is, was basically an academic form of my role. So they would help, you know, incoming students or assisting students with being able to plan their academics being able to maybe craft course plans or plans for research or independent work or thesis related work that students wanted to do.

And they kind of act like a sort of a liaison between the students and certain types of administration, within the colleges, and yeah, we, we organize these types of study breaks and would generally kind of act as, a as a conduit between students and the Dean of Student Life that existed for a college.

So, um, if students have certain problems, either academic or social, or personal problems that they felt comfortable sharing with us, we would be, we would be there to kind of direct them to the right people that they needed, we'd be there to not not necessarily directly consult them, but to try to find them the right resources, such that they could get the help that they needed.

Venkat  31:22  

Okay, so let's segue over to your summers. What kind of things did you do during the different summers?

Avinash  31:32  [Summer Internships]

So, every summer was, basically, I basically did internships for each summer. And I thought that my that, I thought that, freshman year, the way that I came to do my internship was, I'm looking back, it's, it's almost kind of comical, but I kind of take it as a lesson and tell people whenever they're having internship struggles.

So freshman year, I kind of I wanted to find something to do during the summer after freshman year. Okay. Obviously, I mean, for reasons that, that are pretty prevalent, not just for, for students at Princeton, but for students in any college. freshmen are kind of the last people that were considered for, for a summer position, right. So I had gone through, I had tried going through a lot of recruiting processes, I've been rejected from dozens of companies, probably near the, the, you know, number of 50 companies that I reached out to, and it was rejected from.

And I was, I've been trying to, to get an internship for the summer of 2015 on a happy months, and I'd say, for the entirety of the second semester of college. And finally, after all of that, I, I wasn't sure about what I was going to do in the middle of June.

And somehow I got a I call it incredible fortune, but somehow I got very fortunate and was reached out to by a company called Intact, and they had an open position.

That was not exactly what I wanted professionally, but I think [it] was a great.

It was kind of a great primer, a great starting in an industry and I literally got an offer from them on June 1 20. Oh, probably like five months of trying and being disappointed that things couldn't go my way.

And I started, I started the internship A week later. And I had a wonderful time there.

So whenever I'm talking to friends or students about searching for internships or jobs, I kind of just tell them the story about how an opportunity can sometimes present itself out of nowhere, even if even a week.

Yeah, that was, that was how my freshman year went at least.

Venkat  34:15  

Yeah. And what did you do the next year?

Avinash  34:18  

So sophomore year in junior year, I also did internships, and they were both engineering related internships, which I thought would be best given what my major was, right.

So sophomore year, I was interning in Cupertino, actually, as part of Amazon and an office that was not close to you know, it was not part of the headquarters or whatever.

And junior year I actually interned at a trading firm in New York. So that was, I think that that was a really fun summer because it was, it was my first time living for an extended period in New York City. And, you know, I lived with two of my close friends, really good friends now. And it was, it was, it was a lot of fun because I kind of never lived in a city like New York for a period of, you know, 10 weeks at a time, guess what the duration of my internship.

So being a part of the city, being able to explore the food scene, you know, the party scene, the cultural scene, and the social scene that was both internal to Princeton students in the city, and also external to that was really cool.

And I'm actually really thankful that I tried an internship, you know, outside of the Bay Area outside of what would be considered a standard tech scene. And I was able to actually live in a place like New York.

Venkat  35:57  

Moving right along.

What I'd like you to do,  you know, what kind of advice you might give to students who are looking to apply to Princeton, in what are the kinds of things they should consider? what might they emphasize? Or, you know, whatever perceptions you have?

Avinash  36:19  [Advice to Applicants and the Admitted]

Sure. So, I think that I would, I have certain things that I guess I can think of in terms of students that are applying, and then for students that do apply and end up having the fortune of receiving an admission letter and choosing to go there. This might also have maybe a couple things that I could think of, for that.

Um, I'll start off with talking about applying. Yeah, first of all, the process is, the process is very, it's tough. I think that the, the first thing that I would say to anyone that's applying is to remember to set your expectations, right.

And I'd say, another important thing is to convey passion or interest about one to two specific things, at least. And by things, I mean activities that that you do outside of school. And when I when I say this, I completely, you know,

I completely forfeit that there will be people, that, that apply to Princeton or other schools that have, you know, 10 extracurricular activities with leadership in one. But I think that, in my opinion, the most important aspect of any college application, especially in the States, or other countries, but in the States, I think the most important aspect is authenticity. And if it weren't ever right, and expressed, you know, correctly, in essays and other deliverables that you can submit to the college's I truly believe that this is going to hopefully shine through for some students.

And, yeah, I kind of think that's the most important thing to say, because you have loads of stellar applicants that are rejected every single year. And I would be remiss if I didn't underscore the fact that there's kind of an impenetrable layer of luck, that comes along with the admission process, right? No, I think that it's important to set your hopes high, but expectations where they should be.

