This Teen Wrote #BlackLivesMatter 100 Times On His Stanford Application, And He Got In
18-year-old Ziad Ahmed took one heck of a risk when he answered a question on his Stanford application by just writing #BlackLivesMatter 100 times, but it seems Stanford was not put off by his answer, because he got in. Even Ahmed is pretty surprised by it.
“I was actually stunned when I opened the update and saw that I was admitted,” Ahmed said to Mic. “I didn’t think I would get admitted to Stanford at all, but it’s quite refreshing to see that they view my unapologetic activism as an asset rather than a liability. My unapologetic progressivism is a central part of my identity, and I wanted that to be represented adequately in my application.”
Well, repeating #BlackLivesMatter 100 times on a college application is a pretty good way to get that across.
The #BlackLivesMatter answer was not Ahmed’s entire application. It wasn’t even his essay. Stanford uses the Common App, but also has supplemental application materials loaded with additional short-answer questions and essays. One of those short-answer questions this year said, “What matters to you and why?” And that was where Ahmed, who is a dedicated and outspoken activist and ally, made very clear that the #BlackLivesMatter movement matters to him.
Also, Ahmed is a genuinely exceptional person. In addition to being a senior at Princeton Day School–a private school in Princeton, N.J.–he founded an organization called Redefy, which is dedicated to fighting racism and stereotypes and encouraging cross-cultural communication. He also co-founded a consulting firm that advises clients on the rising, post-millennial generation. He’s a Huffington Post blogger and a TEDx Speaker.
In 2016 Business Insider named him one of their 15 Young Prodigies Who Are Already Changing the World. In 2015, MTV named him one of the 9 Teens Changing the World. He’s been a guest at the White House, and he worked on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
I’m not surprised Ziad Ahmed got into Stanford. At 18, he’s already accomplished more than I have in my entire life, and I went to Stanford.
Sometimes a risk pays off, but it helps to back up the risk with unquestionable qualifications. Gertrude Stein famously wrote “I am sorry but really I do not feel a bit like an examination paper in philosophy today” for the final exam in a philosophy class at Harvard, and the professor gave her an A on it. She wouldn’t have gotten that result if she’d whiffed the rest of the class, or if she hadn’t already been one of the most brilliant students at the university, but she was Gertrude Stein and she got away with it, and now it’s just part of her legacy. A person like Ahmed certainly seems to be going places, so his application answer is getting him in the news today, but someday it’ll probably just be a footnote in his own biography.
If this hadn’t paid off, it wasn’t like Ahmed would be out of luck. He also got accepted to Princeton and Yale this year, and he has until May 1 to make his final decision.