Leading community organizations Vibha , GAMA (Greater Atlanta Malayalee Association) and the Fulton Science Academy set another bar for community partnership by jointly hosting ‘Are you ready for college?’, a half day seminar and panel discussion on college readiness. The event, held on August 20th at the Fulton Science Academy packed a full house of more than 350, not counting the several others who attended the event via Facebook Live from all around the globe. The event featured a stellar panel of 12 outstanding High School students who had gained admissions to several Ivy and other top of the league Universities along with the keynote speaker, Dr. Samir Patel (Founder/Director of ClearSide Biomedical) and Marjorie Mitchell (Director of Admission and Enrollment Services at the Westminister Schools).
The day got to a very engaging start with Dr. Patel’s keynote ‘Knowing what you don’t want’, in which he touched upon the importance of recognizing and eliminating areas that do not overlap with your passion, talent or long term career interests. Dr. Patel spoke about his own personal journey from being a Computer Science student to switching courses, career niches and finally finding his passion for research and development, which led to the founding of ClearSide Biomedical, now a publicly traded corporation. ‘I was young and it was not clear to me what I should be pursuing. But at each stage I found my next step by eliminating the path I did not want to take. I figured that if I remained true to what motivated me and kept on persisting, I would eventually arrive where I should be’. Dr. Patel also joked about how he got no job offers when he was actively looking for them as a student, but was flooded with lucrative offers when he decided to do something on his own. ‘It could have been a hard decision to let go of those offers. But I was very clear on what I did not want to do.’
The keynote was followed by an enlightening presentation on the general university admissions process by Ms. Marjorie Mitchell, Director of Admission and Enrollment Services at the West Minister Schools. Ms. Mitchell shared key insights gained from mentoring hundreds of students, including her own kids, who went on to graduate from elite schools all over the country. She illustrated the entire admissions process framework using a skeleton and flesh analogy , elaborating on the significance and meaning of each of the layers, starting with the SAT scores (ability to ace a test) ,grades (work ethic), recommendations (credibility) and essays (the real you). “The focus should be on developing a credible profile consistent with your long term objectives. Schools are looking to fill gaps in their class profile and are always looking for students profiles which complement and enhance their existing strengths. ” added Ms. Mitchell. She also stressed that students find their own voice in the essays rather than being guided by parents.
The student panel discussion which followed Ms. Mitchell’s presentation gave the audience a student’s view of the admission process. Every panel member had unique insights to share, ranging from tips to build relationships with regional school coordinators to how to score an internship in a reputed school or corporation. Each of the panel members reiterated the importance of getting to know the schools you target deeply. School visits, networking with alumni, faculty and current students were all discussed in depth. Some of the panel members spoke about how they changed their initial school choices after visiting and obtaining a taste of the school’s environment and culture. The students also highlighted the importance of “differentiating yourself by being yourself” in interviews and essays. They talked about interviews that went well and those that did not, along with the lessons they learned from each of them. Another key aspect that was discussed was the importance of balancing the school curriculum along with the admissions process. Strategies for getting through the final school year workload as well as keeping track of the admissions process and scholarship application were also shared.
But the most important message all the panel members gave the audience was to enjoy the last leg of their school life. ‘This is the culmination of your childhood in a sense. Everything going forward is different. So make sure you enjoy it’, one of the panel members remarked.
The student panel consisted of Pranav Rekapalli (Westminister HS/Princeton University), Rohan Rao (Johns Creek HS/Princeton University), Sara Sklenka (Westminister HS/Duke University), Sanika Rane (Northview HS/Rice University), Parth Kumar( Cambridge HS/ Georgia Tech), Nirav Ilango( Chattahoochee HS/ University of Georgia Athens), Nilai Sarda (Westminister HS/ MIT), Naman Gupta( Westminister HS/Emory University), Jamie Pastan (Westminister HS/Yale University), Clare Draper (Westminister HS/University of Virginia), Ashley Harriot (Northview HS, Harvard University) and Arvind Atmuri (Westminister HS/University of Chicago).
The event which was the brainchild of Mr. Sankarnarayana Rekapalli, a long time of volunteer of Vibha, received overwhelmingly positive reviews from both students and parents. Many requested to make it an ongoing annual feature. “There were many things that we would have never known about. “Hearing these insights from a dream panel of students like this is a very unique opportunity”, said one of the parents. Many parents and students stayed back after the event to interact with the panel members and the other speakers. Angela Lassetter, Board Member of the Fulton Science Academy thanked the Vibha and GAMA leadership for giving the school the opportunity to host the event. Kannan Udayarajan, Chief Operating Officer of Vibha and Secretary of GAMA, speaking on behalf of both the organizations said that the event was a perfect representation of what great partnerships can deliver to the larger community. Citing example of the keynote speaker Dr. Samir Patel, who used to be President of Vibha Georgia Tech for several years, Mr. Udayarajan emphasized the importance of learning through volunteering and requested students to volunteer for Vibha or other similar organizations that would give them the opportunities to learn, lead, grow and give back.
Greater Atlanta Malayalee Association or GAMA, was founded in 1991 and is one of the oldest and largest Indian expatriate organizations in the United States. GAMA strives to preserve and promote the Malayalee’s social, cultural , educational, literary and artistic heritage through it’s programs and initiatives. Fulton Science Academy is a Private School located in Alpahretta, GA that envisions a pre-K through 12th grade nationally ranked and recognized school serving advanced and gifted student populations committed to academic success, civic responsibility, and high ethical values within a safe environment that celebrates diversity and is supported by the collaborative efforts of its stakeholders and the broader community.