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Ravali Reddy’s Stanford University Journey from Dublin High’s Valedictorian to a Wacky Walk Penguin

July 14, 2014

Ravali Reddy Dublin High School Class of 2010 and Stanford University Class of 2014

The next entry in’s Life After College Series catches up with Dublin High School’s Class of 2010 Valedictorian Ravali Reddy who recently completed a Stanford University journey where she graduated with the Class of 2014 as a Communications major minoring in Biology and Pre-med. Ms. Reddy wrote about her first semester at Stanford back in November 2010 as one of the first Life in College Series contributors.

For students wondering if they can survive and thrive at Stanford, enjoy a life outside of the classroom, and still graduate in four years, read on. With all the stories of students struggling to complete a degree on time, what was your path to completing your undergraduate degree in four years?

Ravali Reddy: “I was fortunate going to a private school like Stanford University because the graduation rate is incredibly high. For most people that end up staying a fifth year at Stanford it’s usually because they are double majoring, or they are athletes that red shirted their freshman year to retain four years of eligibility. Another popular option at Stanford is a co-terminal masters degree which is when you apply to a masters degree while you are still an undergrad, and if you are accepted then in your senior year you can start your masters while you are still an undergrad and finish your masters in one more year.

“During my freshman year I sat down and created four or five Excel spreadsheets of the requirements I knew I had to get through, especially when I’d decided to major in Communications, with a minor in Biology and pre-med. Sitting down and mapping out how to fulfill all three requirements, quarter-by-quarter as a four year plan, was really helpful.” What role did advisors play?

Reddy: “The advisors were helpful, but the thing that most kids don’t realize is that you have to actively seek out your advisor in college. Advisors aren’t your parents, they’re not going to call and check up on you, and make sure that you are finishing your requirements. You might get a mass reminder via email on graduation requirements, but it’s up to you to meet with an advisor and make sure your specific requirements are on track. Advisors like it when students are proactive, they want you to graduate on time, and it can be as simple as a quick ten minute meeting to confirm you are on track.”; Talk about your mix of Communications, Biology and Pre-med which on the surface seems like an unusual combination.

Dublin High School Class of 2010 Alum Ravali Reddy Stanford DiplomaReddy: “I’ve always had a fascination with medicine. I thought it was a really interesting career and really liked that I could interact with people on a very personal basis. Medical problems bring into play physical and emotional wellbeing. When I was in high school I also read a lot, including literature and books by doctors and popular medical writers like Atul Gawande who writes for The New Yorker and Dr. Sanjay Gupta who contributes to CNN. I thought all of their work was fascinating.

“After arriving at Stanford I took my time because students don’t declare a major until the end of their sophomore year. I looked at a bunch of different majors – biology, bio-engineering, human biology, and knew I ultimately wanted to go to medical school. While I knew I would be studying biology and medicine in the future, I saw Stanford as my opportunity to study something else, in an environment where I have so many opportunities and resources. Knowing what I wanted to do in grad school really helped me make choices in undergrad.

“When I started exploring other options, I was drawn to smaller departments. Human Biology is a great major at Stanford, it’s a really interesting and unique program that let’s you bring together the humanities and biology, but it’s also a very large and popular program, one of the most popular majors on campus. I ended up taking a lot of biology classes but also studied journalism and really enjoyed those classes. My decision to major in Communications was driven in part by one of the journalism professors.

“While it’s true that many Communication majors do pursue a career in PR, I wanted to focus on scientific writing, and was able to create independent study courses at Stanford. In one course I wrote a narrative study on a young individual who was undergoing genetic testing for Huntington’s Disease. I also completed a paper on healthcare policy, specifically on Obamacare in the Peninsula. While the path I took is somewhat unusual, I knew I wanted to study science while taking the opportunity to develop other skills.” Based on your experience it sounds like there are many paths to medical school, similar to how many undergraduate degrees can lead to law school.

Reddy: “What a lot of people don’t know is that you can’t major in ‘pre-med’. You don’t earn a bachelor of science in pre-medical studies! Instead, there is a list of requirements for pre-med, a year of biology, a year of physics, chemistry, a certain number of bio labs; it’s very feasible to meet those requirements while doing something else. That said, if you major in biology there is a lot of overlap with pre-med requirements, whereas my communications major had zero overlap with pre-med with the exception of my statistics class. I ended up with two different sets of requirements to complete.” Stanford, outside looking in, can be intimidating – the top ranked school in the country, type-A students, very competitive; what’s the reality based on your experience?

