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Grad Student shares his feedback after first year at NCSU

Our alumnus Nishad went to NCSU in Fall 2015. He sent a detailed feedback and some great tips for future applicants. Sharing it as it is-

I am currently in my second semester as I started here in Fall 2015. The first semester went well and I got the 4.0 I wanted. This semester I managed to convince one of the professors to pay me (it’s not an RA/TA and it pays very less but its better than nothing and I do not want to spend long hours doing a dining/ library job) for some research work which may hopefully lead to a paper and conference presentation as the field is new and exciting.

I have also secured an internship with GoPro after many other unsuccessful interviews (Apple, Nvidia, Tesla). So right now, it seems good, I will be in the Bay Area for an internship with a smallish company (GoPro has about ~1500 employees) and I have family in the area so I will not be paying rent. Exactly the internship I was hoping for. They have already talked about extending a full-time offer if the internship goes well and I have every intention of making sure I hit the ground running once I get there. If they do, I can probably handle 4 courses next semester and get done with Masters sooner than I expected.

I also wanted to touch upon a few points with respect to the things that went right/wrong with me with respect to choosing my university.

I had admits from NC State, UC Boulder and UNCC. Of the three, it was always going to be between the first two, but I think I should have chosen UC Boulder (I am currently at NCSU)

I would outline the mistakes I made in the following order:

  1. Prejudices/ Preconceived notions: Happens with everyone but I guess I had some preconceived notions about both the universities based on friends telling me things, and even based on the interaction I had with the admissions staff in the university. I clearly remember thinking the UC Boulder admissions in-charge sending long-winding emails (I realize that is kind of my email right now) and I was somewhat put off by it.
  2. Coursework details: On paper, NCSU coursework looked fine but I should have delved more deeply into which courses are available at what frequency and how easy it is to take courses which are not part of your major. In my case, I had a few very important courses only offered by the Computer Science department and they were only available to me if Computer Science students gave up some seats. That never happened and despite repeated discussions with the department I never could end up taking those courses.
  3. Sabbaticals: In India this very rarely happens, so this did not cross my mind and I can be forgiven for this mistake I think. Professors are on sabbatical in the US. Very frequently it turns out. The professor who takes two of the most important subjects has been on sabbatical since I joined the universities and has not yet returned. One of the subjects I took under the replacement professor and frankly he has not been up to the mark. Very disappointing experience.
  4. Get in touch with a person doing the same major at the University: This is again something that seems obvious in retrospect. But all the above points could have been addressed if I took the time to get in touch with someone who could have answered all these questions for me. In my case, getting an RA/TA as a non-thesis Masters student was impossible. Simply put, the university does not allow it. Now this was not very important for me but I can very well imagine someone else who comes along, confident that they will be able to secure an RA/TA due to their academic capabilities.

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