From Edison to Columbia, Cornell, and NYU

Caption: Class of 2023 college commitment poster

With all the college decisions released in early April, seniors have committed to their homes for the next four years. Many Edison students are committing to top-ranked schools in the United States where the acceptance rate is as low as three percent. 

Upcoming Columbia University student, Yordani Rodriguez, shared his story as a Questbridge Scholar matched to an Ivy League institution.  

“Questbridge is a national college program for first-generation low-income students. You have to apply and become a finalist and once you are a finalist you can rank up to 15 colleges, and the college that accepts you gives you a full ride and you are committed to that college. Not everyone who is a finalist is guaranteed a match,” Rodriguez said.

“I really showed a passion for learning. Throughout the year we have been told that you need to have a high SAT score and a high GPA, but I did not submit my SAT, because I knew that what I did in high school showed that I was a high-achieving student, without me having to submit a standardized test. I suggest students submit it based on their research. I also did a lot of college programs. I looked for fellowships, and summer internships at colleges that were free. I was looking for programs catering to low-income students which were free,” Rodriguez said. “I did two programs at NYU, the first was a program on Dramatic writing, the second one was a Filmmaker program. I followed on to do a program at Columbia Law School. I also did a philosophy summer program at Columbia. Doing these programs showed that I was willing to go out of my school environment, challenge myself, and learn. I also made a lot of connections. Before I got into Columbia, I already knew several professors and a lot of students going to Columbia who became my friends and advisors who can help me once I am at Columbia. Also, for the Essays I came in with the perspective that I will write creative essays that show my story. I told my story of how being an immigrant has impacted me and my family. Through my personal essays, I really showed the admission officer who I am beyond academics. I recommend students do summer programs at universities, like NYU’s high school summer programs. The program that changed my life was Columbia’s Freedom of Citizenship program. They helped me with college applications, I learned about philosophy and got a sneak peek into the Columbia community. There is also The High School Law Institute at Columbia which is 3 years long which I recommend.”

Upcoming Cornell University alumni, Sharfa Hassan, shared her story of acceptance. 

“I would recommend current Edison students take advantage of the college scholars program and Apex for youth for college application help. I would tell other students to have leadership positions and start working on essays early. I started thinking about my essays starting junior year,” Hassan said. 

Faiza Rabeek shared her story of acceptance at New York University Tisch for the BFA Game Design program.

“I think creating a theme within my interests and extracurricular activities helped as well as my essays. At least for me, a lot of times it gets hard to balance all your extracurricular activities as well as grades continuously. Also, Utilizing the Google Classroom class of your year is great as they post a lot of opportunities that are worth trying out.  It is also worth it to be connected to different CTE teachers and students as sometimes certain CTE majors would receive different opportunities compared to other CTE (especially if you know you are not interested in exploring your current CTE further down the line). I asked for help as much as I could. Since as a first gen, I didn’t have people explaining the college process to me or checking my work, I prioritized extracurricular activities that had those resources,” Rebeek said.As Edison is a CTE school, they are great at providing opportunities for working / employment which helped me a lot as a low-income student who also wanted good extracurriculars. The process of creating your clubs at Edison is very easy, I wish I utilized that more ahead of my senior year. Edison is very fast-paced with grades. Not to mention, it has very competitive students so it did prepare me for the rigorous institution. Focusing on creating a resume that reflects you as a person works better in getting into top colleges than creating a resume you think top colleges would like. Colleges receive millions of copy-pasted applications, and being yourself and making your application reflect that would stand out better.”

Upcoming Cornell University alumni, Osiel Iglesias, shared his story of acceptance into an Ivy league school.

 “In high school, I was involved in the National Honor Society, Science Honor Society, HOSA, and St. Johns Liberty Partnerships Program.  I would suggest current students talk with the higher educational programs at colleges they like and contact them to see how they can qualify for their program,” Iglesias said. “I don’t think Edison prepared me for that academic rigor. Because I only took regular coursework and AP Statistics. I would suggest students take hard classes, aim high for the SAT score, and keep in contact with the school they want to attend.”

