The Architecture of Tech: Computer Engineering

I go to Cal Poly Pomona in Pomona, California, and my major is computer engineering. Computer engineering consists of creating hardware solutions and perform programming to enhance them. In computer engineering, electronic engineering and computer science combine to teach the design of various technological devices. During my childhood I was really curious about a computer’s architecture. My passion for it really influenced my decision to choose the major of computer engineering.

Favorite class

My favorite class that I’ve taken within my major is C# programming. I really enjoyed this class because it incorporates the foundations of programming, but is still fun since you can incorporate your own creativity in the programs you create.

Friends in my major

I do have quite a few friends that are in the same major as me. A lot of my friends enjoy the creation of hardware, which is the bulk part of my major. Some people also study newer concepts like artificial intelligence and machine learning. 

My goals

With my major, I hope to create a program that will be a part of a big tech project one day, and make a valuable impact on the consumers. My main career goal is to get involved with artificial intelligence and virtual reality.

Career paths

Some possible career paths for anyone taking computer engineering can be:

  • artificial intelligence and virtual reality
  • computer hardware (building computers)
  • software engineering (writing code to develop software programs)
  • machine intelligence

Common misconceptions

A lot of people think that engineering majors focus heavily on just the basics of engineering. However, there’s actually a lot of room for creativity and innovation.

Tips for future majors

Make sure to do your own projects to find your interest in engineering. You might get a little bored because there’s a lot of theoretical knowledge and learning. Just know that there are many advances constantly going on within the field, probably some that you haven’t even heard of yet. Everyone has their own niche and passion in engineering, you just have to search for it.

Similar majors

Some related majors to computer engineering are electrical engineering which is the study of devices that use electricity, software engineering which applies core engineering principles to software development, and computer science which is the study of computers and their applications.

Writing Supplemental Essays

In addition to your personal essay, some schools require a supplemental essay as a part of the application process. In the supplemental essay, you are often asked to explain why you want to apply to that particular school and why you would be a good fit. Here are some tips to help you out as you tackle these types of prompts:

Identify your passions 

Before you get started on the essay, think carefully about where your interests lie. In addition to studying, what else do you hope to do while at college? Are you passionate about science and want to work in a research lab? Do you love sports and plan to join an intramural soccer team? Do you enjoy writing and dream of working for the school newspaper? Write it all down and come up with a list of a couple of things that are essential to your college experience. 

Do your research 

Now that you know what’s important to you, go onto the school’s website and find out what opportunities they have in those fields. Most schools have a list of available extracurriculars and student groups that you can join when you get there. It’s also beneficial to look up different academic programs, research opportunities, internships and study abroad options. As you’re doing this, jot down everything you find that makes you genuinely excited. 

Culture matters 

Another aspect you should touch on in your essay is the school culture. Is the school’s community based around sports? A tiny liberal arts college with a small-town feel? Is there a strong religious presence on campus? In your essay, you should identify the school culture and explain why it’s a good match for you. Use as much first-hand experience as you can. If you’ve visited, mention something you learned on the tour that stood out to you. If you haven’t had the chance to visit, browse on the school’s website and look at class sizes, research the city the school is located in and read about student experiences. The more information you can get, the better.

Quality over quantity

Once you’ve done your research, you’re ready to begin writing the essay. These essays are usually short: only one or two paragraphs. Since you do not have a ton of space, prioritize quality over quantity. First, in a few sentences, explain why the school would be a good culture fit for you. Then, rather than listing out every activity you find interesting, select two or three of the opportunities from your list and talk about why you want to do them in detail. Be as specific as possible, mentioning the exact names of the programs or student groups you’ve researched. Colleges will be impressed with your attention to detail and it’ll show that you’re serious about the school. 

Be authentic 

Sometimes students write down the things that they think colleges want to hear. However, you should always be true to yourself. For example, if the school is super religious, and that’s not something that matters to you, don’t say that it is. The most important thing is that you’re happy and successful wherever you go to college. This essay provides an excellent opportunity to think critically about your values and determine whether they align with that schools mission. In your research, you might find that it’s not a good fit, and that’s okay! It’s better to know early on. 

Don’t stress 

There are no right or wrong answers for this essay. As long as you put some thought into it and do your best to explain yourself, you’re all set.  Colleges want to see you for the student you are. Look at it as a chance for them to get to know you better. Don’t forget to have fun with it! 

Filling out the Common App Activities Section

You’ve uploaded a resume. You’ve submitted a transcript. Why on earth do you need to fill out the Common App activity section as well?

