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‘Are You Ready for College?’ gets a packed house

September 2016
‘Are You Ready for College?’ gets a packed house

Community organizations Vibha and GAMA (Greater Atlanta Malayalee Association) joined hands with the Fulton Science Academy in hosting a half-day seminar and panel discussion titled ‘Are You Ready for College?’ The event, held on July 23, 2016 packed a full house of more than 350, not counting several who attended via Facebook Live from all around the globe. The event featured a stellar panel of twelve outstanding high school students who had gained admissions this year to several Ivy and other top universities along with the keynote speaker, Dr. Samir Patel, Cofounder and Director of R&D at ClearSide Biomedical, and Ms. 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 own passion for research and development, which led to the founding of ClearSide Biomedical. “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.”

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An enlightening presentation followed on the general university admissions process by Ms. Marjorie Mitchell. She 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 student 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 gave the audience a student’s view of the admission process. Every panel member had a unique story or insight to share, ranging from tips on building 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 deeply the schools you target. School visits, networking with alumni, faculty, and current students were all discussed in depth. Some of the panel members told about how they changed their initial school choices after visiting and getting to know the 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.

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Twelve students who had gained admission to top universities were among the speakers at the ‘Are You Ready for College’ seminar.

The student panel con sisted of Pranav Rekapalli (Westminster HS/Princeton University), Rohan Rao (Johns Creek HS/Princeton), Sara Sklenka (Westminister HS/Duke), Sanika Rane (Northview HS/Rice), Parth Kumar (Cambridge HS/Georgia Tech), Nirav Ilango(Chattahoochee HS/University of Georgia, Athens), Nilai Sarda (Westminister HS/MIT), Naman Gupta (Westminister HS/Emory), Jamie Pastan (Westminister HS/Yale), Clare Draper (Westminister HS/University of Virginia), Ashley Harriot (Northview HS, Harvard) and Arvind Atmuri (Westminister HS/University of Chicago).

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The event, which was the brain child of Mr. Sankarnarayana Rekapalli, a longtime supporter of Vibha, received overwhelmingly positive reviews from both students and parents. Many requested to make it an ongoing annual feature. “Learning these insights from a dream panel of students is a very unique opportunity,” said one of the parents. Many parents and students stayed after the event to interact with panel members and other speakers. Angela Lassetter, Board Member of the Fulton Science Academy, thanked 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 the example of 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.

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High school students and their parents got good advice at the seminar.

Website Bonus Feature

Vibha is a completely volunteer driven movement that brings together people who want to make a difference in the life of an underprivileged child (volunteers, corporates, grass-root entrepreneurs, donors, government agencies, and partner nonprofits). Since inception in 1991, Vibha has raised $13 million and supported more than 250 projects in India and 10 projects in the US. As a result, Vibha has been able to reach out to and provide opportunities for over 300,000 underprivileged children. Currently, Vibha supports 30 projects in India and 7 projects in the US.

Greater Atlanta Malayalee Association (GAMA), was founded in 1983 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 its programs and initiatives.

Fulton Science Academy is a ​private ​school located in Alpharetta, 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.


[The article above contains additional material not in the print and digital issues.]

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