University of Washington at Seattle
BackgroundInterview Date:December 2018
Gender Identity: Male
Race/Ethnicity: Half Indian and Half Caucasian
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: Public school in the Bay Area, California with a graduating class of about 450 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Major: Computer Science – Must apply and be accepted to the Major.
Extracurricular Activities: I’m in an Engineering Club that gets underrepresented minorities interested in STEM, I play intramural sports, and am in a church youth group.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
They haven’t been the biggest thing for me. Clubs are a great way to meet new people, especially at a school this massive. It’s allowed me to get close to people and find groups of friends I connect with.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your Computer Science pre-requisites?
There is usually a programming assessment due every week. Depending on your skill level it’ll take anywhere from 3 to 10 hours. Aside from this homework, most of our grades are exams.
Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
Because [Computer Science] is so competitive and so many kids want the STEM majors, they make some classes especially hard to separate the pack, which is really annoying. Sometimes you’ll get a score you don’t feel is a representation of what you know, but it’s hard to argue against. The classes are set up with lecture three times a week, and there are TA sections with smaller groups of 20-30 students where you can ask questions. Because the lectures are so big, you don’t get to connect with the professor, so having these smaller sections is helpful. [In 2018, University of Washington started accepting high school students as direct admits to the Computer Science department because it was in such high demand that they could only accept about 33% of applicants into the program.]
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I would say it’s a little bit of both. There are definitely some majors that are more competitive. Especially early on it’s less collaborative because everyone is trying to figure out their path. Once you get older and settle down, it seems that people are willing to help and it’s more collaborative. If people are bonding, it’s usually because they are struggling together. Grading classes on a curve [adds to the competitiveness], opposed to people genuinely wanting to help each other.
How accessible are your professors?
It depends on the professor. They all hold office hours and are willing to talk after class. It’s more on you to reach out to the professor because they teach so many students. If you reach out they are almost always helpful, because they are there to teach and help you out.
Why did you choose your major? Are you happy with your choice so far?
I like math and have always been good at problem-solving. I like how you know there is a clear answer to the problems. I didn’t get into computer science until the end of high school when a bunch of kids around me were doing it, and I ended up liking it. I took an introduction course over the summer, then dove into it more in college. It’s challenging at times, but I don’t regret going into it because it’s applicable and interesting.
How do you like the quarter system? How has it impacted your work?
I don’t like the quarter system. Ten weeks for an entire course makes it feel that you are always preparing for an exam, without a rest period. We don’t start school until late September and end in mid-June, which is annoying because a lot of my friends at home are on a different schedule. The one good thing is you get to take more classes, and you can try more things.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: McMahon Hall with one roommate, but there were 8 other kids in my shared living area.
How was transitioning from the Bay Area to Seattle?
It was a little rough at first. The Bay Area weather is amazing, but it rains a lot in Seattle. It gets dark early in the winter, which can be a little depressing at times. The more you get used to it, the more you appreciate the sun and good weather. After a while, it doesn’t make a difference to me, but I know most people who come from sunny places have a hard time adjusting.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
It’s definitely pretty safe. The police department is good, and there’s a notification system if anything goes on. I’ve never had an issue walking around late at night.
Pros and Cons of being in Seattle, WA?
1) You’re in the heart of a big city with lots of opportunities to find jobs, and to meet people.
2) It’s a good location in the sense that people can go up to Canada, Oregon, and there is a lot of good hiking around.
3) The food around here is really good.
1) It rains a lot.
2) There is a little bit of a stigma around the Seattle Freeze, which a stereotype that people in Seattle are self-driven and not very outgoing. I don’t think it’s true from my experiences.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in?
My friends and I go to the city a lot. It’s 10 minutes from downtown, and the transportation is free for students. We go to Pike Place Market and get some really good food, and there are lots of nice parks with cool sunset views. People go to Golden Garden Beach at night to have bonfires, and we go to football games on Saturdays in the fall. Tons of artists come to Seattle to perform, and there are parties around campus. I mostly enjoy outdoor events. Most of the parties are Greek affiliated, and I’m not in a fraternity so going to those are harder, not being in the Greek system.
How happy are you with the options for weekend activities around UW? Is there anything you would change if you could?
It’s what you make of it, but I’m pretty satisfied. There are lots of options in Seattle. Anywhere you go there is the typical stuff to do like going downtown to hang out with friends. On-campus restaurants close early around 11 or 12, which is annoying because college students stay up late.
How did you meet your closest friends?
Through living in the cluster last year. I also came to college with a roommate I knew, so I had a pretty close friend already.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
It’s very social. If you want to go to parties or school events, there is always something going on. I haven’t gone to a ton because trying to get into my major, and taking hard classes keeps me busy. Greek life has stuff going on all the time, which has its pros and cons. You could get easily distracted, but you also get to be social and meet a ton of friends.
To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
It’s pretty liberal in the sense that we have lots of clubs and organizations for underrepresented groups. I don’t see many groups with a wide range of sexualities, but everyone is very accepting and I don’t see many prejudices prevalent on campus. [About 40% of undergraduates are Caucasian, about 24% are Asian, and about 15% are international students.]
How strong is the Indian community on campus?
It’s very strong. Because it’s a highly affiliated technical and STEM school, lots of Asian and Indian cultures gravitate toward this type of education. Seattle is also the hub for a lot of tech industry stuff, so there are lots of student organizations on campus for people of these cultures. The campus is extremely diverse.
How do you like the size of your school in terms of undergraduate enrollment?
I like the size because there are a ton of people. Without a doubt, you will find friends. Compared to my friends at smaller schools, it seems like they are a lot closer with who they meet. Here, it’s hard to know a lot of people, but those you do know you become close with. [The undergraduate enrollment is about 31,000 students.]
How strong is the community of faith on campus?
It’s really strong. There are lots of different religious groups on campus, and they are very accepting and welcoming toward all kinds of people.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about the University of Washington before entering as a freshman?
How competitive and challenging certain classes would be. I came from a challenging high school, so I thought going to college would be a little more of a breeze. The workload in college for the technical major I’m in is stressful at times. I wish I knew how stringent some of the little things are, because I had to learn that on my own.
What is something a prospective computer science student should know that we haven’t touched on?
Undergraduate research opportunities and getting involved with stuff outside the classroom looks good for students trying to get into [the technical] majors.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that is worth checking out?
Keep the weather in mind. People typically visit in March, April, or May when the weather is nice. This doesn’t give you a good depiction of the winter when it’s cold and rainy. I would check out all of the dorms. I don’t remember seeing the one I was living in, but we did see a couple.
Reasons to attend Washington:
1) It’s really big, diverse, and you will meet people with similar and different interests.
2) There is a lot of student and alumni pride.
3) Its highly regarded academically. [Times Higher Education World Institutions ranked the school as the #4 U.S Public Institution.]
4) While it is challenging, the rewards of doing well here are great.
Reasons to not attend Washington:
1) If you’re someone who likes a smaller classroom environment, where you can get to know the professor in a hands-on environment. [45% of classes are between 20 and 49 students.]
2) The weather could be hard to get used to.