Overview: CollegeAdvisor.com Client Success Stories
Welcome back to another chapter of our CollegeAdvisor.com Client Success Stories. In this series, we speak to CollegeAdvisor students who used our expert admissions advice to achieve their college dreams.
In our CollegeAdvisor.com Client Success Stories, we interview our past clients to learn more about how CollegeAdvisor helped them throughout their college admissions journey. We talk about their experience with the CollegeAdvisor.com advising network, and how our team helped them as they built their college lists and prepared their college essays. We will also share the college admissions advice they relied on the most as they completed their college applications.
Our CollegeAdvisor Client Success Stories and the positive feedback we receive from our CollegeAdvisor.com reviews remind us of the importance of our work. Our mission is to empower students of all backgrounds to achieve their college dreams. We hope that our CollegeAdvisor Client Success Stories motivate you as you start your college lists, write your personal essays, and embark on your own college application journey.
Introducing Sumaiya Binte Imad
For this article, we spoke to CollegeAdvisor.com student Sumaiya Binte Imad. Sumaiya applied and was accepted into our CollegeAdvisor.com Scholars Program, where she received one-on-one college advising help throughout her college application journey.
This article highlights Sumaiya’s academic interests and extracurricular activities and how they have shaped her future college and career goals. It also focuses on how Sumaiya found CollegeAdvisor and details the work she did in our Scholars Program.
This article also showcases Sumaiya’s initiative, admission results, and her decision to take a gap year. Sumaiya will give her personal advice for other high school students entering the college application season as well.
Without further ado, let’s get to know Sumaiya!
Sumaiya’s academic interests and extracurriculars
Sumaiya grew up in Bangladesh. Like many students, Sumaiya felt overwhelmed when she first started exploring college majors. To narrow down her academic interests, Sumaiya took online courses to figure out what she wanted to learn.
“When I was going through the application process, there were around 50 majors to choose from,” Sumaiya shared, “which was very overwhelming. How I tackled that was I did a few courses from Coursera, FutureLearn, Great Learning, just to tap into what colleges are teaching and what I specifically wanted to learn.”
After completing her research, Sumaiya narrowed the field down to three potential majors.
“What caught my eye was international relations, leadership programs, and economics,” Sumaiya told us. “Most of my colleges, they had international relations programs, finance, economics, all that.”
Sumaiya’s interest in international relations, leadership programs, and economics can be traced back to her extracurricular activities. What do all these things have in common for Sumaiya? Change-making.
“For extracurriculars, my main motto that I look for is change-making,” Sumaiya shared. “Anything with the word ‘change-making’ in it, I’m automatically attracted to it.”
Youth Policy Forum
Sumaiya’s passion for change-making grew when she started working at Youth Policy Forum. “Last year I started working at Youth Policy Forum,” Sumaiya explained. “Youth Policy Forum is a platform for young Bangladeshi people from all over the world who have an interest in nation-building and state-crafting and want to contribute through effective policy formulation and implementation. By creating a pool of young intellectual minds, YPF intends to establish a great support system that will help the government, non-government and global as well as state-level policymakers to formulate and adopt more inclusive policies,” she further explained.
Aligning your interests to potential careers can help you plan for a future after college. Sumaiya’s interests and extracurriculars helped her find her future educational and career path.
“That’s definitely a path that I want [to] go to,” Sumaiya told us. “Policymaking in general. Not exactly international relations, but something related to governance.”
Additionally, Sumaiya used her change-making skills to start an initiative during the pandemic. “I started my own initiative, focusing on helping women who lost their job[s] during the pandemic,” Sumaiya told us. “[We helped them] start their own businesses. It was mostly helping individuals who were rendered homeless during the pandemic by providing meals, healthcare support, etc. Later, when we won our grant, we focused on the sex workers.”
We’ll learn more about Sumaiya’s initiative later in this article. Next, Sumaiya fills us in on how she found CollegeAdvisor.com.
How did Sumaiya hear about CollegeAdvisor?
Sumaiya found CollegeAdvisor when she was scrolling on Instagram. “I spen[d] a lot of my time on the internet,” Sumaiya said.