The activity section is a chance for you to display your interests, commitments, and accomplishments throughout high school. Colleges and universities will look at this section to understand how you spend your time outside of the classroom. Are you involved in your community? Have you shown leadership or taken initiative? This is your opportunity to define your passions clearly and concisely, and we’re going to show you how to stand out. 

Step 1: Choosing a category

With each extracurricular you upload, you’ll have to select one of the following categories:

  • Academic
  • Art
  • Athletics: Club
  • Athletics: JV/Varsity
  • Career-Oriented
  • Community Service (Volunteer)
  • Computer/Technology
  • Cultural
  • Dance
  • Debate/Speech
  • Environmental
  • Family Responsibilities
  • Foreign Exchange
  • Journalism/Publication

  • Junior R.O.T.C.
  • LGBT
  • Music: Instrumental
  • Music: Vocal
  • Religious
  • Research
  • Robotics
  • School Spirit
  • Science/Math
  • Student Gov.t./Politics
  • Theater/Drama
  • Work (paid)
  • Other Club/Activity

As you can tell, there are a lot of options, and it can be pretty confusing, especially since you can only choose one category per activity. Make sure to choose the category that’s most relevant (i.e. for Robotics Club, choose “Robotics” instead of “Science/Math.” 

Pro tip: it helps to diversify your categories so colleges can see that you have multiple interests. For example, if you are in a math club, academic decathlon, and tutoring, don’t list all three as “Academic.” Choose “Science/Math,” “Academic,” and “Community Service” respectively to show your different passions. 

Step 2: Position and description

Now that you’ve chosen a category, you need to say what you actually do. First, you have 50 characters to list your title and the name of the organization. Try to avoid just calling yourself a “member” – you do so much more than that! If you work at a food bank, you’re a volunteer. If you’re on an athletic team, list your position. 

For the description, you have 150 characters to explain what you’ve done with that organization. Because of the limited space, you don’t have to write in complete sentences, but be sure to keep it professional. It’s also easier to include numbers so that admissions officers can understand the scope of your work. Instead of saying “I wrote for the school newspaper,” you can say “Researched, wrote, and edited two 500-word articles per week.”

This is also the space to share your accomplishments. Be proud (without bragging)! Let colleges know how you’ve succeeded, whether in competitions, awards, or recognition from your peers or coaches. 

Step 3: Time commitment

There are four last questions to answer for each activity you list.

  1. Years active. You can list either school years or school breaks when you were involved. Make sure to include activities you did for multiple years if possible, as this shows your dedication.
  2. Hours per week. This doesn’t mean how many hours did you spend in meetings. If you’re in the band, did you practice each week? If you’re on the debate team, did you go to competitions? Think about how much time you commit to each activity, even if it’s not a formal meeting. This is a great way to show colleges how much you care about each activity. (Side note: Don’t lie! Admissions officers can count, so if you say you do 10 activities each for 10 hours every week, they might smell something fishy. There’s no need to overexaggerate, but be realistic about how you spend your time!)
  3. Weeks per year. This one is pretty simple – if you do it during the school year only, that’s about 40 weeks. If you participate in a seasonal sport, it’ll be around 15 to 20. 
  4. Continuing in college. No pressure! Colleges won’t reject you because you want to leave your oboe at home after high school. They just want to know what your true passions are… like the passion section of your CollegeFindMe account!

Last-minute tips

A few more things to remember:

  • You can only list 10 activities. This can include clubs, jobs, community service, or just about anything else that takes up your time outside of school. However, there’s no need to fill the list. Focus on the activities that you think best define you. This should probably include groups you’ve been with for longer, or organizations where you hold leadership positions. 
  • Make sure to list what your organization does. If they use an acronym (like YES, FFA, NHS, etc.) explain it in the description.
  • When organizing your 10 activities, put them in order of importance. Groups you’ve been with longer, groups you hold leadership positions in, and groups you’ve won awards in should go to the top.
  • If you’re still part of the organization, write the description in present tense. Grammar is important!

This may seem like a lot. But don’t worry. Think about who you are and what matters to you. That’s what you should convey in the activities section of the Common App. To get a head start, try organizing your passion in the CollegeFindMe app. We’ll help you work on personal statements, keep track of achievements, and build a portfolio. When applications are due, you’ll be ready to go!

Figuring out Film Studies

Stephanie Cen ‘20, New York University

I think everyone assumes a lot about what a film major does, but there’s a big variety in what people do with a Film and TV Production major. I personally focus on learning more about filmmaking and creating my own films. 

