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An Insider's Look at the Illinois Institute of Technology

Neil Bhandari, a Computer Science major at Illinois Tech, gives readers a look at the college which ranks on Forbes Top 25 STEM Colleges list.
BY BrainGain Magazine Staff Writer |   20-01-2020

Neil Bhandari

“My first semester has been a reality check,” says Neil Bhandari, a freshman at Illinois Institute of Technology, and a self-proclaimed computer geek. “I thought college would be a lot easier as I can pick the subjects I am passionate about.”

The Illinois Institute of Technology campus in the heart of the city of Chicago is awe inspiring with its sprawling campus and its collection of notable urban buildings designed by architectural greats such as Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe and Rem Koolhaas. An oversized Exelon Tube over the McCormick Tribune Campus Center carries L train riders to downtown Chicago giving the campus an extra edge.

Illinois Tech is classified as one of the Top 25 STEM schools in the country by Forbes, and it’s no secret that it can be challenging to get admission into this highly selective private institution with a student body of a little over 3,000 students. Typically, students need to be in the top 22% of SAT test takers, ranking it Number 5 in Illinois for highest average SAT composite scores.

Braingain Magazine gets an insider’s look at campus life from freshman Neil Bhandari, a Computer Science major at Illinois Tech, as he prepares to launch into his second semester at the start of the new year.

How did you feel when you didn’t get into your early decision school?

I decided to apply to Stanford University even though it was a reach. I figured I had nothing to lose and was ecstatic when I was actually called for an interview. The weeks leading up to it were nerve wracking but the interview itself went fairly well. I found out a few weeks later that I had not made the cut. It was disappointing at first, but I moved on to the next best thing. In the end, it worked to my advantage as IIT has proven to be an amazing tech school with limitless opportunities in my area of interest.

My takeaway from my college admissions process is that it is important to find the right fit rather than focusing on the brand as most of us tend to do. At Illinois Tech, I have the opportunity to get more individualized attention because of the class sizes and there is the added bonus of being able to stay close to my family here in the city. In the end, I think it is important keep an open mind.

Why did you pick Illinois Tech over North Western University, University of Chicago, or University of Illinois at Chicago?

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To be frank, I felt that the school has a great reputation as a tech school, boasting a host of alumni who have made ground-breaking achievements in the world of engineering, technology and architecture. It stood out because it focused on academics, which is what I need for a Computer Science degree —tons of math and technology courses. After going on several college campus tours Illinois Tech stood out because of its smaller, more intimate community and it did not hurt that I was offered an academic scholarship of a sizeable amount that would help lighten the financial load without compromising my education.

Admittedly the social life here is not what I had expected based on information I had gathered from the media over the years. Those misconceptions of endless frat parties died quickly as I realized that the school is more academically driven in comparison to larger schools with a more diverse curriculum. It’s more a place where you can make a tight-knit group of friends, and as long as I stay on top of classes and homework, I can make the time to pursue other interests and personal projects.

Tell us what you are studying and what it’s like being in an Illinois Tech classroom?

In the first semester, my curriculum consisted primarily of calculus, computer Science courses using languages such as Java and elective requirements like sociology. At present although my classes are interesting and informative, I anticipate they will gain momentum as the courses become more specialized in my areas of interest, artificial intelligence and virtual reality.

In addition to my classroom education, I learnt a lot in my first trimester in the most unexpected way. Last fall, I signed up to attend the Dare Mighty Things Conference and Hackathon hosted in Chicago. It was geared towards inspiring students and post grads to compete in coding challenges. Although I went completely unprepared for it, I happened to meet up with a few other freshmen from Illinois Tech and we decided to join forces and participate as a team. The results were even more shocking as we took home the prize for the challenge in our category —building a web app for data management of a real estate firm. It turned out we made a wise decision in participating as our team managed to bag first place in all categories in the hackathon as well. 

Does Illinois Tech live up to all the hype surrounding it?

If anything, I believe that Illinois Tech downplays its reputation as an academic institution. I went into it expecting that it would be relatively easier as I had picked subjects that interested me, but it’s a fine balance between getting bogged down with coursework and finding the time to pursue other interests. Working out at the campus gym is my favorite pastime and a definite perk to campus life. The challenges tend to come in waves; I am coasting along just fine and suddenly a tidal wave of work comes along and leaves me scrambling for life. I suspect it will get easier with time and a better approach to time management.




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