“During COVID, the only thing I was doing was scrolling between three apps. Instagram was one of them. CollegeAdvisor has a great presence on Instagram, [with] the small university comparison posts…the workshops, all that.”
Once Sumaiya found CollegeAdvisor, she attended many of our webinars and subscribed to our mailing list for college advising updates. That’s how she discovered the CollegeAdvisor Scholars Program. “I was subscribed to the mailing list,” Sumaiya shared, “so I got updates, and that’s how I heard about the Scholars Program and all the other workshops.”
Applying to the Scholars Program
After learning more about the CollegeAdvisor Scholars Program, Sumaiya decided to apply. The application process included filling out a form about your academic profile, extracurricular activities, and college preferences.
We asked Sumaiya to explain the process of applying to the Scholars Program. “There’s a form,” Sumaiya said, “it takes around 30 minutes [to complete]. It had a few questions about my extracurriculars, my transcripts from beforehand…those were pretty easy.”
Overall, the application for the Scholars Program was pretty painless. And for Sumaiya, it paid off!
Sumaiya’s experience with her advisor
After Sumaiya was accepted into the Scholars Program, she was matched with an expert advisor who provided one-on-one support throughout the college admissions process.
CollegeAdvisor students have access to our website portal, where they can communicate with their advisor and keep track of the progress they’ve made on their college applications. Sumaiya and her advisor communicated frequently, even though they were on opposite sides of the globe.
“Me and my advisor, we mostly communicated through emails. He was super quick with replies, which was really amazing, even though we were in different time zones,” Sumaiya said.
In addition to working with her advisor through the admissions process, Sumaiya also had the support of the rest of the Scholars cohort. “Another thing was all the other scholars,” Sumaiya mentioned, “we had a group chat. And through that we could all keep in touch, which was really nice because going through this process alone is very daunting.”
With her advisor’s college expertise and frequent communication with the other Scholars in the program, Sumaiya felt encouraged and motivated to complete the college application process. “Having the support of others, knowing where they got into really motivated me as well,” Sumaiya said.
Sumaiya’s admission results
Sumaiya focused her efforts on applying to schools that had excellent economics and international relations programs. Once she had refined her college list, Sumaiya’s advisor helped her decide which admissions option (RD, ED, EA, REA, rolling admissions) would be best for each of her college applications.
“I applied to mostly schools which were really good for economics and international relations,” Sumaiya shared. “Most of the schools that I applied to were in the Early Action and Early Decision round.”
Sumaiya applied to Brown University, Salve Regina University, Goucher College, and the University of Michigan. She was accepted to Salve Regina, Goucher, and UMich, but did not get into Brown.
“For ED, I did Brown University, but I didn’t get in,” Sumaiya told us. “I did get into my schools from Early Action and for Regular Decision…I just did a few of my reach schools,” Sumaiya said.
“I got into Salve Regina University for their five-year undergrad and master’s program…and I got an almost full ride for that,” Sumaiya stated.
Sumaiya also received a scholarship from Goucher College. “I got into Goucher College, and I also got a 60% scholarship for their Innovator Scholarship,” Sumaiya told us.
Sumaiya decides to take a gap year
After carefully considering multiple factors, Sumaiya ultimately decided to take a gap year. We asked her to share how she made her decision.
“I knew that with COVID and everything, I didn’t really get the high school experience I wanted to,” Sumaiya shared. “Just going straight into college from high school wasn’t something I was looking forward to.”
Once she decided that a gap year was right for her, Sumaiya started planning. She wanted to fill her gap year with meaningful activities and experiences.
“During my gap year,” Sumaiya said, “I’m mostly focusing on my own initiative, helping more women start their own businesses, and just expanding my initiatives.”
Sumaiya also signed up for Global Citizen Year, a virtual leadership academy, to fill her gap year. We’ll learn more about Global Citizen Year and what Sumaiya is looking forward to about this program in the next section.
Embarking on Global Citizen Year
Global Citizen Year is a 12-week experience designed to encourage young change-makers to build leadership skills to solve global challenges. Sumaiya first heard about this program on Instagram and then reached out to alumni from Bangladesh to learn more about their experiences. When she saw it described as a change-making program, she knew it would be the perfect activity to complement the focus of her gap year.
