A Q&A With $2,500 College Raptor Scholarship Essay Winner Tasneem Ahmed!

Congratulations to Tasneem Ahmed, the recent (and talented) College Raptor $2,500 Scholarship essay winner! I got the chance to speak with Tasneem and ask about her college search journey, future plans, and more.

Check out her interview below!

Scholarship Winner Tasneem Ahmed with her certificate.

Tell us a little about yourself!

Hi! My name is Tasneem Ahmed and I’m a senior at Milton High School, Georgia. I’m vice president of my school’s French Club and Muslim Student Association. I’m also part of Milton’s Model United Nations team. In my free time, I enjoy writing poetry, reading, practicing photography. I’m fluent in English and Arabic and am also learning French and Sign Language.

What do you want to study in college?

I plan on majoring in international affairs and plan to pursue a career in humanitarian aid and diplomacy. I hope to to serve those who are rendered powerless or voiceless due to their country’s political or economic situation. Though I realize that it’s a very demanding profession, it’s also extremely rewarding and satisfying.

Which colleges made your list? Do you have your eye on one in particular?

I’ve narrowed my college list down to Yale, UCLA, and Emory University among others. I definitely see myself fitting well at Yale, but I fall in love with every college I apply to. So I’m equally excited for all college decisions!

Cost seemed to play a big role in your decisions, but what other factors did you consider?

Throughout my college search, I kept in mind college type (ie. public, private, liberal arts, etc), campus safety, and overall student life. Diversity was another important factor as I want to make sure that I’m exposed to different people with unique experiences throughout my college education. International affairs is a major that exists under many alternative names, so I had to also make sure that the colleges I selected had my major under one of those variants.

Before College Raptor, what were a couple of methods you used to search for colleges? What frustrated you about them?

I used various college search tools and looked up college rankings when I was trying to create my college list, but I was always frustrated with the fact that I couldn’t get a grasp on how the school was a good fit for me as an individual. Most college search engines list colleges according their educational value for the major selected. As you can imagine, every student gets almost the same listing for the given major. In addition, these search tools often provided the cost of attendance after the average financial aid is calculated, but it is not specified what that constitutes or what that might look like for me personally.

In your essay you mentioned you’re the first person in your family to go to college (in the US). What does it mean to you to be a first-generation college student?

As much as it is stressful, it’s also an honor and privilege. Being a first-generation college student in the U.S. means that I’ve had to figure out most of the knicks and knacks of the college application process on my own. It also means that I have to be conscious of how much college is going to cost for me and my family so that my younger sisters can pursue a higher education as well. Though it’s been a challenging journey, I’ve gained a lot of valuable insight and experience that will be extremely helpful as I make my way through college.

What is one thing that surprised you about using College Raptor? Did it change how you looked at the college search process?

What I loved most about College Raptor was that it showed me how well each college fit my personal preferences. This helped me stop being so hung up on the college’s national rank and start focusing on whether I’ll be comfortable attending school there. I loved the “What-if” tool, which let me play around with my SAT scores, GPA, and financial situation to see how my odds of acceptance and financial aid varied. It proved especially handy in helping me set goals for my senior year SAT exams.

What is one piece of advice you’d like to give other students preparing for college?

One piece of advice is: try not to get overwhelmed by the vast number of seemingly fitting colleges out there. It’s easy to end up accumulating 25+ colleges by the end of your college search. The harder part is scaling it down to the number of colleges you want and can apply to. Don’t get stuck on one aspect or detail when condensing your list, but consider all of the factors that may prove important in the short and long term.

Good luck!

Congratulations again, Tasneem, on being College Raptor’s scholarship essay winner! Everyone here at College Raptor wishes you luck on your college journey.

Use College Raptor to discover personalized college matches, cost estimates, acceptance odds, and potential financial aid for schools around the US—for FREE!