Mim Datta shared her experiences as an upcoming Political Science and Data Science major at Columbia University.

“While I can’t pinpoint what got me in Columbia, I can speak to my authenticity in my applications. I made my essays as personal as you can get, and I didn’t shy away from any hardships or parts of my identity that made me unique. The grammar and punctuation were on point, as I had numerous English majors, friends, and family members look over them. Additionally, I chose teachers who could write letters of recommendation that could speak to my strengths in academics, character, and extracurriculars. I recommend providing your resume as well as an information sheet with any additional information you need them to include. Extracurricularly, I had numerous leadership roles in DECA and Podcast Club. I also worked in the Future Ready enrichment program at our school. Over my summers, I engaged in numerous summer programs at schools like Cooper Union and Columbia University and published some computer models. I also had many art awards, as I love to draw and paint.  My application had a theme, which some may call a spike, mostly around youth education advocacy and art and culture. I recommend having a spike in one or two of your passions versus going for “well-rounded,unless that’s truly who you are,” Datta said. “Throughout high school, I struggled to balance everything. I wanted to have a social life while maintaining academics and extracurriculars while juggling family responsibilities, coming from a first-generation low-income household. I had to take care of family members with my parents’ irregular work schedules. I would often come to school with 3–4 hours of sleep a night. During my college application, I prioritized quantity over quality. I applied to 20 schools, not including CUNY! That was a stressful period, as I know it was for most of my peers. Looking back, I would have rather not exerted that much effort and been gentler with myself. I would like to share a resource called Matriculate. It’s a free program that pairs you with a mentor, usually a current college student who has gone through the process already. They can help you craft a solid application. I personally did not rely on this resource, but I’ve heard people have positive experiences.

“I learned how to network very early on and was able to get mentors who have been through the process already to help me with my college applications. I also sought out college access programs and did my research on YouTube, Quora, and Reddit (don’t fall down a rabbit hole though!). I took advantage of the AP and college classes our school offered. I also leveraged the fact that it was pretty easy to create our own initiatives here, such as starting a new club or nonprofit chapter, and getting grants for associated transportation costs. I feel that the rigor associated with the numerous AP and college classes now offered at Edison helps prepare students like me to thrive in rigorous academic institutions. However, I also attribute my preparedness for entering Columbia to the extra efforts I made outside of the classroom, as well as the assistance I received from college access programs and local community organizations. I would advise students to take the initiative to create change within the Edison community and local or global communities. I would advise them to plan their courses in advance and align them with their potential college major or general education requirements so they can receive credit once they enroll in college. Additionally, I would suggest finding a support system to help navigate through the difficult and stressful college application process. When fall arrives, I would advise against applying to more than 15 schools, but if you do, manage your time effectively. Space out your schedule and allow for breaks, whether with friends or family. Don’t shy away from applying to top-tier schools, and always take the chance! It never hurts to try,” Datta said.

“I would not place my focus on getting into a prestigious college or university; rather, I would focus on developing a strong foundation to guide me toward my future career and life goals,” Datta said.

All students getting into top schools shared a common voice that echoed having goals/dreams, being involved in extracurriculars outside of school that showcased their interests, writing creative college essays, and having connections with the colleges. 

Amena Akter

Hi there! I am Amena Akter. I was born and raised in Bangladesh where I discovered my passion for Bengali literature through literary icons such as Humayun Ahmed and Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay. My writing journey began in the US, where I embraced creative writing and journalism in high school. Beyond my literary pursuits, I find joy in soccer, watercolor painting, gardening, and cooking. I am very interested in medicine and aspire to become a physician-scientist in Oncology. I have a deep-seated desire to make a positive impact on both the world of literature and the field of medicine.