young woman on the shoulders of someone at concertUC Personal Insight Questions: Six Essential Tips for Acing Them
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Meet Evan Davis, a current Berkeley student double majoring in Computer Science and Economics. As a member of the Class of 2022 at Laguna Blanca School in Santa Barbara, California, Evan had a passion for shaping economic policy in the political arena. During his senior year, Blue Stars had the pleasure of helping Evan refine his admissions profile.

Highlighting his computer science skills, philosophical interests, and active participation in Junior States of America, we suggested Evan engage in direct political volunteering with Citizens Take Action, an organization focused on reforming campaign finance, further enriching his resume.

In this interview, Evan shares valuable insights for students juggling multiple interests as he has – including adapting when college changes your passions. He also offers tips on making decisions about applying to a variety of colleges, from nationally ranked liberal arts schools to large universities.

We hope you find Evan’s advice and observations as inspiring and insightful as we do!

Dr. Amy Morgenstern founder of Blue Stars Admissions Consulting

DrM: How is Berkeley? What is it like to study there, specifically in economics and computer science?

Blue Stars student Evan

Evan: Berkeley is a hubbub of many different cultures and experiences coming together, teeming with driven and capable people. We have many clubs, research opportunities, and brilliant faculty, but the competition is strong. The academic life here will sweep you away if you’re not careful, so balance is crucial for happiness here.

To be honest, studying economics here was underwhelming for me, because the field’s rich tapestry of multifaceted approaches is largely ignored in favor of only one, and lacks theoretical depth. It’s a better fit for students aiming for industry, policy, or empirical work, not academic theory, as I am. However, Berkeley has amazing faculty and offers some interesting theory-oriented electives.

Computer science is intense. The core courses are designed to be tough, but the electives are amazing. Berkeley offers very theory-oriented computer science classes, including algorithmic economic theory, computability and complexity theory, and courses on AI, machine learning, reinforcement learning, and deep neural networks. For me, this makes up for the economics program’s focus on applied work.

Dr. Amy Morgenstern founder of Blue Stars Admissions Consulting

DrM: Are you glad you chose Berkeley?

Blue Stars student Evan

Evan: Now, yes. Initially, I regretted choosing UC Berkeley over Williams College, preferring Williams’ rural environment. Financial reasons and Berkeley’s stronger CS program influenced my decision. Establishing multiple tight-knit social circles at Berkeley has made me happier with my choice. The theoretical computer science faculty here is also exceptional.

Dr. Amy Morgenstern founder of Blue Stars Admissions Consulting

DrM: Has your path changed in ways you didn’t imagine when applying to college?

Blue Stars student Evan

Evan: Yes. Originally a math and computer science enthusiast, I developed interests in political theory, economics, philosophy, social psychology, and theoretical physics later in high school. I planned then to double-major in Economics and Computer Science with a minor in Philosophy, and have pursued this plan. Discovering my love for academic research, I now intend to pursue a PhD in Economics or Computer Science, applying CS tools to economic theory. I might also pursue a PhD in Machine Learning or Philosophy, depending on how things turn out.

Dr. Amy Morgenstern founder of Blue Stars Admissions Consulting

DrM: If there was one myth about college or college admissions you’d like to dispel, what would it be?

Blue Stars student Evan

Evan: You don’t have to have it all figured out when you start college. College is a time for exploration and fun, as well as career preparation. Many of my friends have switched paths multiple times, and some still don’t know what they want to do. You have time.

Dr. Amy Morgenstern founder of Blue Stars Admissions Consulting

DrM: Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self about gaining admission to a top school?

Blue Stars student Evan

Evan: Don’t waste the early application season. I should’ve applied early to Brown ED instead of worrying about the one-in-a trillion scenario where getting into Brown would block me from the few schools I preferred at the time (MIT was originally my top choice).

Dr. Amy Morgenstern founder of Blue Stars Admissions Consulting

DrM: What do you love about your life?

Blue Stars student Evan

Evan: I’ve found an amazing social circle at Berkeley and secured strong support from professors for PhD applications (two are co-authoring papers with me). I’m working as a software engineer for a promising startup and have a wonderful social and family life back home. I’m very happy with how things have turned out.

Dr. Amy Morgenstern founder of Blue Stars Admissions Consulting

DrM: As you think back to your college planning days, what top three things did you take away from your Blue Stars experience that helped you succeed?

Blue Stars student Evan

Evan: Don’t be a monolithic STEM kid when you apply to college. Intending to apply technical skills to social causes rather than pure engineering or science can help you get into strong programs, even if you have less technical experience than other applicants. As an example, I got into UCLA’s CS program with almost no CS experience outside of an academic context, when people I know who got rejected had major internship experience and similar grades/coursework.

Combine your passions with unrelated fields (i.e. Chemistry + Philosophy is cooler and more interesting than Politics + Philosophy). This not only strengthens your applications but also enriches your intellectual life. Consider quality of life and your financial situation when choosing a school. Financially, choosing a cheaper school can really help in the long run.

Dr. Amy Morgenstern founder of Blue Stars Admissions Consulting

DrM: Any other advice for teens?

Blue Stars student Evan

Evan: Be assertive and take risks. My few regrets come from not taking action due to fear of rejection. Opportunities I’ve pursued have made my life great. Also, cherish your high school days and memories. Despite the freedom and excitement at college, I sometimes miss the old days and people from high school. I especially cherish my time at Laguna Blanca School.

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About the Author: Amy Morgenstern

Dr. Amy Morgenstern, affectionately known as Dr. M, is the founder and CEO of Blue Stars Admissions Consulting. She holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and an MFA in contemporary art. A former professor of philosophy, honors program associate director, and assistant to the director of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, Dr. M brings a wealth of academic and multicultural experience to her practice.

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