Yeah. And, yeah, I guess to add to that, just the ..., just like a small tidbit, um, if you are from, you know, a background that is historically underrepresented. Or if you are, you know, if you are social, if you're socio economically below what you think would be the average student, coming to Princeton, in terms of your family background. I think that my, my biggest piece of advice would be to be unapologetically yourself during the application process and during the writing of the essays, because, again, a lot of people may, people may not share this perspective, but I believe that, um, to those students speaking directly to them right now, you know, you don't owe Princeton anything other than your life experiences and your individuality. And I don't think Princeton should be asking for more. Your experiences and your future potential are more than Princeton deserves. And because of that, you should, you should kind of express yourself and you shouldn't be reluctant to express challenges that you went through. And I think that it just, it just merits for a better student body, right.

It provides Princeton with a group of students that has a lot of different experiences and has, it just has like, it's just more interesting to be around students with a lot of different experiences than students with very singular types of experiences.

Venkat  40:16  

So that's cool. Yeah, that's, I think it's a very good insights and points.

So you said you had some thoughts for the person who might be admitted? Or who might be accepted?

Avinash  40:33  

Oh, yeah, I think that, for that, this kind of exists for any college student. It's not specific to Princeton, but I think that there is a balance in when you're starting college, especially, there's a balance between, you know, the type of the types of individuality that you as a student, are able to express.

And there's the coupling of that with, you know, the ways that you're able to actually grow and, and change yourself and even change your mind, sometimes a student, and I kind of would advise incoming students to [view] both of those things positively.

As each person's experience is incredibly important!

If you grew up in LA, or if you grew up in Chicago, or if you're an international student, you grew up in China, Belarus, Africa, India, whatever.

It's important to bring that part of you to school. But I think that Yeah, just if you if you get in, and if you're starting classes and things like that, um, I really think that it's important to people to think for themselves when they're coming to campus.

So, don't view don't necessarily view anything that a professor tells you, If it's if it's like, if it's, I guess, backed up with data, or what's fine.

You should probably, you know, investigate it for yourself, right.

But, in general, don't take anything that a professor or student says to you as dogma, kind of think about the ways in which you would try to approach or solve a problem by yourself. And if you need help, you should reach out for help, you should feel like you don't have barriers to reach out for help, you should always feel like you can reach out for help, and you can.

And that's kind of what I'd say to people starting.

Venkat  42:40  

We're almost nearing the end of our podcast.

What I’d like to, at this point, ask you is any favorite memories from your Princeton years you want to share or have or for that matter, anything that we might not have touched upon, and that you feel is really important to share about Princeton or some specific experience or some anecdote, whatever you think is appropriate?

Avinash  43:07  [Fondest Memories: The Conversations with People]

Yeah, I feel like a lot of these kind of, I feel like a lot of these definitely blurred together, in some ways. So it's, it's kind of hard for me to recollect really specific experiences.

I found a high level of my fondest memories probably come from the conversations that I was able to have with people.

And, you know, these conversations were varied. They, some of them were about. Some of them were about tech and entrepreneurship. Some of them were about life and psychology or medicine, or, you know, how America runs, what America got, right, what America didn't get, right. And other things like that.

So I think that having those conversations was just in the late night and in like a college dorm room or, or in, in a public place and library. Those conversations hold some of my most fond memories.

I think in terms of like, more specific memories, I would say that the formals like the formal parties at eating clubs, I didn't always go to them, but the ones that I went to, were quite fun.

So I would encourage students come if you're, if you're coming into Princeton, um, and if obviously, if assuming everything with COVID is able to be resolved. I would highly encourage like, you just to put yourself out there and, and go to different events and try meeting as many types of people if you can.

Um, because yeah, if I were to tell myself one thing that I think that I would want to do more of in College again, it would just be to, you know, from the gitgo, to be able to open yourself up to meeting as many different types of people as possible.

And I think I personally took a little bit more time to do that than I should have. But that's what I would tell every student coming.

Venkat  45:23  

So I guess, I guess that's probably the hardest part is looking back and, you know, looking at things that you could have done more of, and but you know, but it's those experiences that you had seemed like they were just wonderful.

And I thank you really for, you know, sharing this in great detail with us.

And I look forward to chatting with you some more in the future. But for now, thank you so much, and take care.

Avinash 45:56  

Thank you Take care as well. Stay safe.

Venkat  45:58  

Yeah, you too. Bye.

Venkat 46:06

Hi again!

Hope you enjoyed this podcast with Avinash Nayak.

Avinash has given an in-depth account of his experience at Princeton. His anecdote about how he got his internship after his first year is a great example of perseverance.

I liked the fact that he worked with a number of different clubs over the 4 years, to enrich his experience by interacting with lots of people, with varied interests.

This podcast should motivate you to explore Princeton further. Avinash’s advice provides good insights.

For questions to the guest or comments on this podcast, please email podcast at almamatters.io [podcast@almamatters.io] .

Thank you so much for listening to today’s podcast.

Transcripts for this podcast and previous podcasts are on almamatters.io forward slash podcasts [almamatters.io/podcasts].

To stay connected with us, Subscribe to Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify or visit anchor.fm forward slash almamatters [anchor.fm/almamatters] to check us out.

Till we meet again, take care and be safe.

Thank you!

Summary Keywords

Is College in US for you?