An Interview On
Rice University

Background

Interview Date:February 2019

Gender Identity: Male
Race/Ethnicity: Caucasian
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2022
High School Experience: Public school in Michigan with a graduating class of about 180 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Major: Bioengineering
Minor: Global Health Technologies
Extracurricular Activities: I’m part of the non-major student orchestra called Campanile Orchestra. I’m also part of SER Scholars, a first-year cohort of students looking to gain experience in research.

Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
Being an SER scholar has had the biggest impact. They helped me apply to summer programs, and have connected me to people in the Texas Medical Center. We chat which helps me understand what I may want to do in my career going forward.

Academic Experience

Can you describe your weekly coursework for the first-year Engineering courses?
There are a fair amount of labs and problem sets. I used my AP credit to get out of General Chemistry, but that course has a lab. We have weekly problem sets and labs for Physics, but the major grades are primarily exams.

Is there anything you feel that Rice does especially well or poorly academically?
You have the opportunity to take a course called ENGI 120, where freshman engineering students get matched with a real-world client to develop some design solutions for their needs. I was matched with the Houston Zoo, and we developed an enrichment device for the animals there. This was a valuable experience that connected me with a lot of faculty that I’ve contacted for internship and research positions. You can take this course even if you’re not an Engineering major.

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I would say it’s overwhelmingly collaborative. There is a high percentage of pre-med students here, and at other schools that is something that could be conducive to a toxic culture of competition. But at Rice, I’m friends with a lot of pre-med students and everyone seems to want the best for each other. Study groups are a big thing here.

How accessible are your professors?
They make themselves really accessible. Every day of the week there is someone who has office hours for Physics. This could be one of the professors, a teaching assistant, or another undergraduate at our residential college that has signed up to assist with the course.

Why did you pick to your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I chose Bioengineering because in high school I was told if you are good at math and science, you should do engineering. I really liked math and science, but when considering what field I wanted to go into I realized I like working with people. I thought Bioengineering with a Global Health Minor would allow me to see the products of my work the most.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived on campus?
Rice has a residential college system, when you enroll you are placed randomly into one of eleven residential colleges. You live in the college when you are on-campus.

Freshman: McMurtry College in a double.

How was the transition from Michigan to Houston, TX?
It’s very different. My hometown had about 560 people, so Houston is a lot bigger which was a bit of an adjustment. Rice has O-Week, which is our orientation. They do this in a good way and it introduces you to both Rice and the greater community.

Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I have never felt unsafe. During O-week they gave us advice on how to be safe in a city, such as staying off the metro after a certain hour.

Pros and Cons of being in Houston, Texas?
Pros:
1) Despite the public transportation issues, I like Houston as a city. There are lots of different cool cultures here, and the food is amazing.
2) The Texas Medical Center is right across the street from Rice, which is useful as a Bioengineering student dealing with more medical stuff.
Cons:
1) It’s about 1,000 miles away from my hometown, so I have to fly home. The price of tickets dictates whether I go back to visit my family over shorter breaks.
2) Houston’s public transportation isn’t the best so it can be difficult to get around. There is no problem getting from Rice to downtown, but if you want to go anywhere else, it’s kind of a hassle.

Social Opportunities

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you like to participate in at Rice?
Every other week there is a public party hosted by every college. They are themed and are a great time. I’ll usually go to those with a group of friends. At Rice, we call these Publics. There are also private parties that are just a group of friends which can be fun too.

What’s an alternative to going to a party or a bar that you like for a night out?
Rice is next to Hermann Park, where there are things going on such as concerts. Students have free access to a lot of museums in the Herman Park area, so there is a lot to do it you’re not into parties.

What nights of the week do you regularly do things?
Usually Friday and Saturday nights.

How happy are you with the weekend activities and nightlife? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I can’t think of anything I’d change.

Campus Culture

How did you meet your closest friends?
I met my closest friends by going through the Rice Emerging Scholars Program (RESP). Students coming from high schools with [below average] resources compared to students that are typically admitted are invited to take preparatory classes [over the summer] to help them succeed in the academic year.

Going into your first semester everyone has an orientation week group of about 10 students. Some groups get really close and stay friends, but other groups will fizzle out. I feel like mine is pretty strong. If you’re a student coming into Rice, you are introduced to these people and go through an experience with them that bonds you.

How would you describe the overall social scene at Rice?
It’s very active. Academics are demanding, but everyone makes time to hang out. It’s a good balance of work and play.

How would you describe the student body?
When going on tours, I was treated the best at Rice. As a prospective student trying to find my way around campus, at least three people tried to help me find where to go even though they were on their way to classes. This has remained true since I’ve become a student. People genuinely care about your well-being. At Rice, we have a big culture of care, which could apply to helping someone find their way to class, taking time out of your day to see how they’re doing, or seeing someone at a party not in the best state and making sure they get home safe.

To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I would say no one cares who you are, they just care that you are a good person. There is a high degree of interaction. [33% of students are White, 26% are Asian, 16% are Hispanic, and 12% are International students.]

What is the social impact of the residential college system at Rice?
I would say that whichever residential college you are in becomes the most defining part of your identity here. It’s where you eat and is where your friends will probably be. Everyone has friends across campus, but the community in your residential college is probably the one you’ll be mostly a part of as a student.

How do you like the size of Rice in terms of undergraduate enrollment? [The Rice undergraduate population is 3,992.]
It’s perfect for me. I think we have about 4,000 undergraduates. On my way to class I always see someone I know, and it’s a nice environment to be a part of.

Careers

What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
It’s located right across the street from McMurtry, and I’ve done a lot of stuff there. They have made themselves pretty accessible to any student. They host open houses throughout the year, one in the fall and one in the spring. There is typically good attendance because they buy food for everyone. They have resume review sessions, and various workshops on Linkedin or interview prep.

Have you learned any computer programs or computer languages that have been or will be especially helpful professionally?
I learned a little AutoCAD for ENG 120, and this semester I’m taking CAM 210 (Computer Applied Mathematics) which deals with MATLAB.

Financial Aid

Have you used financial aid? If so, how accommodating was the office to your needs?
They have been pretty good. I was really excited when I heard about The Rice Investment
because I’ll be getting full tuition for my remaining years here. I had external scholarships coming in, and the way that works with Rice is over a certain amount of money Rice will deduct that external aid from your tuition grant. My external scholarship exceeded the amount that would be covered by my work study and student loans for the semester. Someone in the financial aid office emailed me about this, but let me know they could move some of the external money to next year which was good.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

What is something you wish you knew about Rice before you entered as a freshman?
For me, I was deciding going to Rice or the University of Michigan which are totally different in size and atmosphere. UM was going to be cheaper for me with in-state tuition, which was my main hesitation when deciding to come here. I feel like coming to Rice has given me way more individual attention than I would have at a bigger school. If I knew the degree of assistance and individual attention I’d receive from offices such as the Student Success Initiative, the Center for Career Development, and the RESP summer program that helped me adjust to the academic rigor here, I’d make the decision to come here quicker.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Maybe the surrounding area. Rice Village is a 10-minute walk from campus, and there are a bunch of restaurants and shops there.

Reasons to attend Rice?
1) The Rice Investment and the amount of financial aid it provides. [The average freshman financial aid package is $46,077.]
2) The residential college system, the culture of care, and the community here. I didn’t feel that to this degree at any other college I visited.
3) The individual attention. There are lots of ways to make the experience your own.

Reasons to not attend Rice?
1) If you’re interested in a school that is entirely STEM-focused, you should not come to Rice. Rice is not solely math and science focused, it’s a little more humanity and social science-based.

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