Deciding on film

It was back in high school during my senior year when I had to make a documentary for my film class. It was a group project, but I really wanted to do a documentary about Autism since people were using it as a derogatory term and unaware of what it really is. This was also a very personal project since I focused this documentary on my brother who is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. After making this documentary, I realized that I enjoyed making a film that I was so passionate about and wanted to tell more stories like this to the world.

Favorite project

Definitely this “music video” project that I did about culture clash. The entire process when making it was super surreal. I unfortunately didn’t have a well-written script, but someone came on board to write a song for it. Actors were helping me cast the right actors. People were willing to work on this project because they supported the story and wanted to see it happen. I think that was the biggest moment I’ve ever experienced; if I didn’t have the support to do it, I don’t know how else I could’ve done it. 

Some classes I’ve taken

  • Sight and Sound: Filmmaking 
  • Fundamentals of Visual and Dramatic Writing
  • Intro to TV Writing

Career paths

There are so MANY paths that it’s more about what you want to do. People in my major can go on to editors, cinematographers, animators, actors, writers, directors, producers, and more. It’s really all up to you. I want to become a writer-director that tells stories that bring awareness to issues that are going on today. I want to tell heart-warming stories that make an impact, and more importantly, make someone think. 

Tips for future majors

I’ve actually done this many times, and all I can say is if you really want to be a filmmaker or animator, then this is for you. And I wish someone had told me this, but it’s really what you make of it and you just have to be proactive. 

Winter Break Tips

Jaadyyah Shearrion ’20, Cambridge Rindge and Latin School

Welcome to winter break! If you’re in your first or second year of high school, this might feel like the perfect opportunity to kick back and relax after a long semester. Or, if you’re like me, you might be a little bored for the next few weeks. Luckily, there’s a few small things you can do to turn your break into a productive (and fun) couple of weeks.

Discover your passions

Hopefully, if you’ve downloaded the CollegeFindMe app you’ve noticed that there’s a section on your profile just for passions.  You may be thinking “how is this better than homework?,” “why would I put what I like on a possible college application?,” and “why should I start my application now?!” I know I felt that way when I was an underclassmen. I would always think “I’ll do it later.” But, in sharing your passions, when it comes time to submit applications colleges will be able to see the real you, not just test scores.

Filling out your passions is so quick and easy. All you have to think about is what exactly you like to do. The app has some of your favorite things; baseball, drawing, sailing, acting, and that’s just to name a few. Doing such a small task over your winter break sounds a lot better than your looming homework assignments. You will also sleep better around the time for application deadlines knowing that you’ve got a head start. 

Find the right fit

When it comes to college searching most don’t know that your feelings about your high school matter as well. Do you go to a huge high school and don’t like how many students are in each class? Then you would probably like a smaller college. Did you find that you aren’t getting the help you need in your classes? Try looking for a college that has a ton of student resources. Not everything has to be academic either. If you grew up in a small town and you want to see what it’s like to live in a big city, look for colleges in urban and metropolitan areas. 

Explore new paths

It’s pretty hard trying to figure out what you want to major in once you’re in college. To make things a bit easier, think about what your favorite classes are. I know sometimes you end up liking more than one class, and that’s fine. What narrows down your search are questions like “would I enjoy a career in this subject?,” “what exactly does it mean to study this subject?,” or “what kind of job could I have if I studied this subject?” Follow what you have a passion for, even if the major isn’t the most common, like Astrobiology, Nannying, or Wildlife (I looked these all up and seriously, they’re real). If you are still unsure of what you want to study, we explore a new major on our blog every Monday!

Read

We hear the collective groan that just spread across the nation. Yes, the CollegeFindMe team wants you to read. A lot of young people don’t like reading mostly because our schools don’t let us read things we actually want to read. Books that may not interest everyone like 1984 by George Orwell, Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and other boring age old cautionary novels that force us to think critically. But that’s not what we’re asking you to do.

Read something that tickles your fancy. If you’re interested in how Kylie Jenner went from a model to a business woman, read up on her financial success. If you believe in aliens maybe you could read some declassified UFO documents. If you like to produce music read about Dr. Dre’s music career and his inspirations. Just because it isn’t traditional literature doesn’t mean it doesn’t count as reading. Remember that quote from your physics class? “An object in motion stays in motion.” Imagine your brain is the object and reading is making it stay in motion. While school is inactive your brain would be active by reading over break.

