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A Bruin’s Declassified School Survival Guide – Pranav Singh’s Journey from the Bay to UCLA

August 17, 2018

DUBLIN, CA–Our next Life in College profile takes us to Southern California and UCLA where Dublin High School Class of ’17 alum Pranav Singh is currently pursuing a BA in Linguistics and Computer Science. What do you have to say to high schoolers who are starting the process of college applications?

Pranav: “Be sure of yourself. In applications, focus on conveying who you truly are. The admissions decisions are determined by one word: belonging. They have their own, ever-changing idea of what type of student will belong to their campus, so even though you won’t know ever know why, you’ll end up where you should end up. Trust me.

“College is the scariest thing in the world until you set foot on campus. Every new journey will present you with a new ‘scariest thing in the world.’ Take them as they come, and attack everything head-on. Don’t be scared of anything.”

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 12.32.44 PM What have you learned from your first year at UCLA?

Pranav: “Just like I said in the last question, I found a place where I truly belong.

“Academically, the ‘shock’ of being thrust into this new, harder, yet more rewarding environment teaches you how to be adaptable, strong, and determined. Speaking of adaptable, I came into UCLA as an Astrophysics major, yet I switched (in one quarter) to Linguistics and Computer Science. While toiling away at the first physics class in college, I realized that it just wasn’t what I wanted to do anymore, so I went with my other true infatuations. Luckily, UCLA had that exact combination as a major, and I was able to start courses in my new major within a couple of weeks. As my dad always tells me, fail fast and fail hard. Try everything you think you’re interested in as early as you can so you’ll have more time to pursue what you love in college. On top of that, make sure that you really give it your all; this way, you can be absolutely sure that you either love something or hate it. If you hate it, drop it. Welcome to college.

“Socially, UCLA taught me that the best type of friends to make in college are those that work hard and play hard. These are the people you’ll find: passionate and driven people who are increasingly involved outside the classroom and have schedules that may drive you crazy just by looking at them, but people that are the first people who ask you if you want to go to the beach on a Tuesday night. Seriously, don’t fret or stress over not finding any friends. There’s over 30,000 fish in this sea.

“Also, make friends with upperclassmen. Fish are friends, not food. They’ve been through everything that you’re scared of going through, and they have the added benefit of being real people that you can have conversations with about anything, no matter how relevant the issue is. They want to help.

“Lastly, don’t forget It has saved my behind more times than I’d like to admit.” Linguistics and computer science? Seems like an unlikely couple. Can you tell us more about that?

Pranav: “Many people view computer science as a strictly engineering-based field that can’t be extrapolated outwards. However, computer science isn’t just coding: it’s using a computer, the result of years of innovation and the brainchild of the most brilliant people on Earth, to solve any problem you can think of. On the other hand, linguistics is a beautifully technical field that allows me to dive deeper into language than I ever thought I could.

“The two fields converge in the area of natural language processing (deriving meaning from unmodified and natural human communication), which is itself a subset of artificial intelligence (programming a computer to think like a human). The products of this necessary marriage are chatbots (Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana), the app that solves any math problem you take a picture of, a service that correctly predicts the price of a house based only on the neighborhood’s crime rate and its distance from a school, and the predictive text in your keyboard.” What are you involved in outside of class?

Pranav: “This summer, I’m doing an internship at a start-up that automates the hiring process by parsing resumes and scoring them using a sophisticated machine learning model. I’m currently a project manager for ACM (the largest computer science club on campus), where I’ll be leading side projects for the Artificial Intelligence division and collaborating with other departmental clubs on campus. I’m a research assistant in the UCLA Language Processing Lab, where we investigate the psychological effects of and on linguistics, or how humans perceive language and what affects their understanding of text and speech. I’m also really excited to apply to be a campus tour guide next year and join my roommate’s consulting club, Consult Your Community. I’m also starting my very own NLP club, BruinNLP.

“Never waste any opportunities to get involved in a lab or in a club. For labs, it’s okay if you feel like you won’t get any reply from professors or grad students. Send 40 emails and you’re guaranteed to get one or two back, which is more than wonderful because those could end up being the most fulfilling experiences you’ll receive. For clubs, walk right into their meetings. Can’t find one you like? Form your own. It’s all up to you.” What’s a lesson you’ve learned the hard way?

Pranav: “Don’t waste time.” What’s one of your fondest memories from this past year?

Pranav: “Masquerading as a USC student during the big UCLA-USC rivalry game (or as I like to call it, El cLAsico) with one of my best friends from DHS, Loic. That explains the picture in his article.

“LA is a wonderfully efficient city: every fun and interesting place in the city is less than an hour away. I’ve even loved getting dinner with my friends just ten minutes (walking) from campus in Westwood.” Why did you choose UCLA?

Pranav: “When I visited, the weather was beautiful: it was sunny yet not too hot, and I saw beautiful blue sky. Every brick, from Royce to Franz, seemed to have its own distinctive shade of scarlet, and the small but manageable size of the campus meant I got to know it before even SIRing. I knew this was where I wanted to spend the best four years of my life. New Student Orientation, the best 4 days of my life, confirmed my choice. The uninviting clouds and rain at Carnegie Mellon turned out to the be the best thing that ever happened to me.

“I met my main group of friends at my orientation session. UCLA offers multiple orientation sessions during the summer, and I guarantee you it’ll be the most fun you’ve ever had during summer break. Plan ahead and coordinate with your friends and roommates!

“Taking advantage of the 15-minute ride to Santa Monica Boulevard and visiting some art galleries for the heck of it.”



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