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In the Top League

Part V of a series that looks at what you need to get into world-class institutions

education Updated: Jun 02, 2011 16:49 IST

Hindustan Times

Mission: Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth

After Harvard, Yale and Princeton. We now focus on the next three distinguished institutions from the Ivy League, and though they all impart a liberal arts and science education, we highlight features that are distinct to each. By Pooja Biraia

Subject flexibility
While Rishabh Gupta, Cornell university alumni, studied industrial engineering as an undergraduate, he also had the opportunity of taking up courses in the graduate business school and graduate hotel school, thereby learning subjects absolutely lateral to each other. “This is the kind of flexible learning available at Cornell. You are not limited to any one subject.” All three universities provide students with the freedom to take classes in numerous subjects, especially in the first two years, so that they can decide their majors by the end of the second year. Shveta Raina, who recently graduated from Brown University says, “Brown offers an absolutely open curriculum. Students do not have any formal requirements outside their concentration. Even the concentrations have a lot of flexibility within them. I concentrated in applied math, international relations and economics, but I also had a lot of time to take theatre, media studies, French, space science and a few other areas of interest. Dartmouth too provides flexibility in its curriculum, says John Beck Jr, assistant director of admissions, Dartmouth College. “This is because Dartmouth operates on a quarter calendar with four terms per year (students will typically do three terms each year) instead of a semester calendar with two semesters each year. And because of the flexibility of its academic calendar, Dartmouth has the highest percentage of students who study abroad among the Ivies,” adds Beck.

You decide your own study structure
Unlike the Indian education system, students at Dartmouth not only decide what they want to study but also how they want to structure their terms. Irina Kholkina, Dartmouth college alumni says, “You decide if you wish to study continuously across the four terms in the year or work for one term and go for a language study abroad programme in the other and come back to the campus and continue studying for the next two terms. It’s not mandatory to study continuously in a year.” Avers Paresh Vaish, alumni and president of the Dartmouth Club of India, “Dartmouth gives you the flexibility to manage the four years in a way you want.” Dartmouth does not have a core curriculum, that is, there are no classes that everyone must take. “But we do have distribution requirements,” says Beck. The same goes for students at Brown University, where they can decide which classes to take and which to drop. “There is a lot of flexibility in terms of taking/dropping classes,” says Raina.

Advantages of a liberal arts education
Along with the subjects you study as your major, it is mandatory for you to also study a certain number of subjects from across disciplines. These are called distributive requirements (DRs) which are common to all three universities. However, across disciplines such as history, social science, arts, math, science, geography etc you are free to choose what you wish to study. Irina Kholkina took classes in oceanography, environmental studies, and applied math along with her majors in German studies and economics, while Gupta studied about corporate law, real estate and Italian literature along with his major in industrial engineering. “While there are no required courses or distributions, every student has several obligations to fulfill before graduation: demonstrate competence in writing; successfully complete at least 30 courses; successfully complete a concentration (major); fulfill the enrollment requirement of 32 units of tuition,” says Deborah Baum, a spokesperson of Brown University.

Not single, but a double major
Paresh Vaish graduated with a double major in computer science and economics at Dartmouth, while Irina Kholkina did a double major in German studies and economics. Both say, it’s careful planning that has seen them through. “Each major has about eleven courses you must take, but you don’t have to cram them in the last two years. In the first two years, you would have already taken some, for instance, I studied economics in my first year and by the time I got into the second year I had a fair idea of the subject,” says Kholkina. However, when pursuing a double major, you are required to research well. You are guided by professors who recommend books and review your work.

Scholarship for Indian Students
The Tata Scholarship Fund supports undergraduate scholars and ensures that the very best Indian students have access to Cornell, regardless of their financial circumstances. The scholarship — a $25 million endowment will be awarded annually; recipients will receive the scholarship for the duration of their undergraduate studies at Cornell University.

Internships and post college placements
“I was able to find an internship in the spring of my third year as the company - The Parthenon Group - came to recruit students on campus,” says Kholkina. However, it’s not always so easy for Indian Ivy league graduates to find a job, says Vaish. “I had difficulty finding a job since I, being an Indian, did not have work permit and of the 90 companies who I applied to, only two were willing to sponsor the work permit. Same for the internship. After trying hard, I got an offer from World Bank.” Also, it’s not always that Ivy League students get a job offer on a platter, says Gupta who worked at Deolitte Consulting after his graduation. “Often, you need to work extra hard to bag a job, despite being a student from a renowned institution. When it was time for us to look for internships, I did not wait for an opportunity to come my way, instead, I proactively tapped the alumni network and landed very good internships during summer as well as winter breaks.” Internships may be paid or unpaid.

Brown:The open curriculum at Brown allows students to take courses in the humanities, social sciences, life sciences, and physical sciences.

Cornell: Cornell offers more than 80 majors and is an interdisciplinary university. Students can take courses across colleges and schools.

Dartmouth: Dartmouth has the highest percentage of students who complete two or more majors of any Ivy League institution.

Brown: We look for students who have strong academics, who show initiative and creativity. and give evidence of intellectual curiosity

Cornell: Student’s ability to articulate his intellectual interest, grades, recommendations, and engagement in the school and community.

Dartmouth: We look for academic achievement, intellectual curiosity, students who have made in impact in their schools, communities, and homes.

Student speak:
Dartmouth College: The number of marriages that happen between graduates at Dartmouth is amazing.
Irina Kholkina

Cornell University: If you go to Cornell, you are sure to visit New York City several times.—Rishabh Gupta

Brown University: There is no pressure for grades at Brown and it has no required curriculum.
Shveta Raina


First Published: Jun 02, 2011 15:30 IST

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