If you’ve chosen to apply one of our suggestions to your life that’s fine. Regardless of how you spend your winter break, make sure to relax and have fun aside from just being productive. From the CollegeFindMe Team, have a wonderful winter break!

How to Stand Out in College Interviews

Wiener Douyon, CollegeFindMe Intern

College interviews

Whether you’ve done a million interviews before or this is your first time, college interviews can feel especially stressful. A lot of colleges don’t do a great job explaining what will happen in an interview, and how it might help (or hurt) your application. That said, interviews can be a great way to learn more about a school, and to show off how excited you are to go there! Even if it’s intimidating, these interviews are just another opportunity to put your best foot forward.

What’s the point?

To put it simply, it depends on the college. College interviews play different roles depending on where you’re applying to. While some schools consider them a mandatory part of the application process, others may make them optional. Some colleges may not even offer interviews at all.

However, if given the chance to interview, you should seize the opportunity! It is informative: the admissions officer learns about you, and you learn more about the college. So let’s make you a pro!

How to prepare

There are many ways to prepare for a college interview. However, researching prior to an interview is a great way to start. The more you know, the easier it is to show off your excitement, especially about aspects of the school that set it apart from the crowd.

  • If the school has a specific extracurricular activity, course, major, or housing option that is really exciting to you and rare at other colleges, bring it up! 
  • If you have questions, ask them! A lot of schools ask alumni to do their interviews, which means the person on the other side of the table has been in your shoes. This is your chance to get the personal perspective of someone who’s already been where you want to go!

Some interviewers might also ask you some questions that can be pretty tough to answer if you’re unprepared. Here are some things to consider:

  • What would you change about your community?
  • How have your individual experiences shaped who you are today? These can include experiences of loss, pride, or joy. Reflect and look at what led you to this day.
  • Reflect on your academic interests, hobbies, and methods of stress-relief. 

And, most importantly, be ready to talk about something other than your test scores, classes, and extra-curriculars. Remember: you’ve already sent in your transcripts, your score reports, and your essays. This is your chance to show off a side of you that colleges might not know. Talk about who you are, what you love, and why you like this school!

Final note

As someone who has lead interviews for college admissions, I can say that every student has a boat-load of qualities that make them amazing. All you have to do is figure out how to…

  • Talk about personal stories
  • Portray the best part of yourself
  • Stand out to colleges by showing off the parts of yourself that they don’t already know

Even if it means practicing in the mirror, you can find the confidence to show off and shine. Take a deep breath and get ready to glow!

Breaking the Code: Computer Science

Srikar Karra ‘23, University of California Berkeley

My major, Computer Science, involves coding (mostly in Python) and developing programs and executing code in order to simplify tasks. The main job prospect for CS majors is as a software engineer.

Choosing Computer Science

UC Berkeley is known for its top notch Computer Science program so getting into Berkeley confirmed that I was definitely going to major in Computer Science. Prior to getting accepted, I really thought about becoming a CS Major since there are many job prospects and CS is a rapidly growing field in this century. I also really enjoyed coding throughout high school and took many Computer Science classes.

Favorite project

My favorite project was making a small game in PyCharm. I made a small game similar to Flappy Bird and got all my friends to play it. I developed and created the project in a platform called Unity on my Mac. It took us about a week to complete the project. My friend made the designs while I took care of the coding and implementation. Building my own game was very fun and I learned how other creators think and make their own games. It gave me a different perspective. 

Major culture

The CS department at Berkeley is huge – probably even the biggest in the entire college. The culture is amazing. Everyone works really hard and love what they do. It is very easy to find people around you to help you out as well if you ever need it. A lot of my friends are also in Computer Science here at Berkeley. They all love programming just like I do and they really enjoy all the facilities and opportunities Berkeley offers for CS majors.

Career goals

I hope to become a software engineer for a Forbes 500 company. My ultimate dream is to be able to start my own company and provide software tools for other top companies. Graduating with a computer science degree at Berkeley is not an easy feat. It requires a lot of persistence, hard work, resilience and most importantly, patience. These are all life skills that are very important to have. Some other examples of jobs that CS students can get are a Mobile Application Developer, Software Engineer, Systems Architect, Machine Learning Engineer and a Data Engineer

Similar majors

A lot of people who don’t want to do Computer Science choose to pursue a degree in Data Science or Cognitive Science which are also very similar and growing fields. Personally, I considered majoring in Economics or Finance, but I will probably end up minoring in them for now.

