The Final Element



Updated June 8, 2022

You’re reading an excerpt of Admitted by Soundarya Balasubramani. Written by an Ivy League graduate from India, this is the proven guide for students worldwide looking to pursue undergraduate or graduate study abroad in the U.S., Canada, or Europe. Purchase for instant access to the guide and other exclusive resources—including sample SOPs, sample resumes, scholarship lists, and a private community with other readers.

We all build our own frameworks to get to the solution here. The way I chose a university to study at is different from the way Sai, or anyone else, did.

storySai told me that he loved the four years he spent in Trichy, even if he didn’t put a lot of thought into choosing to study there. When he got admits from all seven universities he applied to, he took the opportunity to dive deeper into each to find the optimal one. He made a list of the five most important factors that will affect his experience, based on research, and asked his seniors and mentors to rank their importance. The five were: curriculum, reputation, tuition, weather, and proximity to the industry. He chose Dartmouth in the end due to the flexibility of coursework, reputation as an Ivy League, and scholarship offered to offset the tuition.

On the other hand, I certainly did not love Trichy, but I loved the limited freedom and independence I had. From my viewpoint, Trichy was a city with too many temples, sparsely populated restaurants, and a single theater (at least in my time). Even before I sat down to evaluate the admits from Columbia, Cornell, and Dartmouth, a part of me knew I would choose Columbia. Maybe I chose Columbia for its reputation and course curriculum, which let me work as a student consultant for startups in New York. But maybe, a small part of me chose Columbia for New York. Maybe I wanted to get away from the austere environment for a while and immerse myself in one that was chaotic and exhilarating. It’s hard to tell the difference.

We tried our best to quantify this process for you with spreadsheets and scores. However, we can’t ignore the human element amongst it all.

Use all the information you consumed to educate yourself. And then make the decision with that human element.

Final Thoughts on Choosing Your Dream School

Here ends a very long journey of yours. We don’t remember a lot of things that happen in our lives, but there are these key moments that are impossible to forget. Receiving Congratulations! emails from your dream universities are definitely up there on that list. These moments are precious, so do your best to record them in your head as a mental picture, or better yet, take a screenshot of the email and celebrate with your loved ones in the way you see fit. If you didn’t meet your expectations, on the other hand, know that it is OK to feel dejected.

That just shows how much effort you put into this venture. But with time, you will learn to move on to the next. There’s no other option.

We revisited the concept of satisficers and maximizers once again. Earlier in this journey, you learned to be a satisficer. You learned to find a satisfactory solution for a complex world by using limited, critical factors to eliminate the universities to apply to. Now, we need you to do the opposite. Be a maximizer. Your world has been greatly simplified. You only have a few choices in front of you and enough resources to dive deep and find a near-optimal solution. To help you with this process, we spoke about the T-shaped mental model.

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