Originally from Annandale, Virginia, Aya Saed graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2013, with a BA in International Relations. She has an impressive roster of experiences already: intern at Google for two summers, Henry Luce Scholar, and Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow. She’s currently pursuing a J.D. at Harvard Law School and a Masters of Public Affairs at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
Aya Saed, QuestBridge Scholar
University of Pennsylvania ’13, BA in International Relations
On applying to QuestBridge:
I discovered the program quite randomly as I was Googling resources that could be of help to low-income students. I landed on the website the summer before my senior year and applied immediately!
I was excited, and quite energized to know that such a program exists for low-income students. I was a bit overwhelmed by the application process, but realized very early on that this would help expedite my college application process and streamline an otherwise complicated system.
Before discovering QuestBridge, I had been fairly committed to staying in-state. Once I discovered the possibility of the resources available to me via QuestBridge, I started looking at Ivy League institutions and reaching out to teachers and students who could be of help. QuestBridge expanded my scope and exposure to private schools.
On your college experience:
QuestBridge played an integral part in my college journey. It created spaces for authentic dialogue on wealth, income, and the implications of being a first-generation student at such an elite university. My closest friends were QuestBridge Finalists, and we were able to form lasting relationships around shared experiences.
At times I felt extremely behind, a bit overwhelmed and mentally taxed by the college experience. College can be transformative, but also draining. I was lucky to have attended a pre-college summer program for incoming freshman from low-income backgrounds. The program equipped us with counselors and mentors, and gave us an inside look into college-level academic rigor. Additionally, I made great use of Penn’s tutoring services, and formed a strong relationship with my academic and recourse counselors. I attended time-management classes and test-prep programs.
Advice for high school seniors:
This is a period of professional, but more importantly, personal growth. Remember to intellectually challenge yourself by taking classes of interest to you, and classes that will enrich your growth and development both as a scholar and person.
Don’t internalize failure. Everyone will fail time, and time again. These failures are not a reflection of you or your ability. Let your persistence and endurance shine. Keep fighting.