Sanchit Kapoor is all set to join the prestigious University of California in the US. The GEMS Modern Academy student is also one of the recipients of Regents' and Chancellor's scholarship, selected from among 85,000 applicants.
Dubai - His father burst into his bedroom to break the news that he had been accepted at one of his top choice universities in the US
On February 11, 2017, Dubai student Sanchit Kapoor received some information that was set to change his future.
At 5.30am that morning, his father burst into his bedroom to break the news that he had been accepted at one of his top choice universities in the US - the University of California, Berkeley. But more than just being accepted, the 17-year-old Gems Modern Academy student is among just 400 students to receive the Regents' and Chancellor's Scholarship - a feat which saw him beat off competition from more than 85,000 applicants.
"Honestly, I was so surprised when my father said I had received the scholarship. I had no idea they offered it to international students and from what I believe this is the first time they have offered it to a student out of state," Kapoor told Khaleej Times.
Admitting that he is "not one for optimism", Kapoor said when he submitted his application back in November he decided to "air on the side of caution". "That way, good news always comes as a pleasant surprise," he said.
Come August, Kapoor will be making the journey to his new home in the US to pursue a four-year bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and computer science - a course that has just a five to six per cent acceptance rate. But despite beating off competition from others and impressing both his peers, teachers and parents, he remained very humble.
"I actually got rejected from my other top choice, Stanford University. So I'm not taking anything for granted. But being one of the first students to get a scholarship as an international applicant is an honour."
Along with UC Berkeley, Kapoor applied for courses at MIT, Georgia Tech and "a few Ivy League universities like Harvard". But with UC Berkeley in his top two choices, the initial acceptance along with the scholarship was music to his ears.
But this is a student who is no stranger to success. In 2016 he won the title of World Scrabble Champion after representing Team UAE in the World Youth Scrabble Championships (WYSC), a team he has represented for over six years. And for him, that is one of the driving forces as to why he was chosen as a recipient of the scholarship.
"During my Skype interview they really focused on what I could bring to the university and they asked a lot of questions about what I had been involved in outside the classroom. I told them how scrabble was a big part of my life and I think that impressed them," Kapoor said.
The former topper said he aims to make it even more so, especially on his university campus. And that's a message he said he is keen to spread to other students in the UAE: academics are important, but passions are equally as vital too.
"What I found is that top ranking universities want all-rounders. You can't aim to simply only be academically-perfect because often it's about what you can bring to the table in terms of being a role model for a university." Although education is the cornerstone to success, he said passions are also a key driver too. "Always strive to do what you love," he said.
A snapshot of Sanchit Kapoor
> His dream: Make it to Silicon Valley to launch own start up
> Favourite scrabble word: Zyzzyva, a tropical American weevil often found in palms
> Favourite book: The Martian because it's all about ?determination
> Idol: Nikhil Soneja, his ?scrabbling mentor who was responsible for scrabble ?scene in UAE
> Passions: Scrabble, debating, football
Did you know?
Sanchit was the first student to achieve a full score in the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) exams in 2015. Achieving a perfect score of 2400/2400, he appeared in the top 0.5 per cent out of the 1.8 million students who sat for the College Board exam that year.
How scholarship ?helps Sanchit
Know what Sanchit Kapoor gets from the Regents' and Chancellor's Scholarship:
> Faculty mentor: Scholars are assigned a personal UC Berkeley faculty mentor to assist with guidance through academic and professional endeavors.
> Priority class enrollment: Students receive priority enrollment for classes
> Members of Regents' and Chancellor's Scholars Association (RCSA): The Student organisation sponsors academic and professional development activities, and coordinates social events and community service projects
> Monetary Award: A monetary award of $2,500 that is renewable annually for up to a maximum of eight semesters
Service learning trips must for student growth
Service learning trips allow students to go beyond academics and gain real world experience. As a science teacher at Universal American School (UAS) in Dubai, I have seen benefits of service learning while chaperoning a Million Tree Project trip to Inner Mongolia in 2012 and more recently on a Week Without Walls trip to the Tsavo Region of Kenya. From a teacher's perspective, these expeditions are invaluable for student growth and provide opportunities for learners to positively contribute to local communities.
While on Inner Mongolia and Kenya service learning expeditions, middle school and high school students assisted people in communities by reaching for shovels. In Inner Mongolia, students planted hundreds of trees to mitigate desertification while providing sustainable economic opportunities. In Kenya, students dug deep with shovels to turn sand, water, and cement as they worked up sweat, blisters, and sore backs to re-finish a concrete floor for a classroom at Mkamenyi Primary School. Who can argue with learning outcomes that stem from creating a better learning environment and good old fashioned hard work? The UAS students taught lessons to middle schoolers at Mkamenyi Primary School focused on energy and literacy. With the help of Dr Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots and Million Solar Stars, UAS students provisioned solar reading lights for Kenyan students to read after dark.
There is a wide array of opportunity for service learning with various destinations and providers that help schools plan logistics so teachers can focus on connecting activities to curriculum. My teaching colleagues and I found Camps International, our provider for our recent trip to Kenya, outstanding.
By focusing on helping people and communities, service learning trips are effective ways for middle school and high school learners to expand their world views while empowering students to become more caring individuals and responsible global citizens.
Adam Hall, science teacher, Universal American School