“Global Citizen Year is basically a change-making leadership type of program,” Sumaiya explained. “I found them through Instagram… [and] a few seniors from high school, they did the program as well. I saw their stories and quotes and I was like, ‘I want to do that as well,’ because they had a wonderful experience,” Sumaiya said.
Sumaiya applied to the Global Citizen Year academy and received a scholarship to attend. She looks forward to engaging with other students and participating in their workshops.
“I got a 95% scholarship,” Sumaiya told us. “Which made it easier for me to attend. They do have a curriculum that they follow, but there are a few courses that I can select as well. Most of the things that I’m looking forward to are the interactive workshops.”
Sumaiya’s advice for other students interested in a gap year
Taking a gap year is a big decision to make. We asked Sumaiya about her advice for other students interested in a gap year.
Plan it out
Sumaiya’s first piece of advice for other students interested in a gap year is to plan it out. Consider researching summer opportunities and internships first.
“Make sure you know what you want to do before summer comes in,” Sumaiya said. “You want to go through all the applications for any programs you want to do. If you want to take college courses, you should apply early.”
So, to have a successful gap year, plan ahead. That way, you can find opportunities that spark your interest.
Talk to your parents
Many factors go into the decision to take a gap year. Sumaiya’s second piece of advice is to talk to your parents about why you might be considering a gap year.
“Talk to your parents about that,” Sumaiya advised. “I know it’s not the most traditional route to go towards. A lot of people expect you to go to college right after high school. I know my parents weren’t really supportive.”
Sumaiya explained her goals to her parents and the reasons why a gap year was right for her. In the end, Sumaiya’s parents supported her decision.
“They wanted me to take the traditional path,” Sumaiya said. “But I sat down with them, and I explained what my goal was out of life, and they understood that. So, they supported me going into this.”
Sumaiya’s last piece of advice for other students interested in taking a gap year? Enjoy it!
“I know everyone’s like, ‘You need to make sure your gap year is fruitful, and you do a lot of work because you’re behind others applying,’” Sumaiya shared.
“You’re really not,” she continued. “You’re going to be assessed the same with someone who did not take a gap year. So just calm down, drink water, and just go for it!” Sumaiya recommended.
What did Sumaiya’s advisor think of her plan to take a gap year?
As her time in the Scholars Program came to an end, Sumaiya prepared to begin the college enrollment process. However, she quickly realized that she needed to consider all options, including a gap year, before making a final decision.
“During the Scholars Program,” Sumaiya recalled, “I was more in the mindset of, I need to attend college right after high school. And I was set [on] going into college…but I realized rushing into it before taking the chance to explore my other options wasn’t what I was looking to [do].”
Sumaiya was interested in taking a gap year before college. With the help of CollegeAdvisor, she felt more confident in her decision and began to plan how she was going to spend her time.
“My advisor helped me get a sense of calmness and understand [that] it’s okay, you’re not going to be [at] a disadvantage,” Sumaiya explained.
“[He] helped me identify how to make the most of my summer and pre-application round, so that made me gain more confidence in the process,” Sumaiya told us.
Peace First Challenge & Social Entrepreneurship
As we mentioned in a previous section, Sumaiya started an initiative during the pandemic. Because of its direct social impact, her project won its first international grant from The Peace First Challenge.
We asked Sumaiya to describe how the grant led her to start her initiative. “I got nominated for an award called Peace First Young Changemakers Challenge,” Sumaiya told us.
“It was a really rigorous competition. And with that money, we actually helped five sex workers break the chain and start their own businesses,” Sumaiya said.
Sumaiya’s idea originated during COVID, when she was a part of an independent research program investigating harmful medications. “I was actually part of a research program where we were identifying what type of medicines were harming people’s bod[ies],” Sumaiya explained.
“I came across this video on YouTube which showed how many illegal brothels were housing underage sex workers. These women were being forced into taking harmful medications just so that they could appeal more to their clients.” Sumaiya told us.
