The Muslim Girl’s Guide to Getting Into Top Tier Schools
It is not a coincidence that the first word of the Qur’an to be revealed to mankind was “read” or ‘Iqra’. Education, study, and research are all given high ranks within Islam and Prophetic teachings. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “One who treads a path in search of knowledge has his path to Paradise made easy by God…” – Riyadh us-Saleheen, 245.
Getting a well-rounded education from an a great university is a brilliant way for the rising Muslim Girl to become a shining leader in whatever field she wishes to enter. As college application season creeps up, the stress is almost tangible among high school seniors (our babies are growing!). But, don’t worry, we’re here to help you get into that dope school you’ve always wanted to attend and (inshallah) graduate from.
And we don’t mean ivy league or bust– a great education is a matter of mindset and pursuit; you don’t have to go to Harvard to become a glass-ceiling-breaking boss. A good university, no matter its ranking, generally provides important connections and different ways to break free from the stereotypes (and rigid molds) associated with being a female Muslim. So, below are some amazing tips from four Muslim women currently killing it at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, also infamously known as MIT (mashallah!): Dina, Aliza, Imane and Haniya.
1) Essays, essays, essays!
Dina: I think the biggest thing for me was focusing on making sure my personality came through in my essays instead of just my skills. Everyone who applies to these sorts of schools has really good grades and stellar extracurriculars. So what sets you apart isn’t how smart you are; it’s humor and your ambition and your values.
Since this article is targeted specifically for Muslim women, I would say try not to use your identity as a ticket into the school. More Muslims apply than will get in, so don’t make ALL your essays about culture or religion. While you should definitely mention your religion (and ethnic background if applicable), make sure they know there’s more to you than just that. Show them there’s also a big side of you that’s interested in science or politics or math or whatever in a context that has nothing to do with faith.
Everyone who applies to these sorts of schools has really good grades and stellar extracurriculars. So what sets you apart isn’t how smart you are; it’s humor and your ambition and your values.
Haniya: In terms of the application essay, make it about your experiences and who you are. I loved college essays, because they force you, for once, to think about who you are, what you have experienced, and what you hope to relay to the world. Take risks, be quirky, and show your personality through the essays.
2) Find a balance between academic and social life.
Aliza: Find a way to manage your academic and social life. I know I had a lot of pressure from my parents during high school to go to random parties and events, and it was hard fighting them sometimes and staying home doing schoolwork, but it paid off in the end.
3) Do the things you love… and not in the cheesy way.
Aliza: Pursue whatever you want. Everyone would always push me to be a doctor, but I had no interest in it whatsoever. I decided to study computer science and a lot of people tried to talk me out of it. I think the main reason they did that is because the field is predominantly made up of men, but I’m choosing to follow my dreams and ignoring all haters.
4) Take advantage of opportunities!
Imane: Take advantage of the opportunities available to you at your high school but also create ones where they are absent. This can mean starting a school club or organizing events like career fairs or guest speaker days. You’ll build leadership skills while getting to work with many other students.
5) Don’t be afraid to show the admissions council who you are!
Haniya: Admissions officers can tell when you’re passionate about something and when you’re not. They have been doing this for years and have seen thousands of applications! I strongly believe that success derives from enjoyment! If you like writing, contact a blog or site. If you want to help people, raise money or take a volunteer trip! Do things you actually care about. It will not only help you, but everyone around you.
Aliza: I spent most of my interviews talking about my culture and how it adds to my personality.
If you know you did your best, you worked hard, and did the things you loved with a genuine intention, then know that whatever the outcome is is for your own good.
6) No matter what, trust Allah (SWT)!
Haniya: In the end, Allah has your plan made for you. If you know you did your best, you worked hard, and did the things you loved with a genuine intention, then know that whatever the outcome is is for your own good. In the end, the experience is what you make of it. If you have an opportunity to enter the league or college, take it if you want! But if you don’t, please don’t sweat it. In the end, your intelligence and success is dictated by you, not the school you go to.
Dina: Make lots of dua and keep in mind that Allah knows what’s best for you. Since applicant pools are getting so big, you can do everything right and still not get in simply because there isn’t enough room in the incoming class for you, and if that does happen, know that Allah decreed this for you out of wisdom and that, in the long run, there will be something better for you InshAllah. This, of course, doesn’t mean that you can’t still cry or that you should allow yourself to feel pain the pain rejection, but that when you are done wiping tears, you should remember to say Alhamdulliah (and hopefully mean it).
In the end, your intelligence and success is dictated by you, not the school you go to.