Ravali with her family

Ravali with her family

Reddy: “I think Stanford is very unique and it’s easy to group schools like Stanford and Harvard together into one category when in fact they’re very different. I was very scared when I first entered Stanford that it would be competitive and cutthroat, having heard rumors that students weren’t nice to each other and wouldn’t share notes if you were sick, but that’s something I never came across. I found Stanford to be a very collaborative environment.

“I think there’s a sense that once you are accepted into Stanford there’s no need to compete against each other anymore. A sense that we can all succeed together that is reinforced by professors. There are a lot of group projects, including classes where you wouldn’t expect a group project requirement. You are rarely working in a lab without a partner, meaning you have to work together to successfully complete a course.

“I was very pleasantly surprised about how collaborative the environment was at Stanford. We were told from the beginning ‘You are the Class of 2014 – you work together – you succeed together – and it’s really important that you help each other out.’

“Stanford is also a small school where everyone is able to live on campus so there is a big emphasis on bonding and being there for each other.” Talk a bit about how internships played a role in your Stanford experience.

Reddy: “I had an internship every summer. The biggest thing internships did for me was helping me figure out what I didn’t want to do. I alway assumed that I would work an internship, fall in love with the job and know what I wanted to do; my experience was the opposite. While I enjoyed my internships, met a lot of great people and learned a lot, I was able to think about where I wanted to be 10-15 years down the road.

“The summer after my freshman year I worked in a cancer immunotherapy lab at the Palo Alto Veteran Affairs Hospital, doing wet lab research. I worked with cells and mice all day, and learned a ton, but also discovered that wasn’t the kind of work I wanted to do after college. I’m a very outgoing person and like being around people which isn’t necessarily compatible with being in a lab all day.

“The summer after my sophomore year I tried journalism to see how that would work out. I had an editorial internship at the Sacramento Bee. I lived out in Sacramento and worked full-time as a reporter. It was great, there were interns from all over the place, Yale, USC, LSU. It was obviously a completely different experience – I rotated through different sections of the newspaper so that we could report on stories from business to crime – and it reinforced that I was interested in jobs where I interact with people. But I also realized print journalism wasn’t for me.” Describe your Stanford experience outside of the classroom.

Ravali at the Stanford 2014 Asian American Awards Night

Stanford 2014 Asian American Awards Night

Reddy: “I did quite a few things to unwind including being an opinion columnist and senior staff writer for The Stanford Daily, writing a column called ‘Ravalations‘. I wrote for the graduate program’s hyperlocal news site The Peninsula Press. I danced for a competitive Bollywood-fusion dance team in my freshman year and captained the team in my sophomore year, and continued as an advisor for my junior and senior year. I was a Residential Advisor in my junior and senior year, which was a really positive experience, and met so many more people than I would have otherwise. I was really involved with the South-Asian Ethnic Community on campus, which helped me deal with homesickness for certain types of food and religious holidays, and helped connected me with my culture. I ultimately chaired the organization in my senior year.” One final question, what did it feel like to walk across the stage as a Stanford University graduate?

"March of the Penguins" Wacky Walk

“March of the Penguins” Wacky Walk

Reddy: “It was a surreal experience and I was overwhelmingly happy. A lot of my family were in town because my little brother graduated from Dublin High School just a few days before I graduated from Stanford.

“Stanford has a unique tradition where graduates dress up in costumes for a ‘Wacky Walk’ before you change into traditional clothing for the commencement ceremony. A large group of us decided on March of the Penguins as our theme, all dressed as penguins in the morning before we changed into caps and gowns.

“I was excited, happy and proud – it was a dream come true – but immediately after it was a bit sad to realize you are driving away from Stanford’s beautiful campus, possibly for the last time.”

Congratulations to all Dublin High School alum who have enjoyed a college graduation this year! If you’d like to be profiled contact us at

Ravali’s Dublin High School Class of 2010 Valedictorian Speech