Sumaiya decided to learn more about this population to understand why they were engaging with this medication. “Once I started interacting with these women,” Sumaiya recalled, “I realized that they weren’t doing it for themselves.” Sumaiya told us, “They were trapped, and they had children to take care of, children that they didn’t actually plan for, even. So, I really wanted to help them out.”
Developing a free training program
Sumaiya used this grant from The Peace First Challenge to help these women by providing them with a free-of-cost vocational training program in order to give them the tools and skills they need to start their own businesses. They also go on to fund these businesses and support them during the initial stages.
“These were women who were unemployed during the pandemic, living off the streets,” Sumaiya explained. “We helped them go through a vocational training program that we crafted. After that, we helped them rent a space [and] get the material for their businesses. The results were great! They had a 140% profit and their business is still afloat and successful,” Sumaiya told us.
Sincerely, Her is planning to expand this year to help more women leave sex work and become business owners. “This year around, we’re actually looking to apply for more grants and hopefully help around 20 to 30 more women,” Sumaiya explained.
Applying again: Sumaiya’s 2nd round with CollegeAdvisor
Before her gap year comes to an end, Sumaiya will join CollegeAdvisor.com for a second time to get help with her college application journey. We asked Sumaiya to share how her second round with CollegeAdvisor is helping her prepare for applying to colleges again.
“The way that it’s different is that I have more hours,” Sumaiya mentioned. “The Scholars Program had a set limit [of] hours, but now it’s more. Other than that, it’s more or less similar,” Sumaiya told us.
Because this is Sumaiya’s second time going through the college application process, she understands what to expect and how to successfully navigate the college admissions landscape.
“Because I did go through this process once, I do know like what goes where, or which teachers to ask for recommendation letters, or basically the timeline. So that’s easier for me to figure out,” Sumaiya shared.
Sumaiya is currently focusing on preparing for the SATs so that she can be an even more competitive applicant. She feels less anxious this time around, even though the college application process is just as rigorous as before.
“[It’s] not the same level of anxiousness,” Sumaiya told us, “Even though it’s there, I am not starting from square one. I’m maybe starting from square five, so just that five steps is a lot,” Sumaiya said.
Advice for future college applicants
Now that Sumaiya has one round of college applications completed, we asked her to share her personal advice for future college applicants.
Finish your personal statement as soon as possible
Sumaiya’s first piece of advice is to finalize your personal statement early. “Get done with your personal statement as early as possible,” Sumaiya advised.
“I know it is just the beginning of summer and you’re like, ‘Oh, I’ll do it when Common App starts, like in August or September.’ Don’t! Start as early as you can,” Sumaiya said.
Ask for recommendation letters from teachers who know you
Sumaiya’s next bit of advice is to ask for recommendation letters from teachers who know you personally and can speak to your academic interests and achievements.
“Ask for recommendation letters from teachers who actually know you,” Sumaiya recommended. “You got a good score in math, but your teacher doesn’t know your last name? Don’t do that,” she said.
Create a balanced college list
Sumaiya’s last piece of advice for future college applicants is to create a balanced college list and focus on fit, not just college rankings.
“When you’re making a college list, I think one of the mistakes that I [made] was I focused a lot on universities that had a really good brand name or were really in the top tens and top twenties,” Sumaiya explained.
“Have a mixture in your list. Have safety schools and target schools and just four or five reach schools,” Sumaiya advised, “Rather than having 10 reach schools and two safeties or three safeties.”
If you are wondering if a gap year is right for you, or how to get into a Top 50 school, we’ve got you covered. When you register with CollegeAdvisor.com, you will receive personalized college admission advice on every aspect of the college application process. This includes access to our essay guides, webinars, and so much more.
Wondering if CollegeAdvisor.com is right for you? Our CollegeAdvisor.com reviews speak for themselves. Our students benefit from our college application help and regularly get into Ivy League and Top 50 colleges and universities.
This Client Success Story was based on an interview with Sumaiya Binte Imad and written by Claire Babbs, UT Austin ‘12. Sumaiya connected to us for help with her college applications. If you are also looking for assistance with your college applications and are interested in working with a CollegeAdvisor.com Admissions Expert, register with CollegeAdvisor.com today.