Shriya Nadgauda, ’17, is one of 225 freshmen at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California.
Q: Why did you decide to attend a technical college like Harvey Mudd?
A: I knew that I really wanted to do engineering, but I wasn’t sure what type of engineering, and because Harvey Mudd offers a general engineering degree, I was really excited about that.
I also really wanted to go to college with a lot of people who were like-minded and enjoyed engineering and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).
Q: How was the transition from high school to college?
A: It was a little rough. Harvey Mudd was really hard (and) stressful (because) there’s a lot of homework. It was hard in that the workload was a step up, but it was also a lot of fun to go and meet all these new people, live on your own, (and) figure out (college life) on your own.
Q: Do you like the small-school environment?
A: I really, really like it because it is really nice to walk around. (For example), at Country Day, when you walk around, everyone you see is someone you know, someone you are familiar with. That is the same with (Harvey Mudd). It is a little less so because there are 800 students rather than 125. But just walking around and knowing everybody is really nice.
Also, the class sizes are really small, so the professors know my name. Office hours (are also) chill.
You get to know the professors a lot better when the class is 25 kids rather than 500 kids.
Q: What classes are you taking?
A: Last semester, I took chemistry, biology lab, Special Relativity for half a semester, calculus for half a semester, Statistics and Probability for half a semester, a writing class for half a semester, computer science, Autonomous Vehicles, and floor hockey for physical education.
Next semester, I am taking physics mechanics, another chemistry class, a humanity class called HSA10, which is required for all students, another computer science class, biology class, linear algebra for half a semester, differential equations for half a semester, floor hockey and a ballroom dancing class.
Q: Why did you decide to take this Autonomous Vehicles class?
A: It was one of the most popular freshman electives, and all of the upperclassmen I talked to that took it really enjoyed the class. I’m also considering majoring in engineering so I thought the class would be really good to see how I feel about and do engineering.
Q: What did you do in that class?
A: We created a robot that was supposed to autonomously find and “claim” beacons. At the end of the class, we had a competition where two robots competed against each other to claim beacons. There were two types of beacons, ones where you had to run into the beacon and push a button and another where you had to flash a light at a specific frequency to claim it.
Q: Why did you want to take ballroom dancing?
A: I wanted to take a dancing class in college, and a lot of my friends are taking the class this semester so I decided to take it too. I also really wanted to take a class at another college.
Q: What are you majoring in?
A: I haven’t declared and do not have to until spring of my sophomore year, but I am leaning towards engineering. I applied to colleges fairly sure that I wanted to do engineering.
I really like Harvey Mudd’s general engineering degree because you get to (cover) all the different types of engineering. It is one of the biggest reasons that I came to Harvey Mudd.
Q: Do you have any roommates?
A: Yes, I live in a suite. I have one roommate in my room, and there (are) five of us who share a kitchen, bathroom and a shared living space.
My three other suitemates are all seniors, so we get along, but we don’t really talk with each other that much.
My roommate is in cross country, so our sleeping schedules don’t really align. (Thus), we do not spend a lot of time together.
Q: How is Harvey Mudd different from other technical colleges and universities?
A: It’s a lot smaller than most of them. Most engineering schools tend to be pretty big. It also has no graduate program. Also, all of the majors are a lot more general. For example, the engineering and math majors are both general degrees. You do not major in a specific type of engineering or math.
Q: How is it different from SCDS?
A: It is really weird to go to a school in which everybody is as into math and science as (I am). (At) Country Day, everyone has very diverse interests and the people that enjoyed math and science like I (did) were limited, whereas (at) Harvey Mudd, everywhere you go everyone wants to do STEM, which is really nice but weird.
Q: What makes Harvey Mudd unique compared to other colleges?
A: The community is really supportive. I heard a lot about engineering colleges being competitive, and I didn’t want to go to a competitive college. I wanted to go somewhere where people helped each other and wanted to see other people succeed.
Harvey Mudd is definitely like that. Everyone will stay up late and help you with your homework, and everyone is just really nice. The upperclassmen are really helpful.
There was this one time where I needed help with a physics problem at like two in the morning, and this upperclassman that I talked to twice before came out and helped me on the problem. That is something that you cannot really find in any other college.
Q: How did Country Day prepare you for college?
A: It made me more comfortable talking with my teachers. I would go and hang out with (science teacher) Dr. (Kellie) Whited at lunch and just talk to her.
I was really comfortable talking with teachers about homework or issues I had, or just life, so it made it really easy in college when I needed help in a class to go to office hours and ask for help, which not everyone is comfortable with.
Q: Are you participating in any extracurriculars?
A: I joined a couple of clubs.
I joined this club called Science Buzz. Every other Friday, we go to elementary schools and give them science lessons, which is a lot of fun.
The last one we did, we gave the students Lifesaver mints, paper, straws and popsicle sticks. They made cars and we raced them.
I also joined a club called API-SPAM (The Asian Pacific Islander Sponsor Program At Mudd), which is the Asian group on campus. There aren’t that many Indians on campus, so we do not have an Indian group. But we have that.
Q: Have you made any freshman mistakes?
A: I definitely stayed up way too late the first few weeks. There is a lounge next to my room, and many people would stay up till three or four in the morning (including myself).
I realized that four hours of sleep was not maintainable.
Make sure you get some sleep!
Q: Any advice for the class of 2018 regarding college?
A: Do not stress too much about (college) applications. I applied to 23 (liberal arts) colleges and I think that the biggest thing I realized in the process was that there is no one right college for you. There are a lot of colleges that you could be really happy at.
So even if (it’s) not your first choice, once you get there, you will not imagine yourself at any other college.
Q: I’ve heard that you are getting around campus on freeline skates. How is that working out?
A: I am still learning how to use them. I did not really have as much time as I thought I would to learn. I actually brought them back with me, and I am going to try to finish learning over (winter) break.
Most people do not walk around, which is really surprising because the campus is really small.
It takes about eight minutes to walk from one end of the campus to the other.
Five-star or subpar?
School Spirit: ☆☆
Student-teacher interaction: ☆☆☆☆☆
—By Keshav Anand