Ziad Ahmed needed a killer essay to finalize his application for Stanford University, one of the educational institutions in the United States with the lowest acceptance rates. His grades were on point, his extracurriculars just right. With only the final essay to go, the student opted to do something rather unexpected. He wrote a hashtag, one which has caused controversy over the past few years, a hundred times.
#BlackLivesMatter, one hundred times. The 18-year-old New Jersey teen knew that he was taking an immense risk. The application essay, after all, is one of the most important aspects of his Stanford application. If the University did not take kindly to his unorthodox answer, he would lose his chance to qualify for one of the most prominent schools in the nation. According to a Washington Post report, however, it was a risk that the teen was determined to take.
"I was certainly taking a risk, but it was a risk I wanted to take. Because I wanted to write an application that was authentic. He wanted it to reflect his intensity, his desire to effect change, his willingness to take a chance to make that point, the urgency of the cause, the commitment of those who had led that effort."Overall, Ahmed stated that his application essay to Stanford comprises one of the central aspects of his personal beliefs. The progressive teen also said that his Islamic faith and the #BlackLivesMatter movement are intertwined. In an email interview with Mic, the teen stated that he would not be practicing his religion accordingly if he turned a blind eye to the injustices that the black community is facing in the United States.
"My unapologetic progressivism is a central part of my identity, and I wanted that to be represented adequately in my application. To me, to be Muslim is to be a BLM ally, and I honestly can't imagine it being any other way for me. Furthermore, it's critical to realize that one-fourth to one-third of the Muslim community in America are black, and to separate justice for Muslims from justices for the black community is to erase the realities of the plurality of our community."Unsurprisingly, Ahmed's application has gone completely viral, and the teen has been showered with as much praise as criticism. Many lauded the New Jersey teen for his boldness and spirit, while others stated that his support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement is simply anti-white. Ahmed, for his part, has remained steadfast in his decision.
"The vitriol is sobering to me. But although the hatred has been acute, the love and support has been heartwarming," Ahmed said about the public's response to his Stanford essay.Considering the results of his application, Ahmed's unorthodox essay has paid off in spades. Responding to the teen's application, Stanford stated that the institution was inviting Ahmed to be part of its Class of 2021.
Even before his Stanford essay put him in the headlines of social media, however, Ahmed had already been an extremely active and progressive student. Back in 2013, Ahmed founded Redefy, a worldwide organization aimed at eliminating prejudice. He had also worked for Democratic presidential standard bearer Hillary Clinton's campaign last year. The teen has also given a TedxTalk in Panama City back in November 2015, speaking about the stereotypes faced by young Muslim teens. Apart from this, Ahmed is also among the co-founders of JUV Consulting, a youth-centered consulting firm.
Stanford is not the only university that has taken kindly to the teen's application, however. Apart from the University, Ahmed has also managed to get accepted to Yale and Princeton. It remains to be seen, however, if the teen's application essays to the two Ivy League universities are similar to the one he submitted to Stanford.[Featured Image by Charles Krupa/AP Images]