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How I Got to College: Tania Ahmed

Here's how this Massachusetts high schooler chose to attend Wellesley College.

Tania Ahmed, a graduate of Somerville High School near Boston, opted for Wellesley College.

Tania Ahmed, a graduate of Somerville High School near Boston, opted for Wellesley College.

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This spring, U.S. News visited Somerville High School near Boston to ask members of the Class of 2012 to talk about their journeys to college and pass on any helpful advice.

Somerville is home to a mix of blue-collar families, young professionals, college students, and recent immigrants. The school's 1,324 students speak more than 50 languages; about one third are white, just over another third are Hispanic, and African-Americans and Asians account for most of the rest. The graduation rate is 81 percent; 77 percent of grads go on to college. In the last school year, 129 students took 160 AP exams. Hear from grads on how they got in.

"I'm going to Wellesley," says Tania Ahmed, who plans to study biochemistry at the women's college near Boston. She also was accepted by Worcester Polytechnic Institute and University of Massachusetts—Amherst, and was wait-listed at Cornell University and Harvard University. (She applied to Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, and Yale University, too.)

Ahmed's interest in pursuing science was fanned by an internship she did involving genomic research on a family of dogs with canine spinal muscular atrophy at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. That experience, and a month-long cultural exchange and climate change service-learning trip she took last winter to Bangladesh, were of particular interest to her college interviewers, she thinks. The fact that she plays three instruments (flute, trumpet, and viola) probably was noteworthy, too.

While the financial aid and scholarship applications felt burdensome at the time, the effort was worth it, she says. She will have to pay only $3,000 of Wellesley's $57,000 annual bill. "It's pretty awesome," she says.

GPA: 3.9 unweighted

SAT scores: 680 math, 680 critical reading, 650 writing

Extracurriculars: Founder of Green Teen Growers, a school community garden; member of the varsity crew team, pep band, jazz band, and orchestra

Essay topic: "What makes me me"

Extra credit: As part of her application, Ahmed sent in a poster she made for her internship focused on a genetic disease in Brittany spaniels.

Avoid: "One of my friends made a really huge mistake by completing her application but forgetting to submit her SATs to that school," Ahmed says. "Her application was incomplete and was not looked at."

Advice: Don't put off filling out your applications. "If you cram, it gets overwhelming." Ahmed was stuck having to finish some of her applications while she was out of the country in December and January.

More Somerville High School student profiles:

Wriju Adhikary

Zoe Blickenderfer

Michael Kemp

Norman Li

Zachary Sciuto

Johnson Thomas

Julia Zoukhri

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