Following her heart
The importance of college was always at the forefront of Ritu Prasad’s CA experience.
“My parents immigrated to the United States from India when I was child,” Prasad explains. “It had always been important to them that I attend an American college—it was one of the big reasons they decided to leave. They wanted me to have the best opportunities, and the Indian education system was a lot less choice-based, a lot less flexible.”
Themselves unfamiliar with the American college system and application process, Prasad and her family appreciated the strong support system offered by Laura Sellers, Prasad’s college counselor.
“As newcomers, it was easy to freak out about all the details, the wealth of information to sort through—the SATs, the applications, the deadlines, the overwhelming choices. Ms. Sellers was always the voice of calm and reason, helping to set out the facts and requirements and providing important guidance.”
Working with the college counselors, Prasad made a list of what attributes she most desired for prospective colleges. “Throughout my time at CA, I had the opportunity to build great relationships with my teachers. I’m still friends with some of them today; Vic Quesada, Donna Eason, and Dr. Robert Coven changed my life!” gushes Prasad. “For college, I wanted small classes that offered similar opportunities to form those deep relationships and to grow and develop alongside my teachers.”
A lover of both science and English, she also wanted a college that prided itself on the well-roundedness of its students—one that offered a strong interdisciplinary curriculum and the flexibility to explore multiple disciplines simultaneously. An exceptional study abroad program rounded out her list.
She created her initial college prospect list—adding in the University of Chicago on the advice of alum Brent Rappaport (’10)—and culled it by taking full advantage of CA-hosted visits from a variety of college admissions officers. “Those visits with the admissions counselors from all those different schools that CA offered was really useful and played a role in shaping my decisions” notes Prasad.
One such meeting with a Columbia University admissions counselor made it clear that Columbia was not a good fit, while others affirmed her interest in Northwestern and the University of Chicago. A later campus tour of the University of Chicago would prove that it was the school for her. Excited, she applied early decision and was accepted.
Both of Prasad’s parents are physicians and following in their footsteps had been an early goal that she set for herself. During her first couple of years, she pursued her tandem interests, taking pre-med classes while also majoring in English. A study abroad to Paris to explore astrophysics would be a highlight of her undergraduate years.
In her senior year—just one credit away from securing a double major in biology, while signing up to take the MCAT—it hit her: she didn’t want to be a doctor. “I had been warring with my two passions, science and writing, for my entire undergraduate career. I suddenly realized that my true love was writing.”
Just like that, she changed gears, graduating with a degree in English and a minor in biology. “It was jarring,” Prasad admits. “I’d had a ten-year plan for years, but, suddenly, I didn’t know what would come next.”
Soon after graduation, after a less-than-gratifying internship and foray into communications work, Prasad began to investigate graduate schools. She was accepted to Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism after a last-minute application and awarded an academic scholarship.
She completed her master’s degree in journalism in 2016. A journalism residency with the BBC in London would prove life-changing, leading to her current full-time position with the BBC’s North American bureau in Washington, DC. There, she’s living her dream as a multimedia journalist covering features and general news: “It’s work that I believe in, work that means something.”