Beyond Numbers: Applied Mathematics

Mateo Dordi ‘23, University of California Berkeley

I major in Applied Mathematics at UC Berkeley. It’s the application of mathematical methods by different fields such as science, engineering, business, computer science, and industry. I’ve always enjoyed doing math and it was something that came naturally to me so I decided to make it my major.

Favorite class

I am currently taking Math 53 here at Berkeley which is Multi Variable Calculus. In high school, I took AP Calculus AB/BC in the 11th grade which really peaked my interest for math. I enjoyed working through each problem and really understanding the fundamentals and basics behind each and every problem in math. It showed me the simplicity and beauty behind mathematics and its implications in our day to day life. 

Favorite project

Though I didn’t really complete any projects, I did work on proving a theorem in Calculus class which was really fun, even though it took my friend and I almost a week to complete it.

Major culture

The department is a little smaller than the big name majors, but there are still a plethora of facilities and research opportunities for math majors to pursue. There aren’t too many applied math majors I know here but a lot of people I know are taking the same level math class as I am. The few people that are majoring in math really love the faculty. They’re very helpful since it’s a smaller program compared to something like Computer Science.

Career goals

Math is in every single thing that you do. It teaches you valuable lessons and if you can get a math degree, you can pretty much do anything. I hope to eventually get into software and use the math knowledge I have to advance the company I am working at. Some other fields that math majors can get into include being Statisticians, Mathematicians, Math Professors, and basically anything Economics or Finance related.

Our Application Motivation Playlist

This is it. The final month before your college applications are due. It’s stressful, and it’s tiring. So to give you that final boost to make it through your applications, we’ve asked the CollegeFindMe Team to put together their favorite songs that get them pumped. Check out our playlist and get to work… you’ve got this! 

Good luck! – Cindy, Sam, and Jeremy

The Hidden Costs of College

Jeremy Caldwell ‘19, Tufts University

Let’s face it: college can be expensive. CollegeFindMe can help you figure out different types of financial aid available to you, ways to avoid application costs, and even give you scholarships, but there are still some hidden costs when you actually get to college. So let’s break down some additional expenses you might run into, and how to get around them.

Room and board

What is it? This is the biggest additional costs that most colleges won’t tell you when advertising their tuition cost. “Room” refers to your dorm room, and “board” refers to facility maintenance, cleaning, services, and, most importantly, food! 

How much? The average room and board cost at a public school is $10,800 per year, on top of tuition costs. It jumps to $12,200 at private schools.

How to save. Most schools will require you to live on campus for at least the first year or two, so it’s hard to get around this cost. However, if you can find cheaper housing off campus and commute to campus, you can end up saving a lot of money. Similarly, you might not be able to get around the food costs at first (most schools will ask you to join a meal plan with a certain number of meals provided to you every week), but you can reduce your meal plan and start cooking for yourself if you have access to a kitchen.

Textbooks

What is it? Unlike high school, most classes you take in college will require multiple books to get you through the class.

How much? The average student spends $1,250 per year on books for classes.

How to save. There are lots of ways to work around textbook costs. 

  • Share with friends. If you and your friends are taking the same class, share a textbook! Work out a schedule to pass around the textbook, or study together.
  • Ask former students. Chances are, someone you know or another student in your major has taken the same class as you. Ask if they still have their old textbooks. Odds are, they’d be thrilled to sell them for really cheap!
  • Talk with your professor. Your professor will definitely have a copy of the textbook, and might be willing to share their copy with you. They might also let you know if a textbook is “recommended” rather than “required,” which means you don’t actually have to buy it. 
  • Rent. As long as you take good care of your books, you can save a lot of money by renting books online and returning them at the end of the semester. 

Laptop

What is it? Many schools will ask you to have a laptop or computer to get you through classes and homework. 

How much? The average laptop costs $470, depending on what features you want. 

How to save. Know what you want out of a laptop. If you only need to use the internet and write papers, a simple Chromebook will have all the features you need and save you a lot of mooney. Don’t pay for more features than you need. 

Dorm furnishings

What is it? When you get your dorm room, you’ll be provided a bed, desk, and dresser, or maybe more. But you’ll still need to get sheets, blankets, pillows, and decorations. 

How much? The average cost to furnish a dorm is $125.

How to save. Rather than buying all new things for your room, take some items from home to your dorm. This will help you save a lot on decorations and make you feel more at home. A lot of stores like Target, Walmart, and K-Mart also do great back-to-school sales for dorm furnishings.