Interview: Youssef Hedroug, Stanford

By Siddiq Ather

youssef_hedroug_ipad_winner-300x225 What do you think makes Stanford unique in comparison to other top tier schools?

The level of acceptance is truly remarkable. People go out of their way to make you feel welcome, and are they enjoy hearing about other peoples’ cultural and religious views.

How is life and culture on campus?

There is definitely a significant amount of stress, yet students try their best not to show it. The parable I have heard is that students are like ducks in a pond, they look calm above the surface but below they are waddling uncontrollably.

How would you describe your freshman year at Stanford?

Personally it was difficult for me to adjust to such a different environment. Coming from a small private Islamic school, I was accustomed to a certain regimen. I was used to things falling into place for me, but when I arrived at Stanford, I found that there was a lot out there that I had never been exposed to.

Any advice for high school students who want to get into top tier schools?

Focus on a meaningful experience in high school, and stick to it throughout application essays. There is only so much you can do with your GPA and ACT score, but what will separate you from others is the way you express yourself, whether it is in an essay or an interview. Whether you focus on a sport or a club activity, make sure it was your most meaningful experience in high school.

Any words of experience for new college freshman?

Do not listen to anyone who tells you that freshman year is easy and that they are not struggling. Every single person faces a certain struggle, and by thinking that you’re the only one struggling, it makes you feel left behind. You and every other freshman on campus have trouble with something, so focus on improving that weakness. Also, prepare yourself mentally for the challenges that you will face, because college is not like high school.

How active and helpful is the Muslim community at Stanford?

The upperclassmen were extremely helpful, but make sure you ask them for their help. Some of the older students will approach you, but many times you have to take the initiative. They gave me and other freshmen advice on coping with studies, dealing with teachers, what classes to take, and so on. They have experience and students should take advantage of them.

How does being Muslim affect your student life?

In terms of studying, being Muslim does not get in the way. But when it comes to the social aspect of student life, being Muslim keeps you out of trouble. Every weekend you will find plenty of parties, but during this time the Muslims are out with each other, keeping each other away from harm. Prayer is also extremely helpful because while many people might see it as an impediment, it keeps you on schedule.

Any tips on balancing studying, sleeping, and socializing?

Make studying your number one priority, and only after you are completely done with studies, then you can enjoy your time socializing. Many times you underestimate the workload you are given, and it comes back to affect you, especially in terms of sleep. And when your sleep cycle is affected, it affects your entire week. Sleep should be consistent, and not more than seven or less than six hours a day. Sleep is actually extremely important and people sometimes ignore it, but it affects performance in the long run.

How do you suggest using your summer before college?

I would suggest that you enjoy the summer before college because every summer afterwards will be spent doing something work-related.

What character traits do you believe will help you succeed in college?

Persistency is a good trait to have. When you feel like you have been working for hours and can’t do anymore, persistency will get you through your work. It is also good to be persistent when it comes to asking for help, whether it is from teachers or a friend. If the teacher is not answering your question, make sure you keep asking until you get what you want.

How do you stay upbeat when work starts to pile up?

Just remember that in twenty years it’s not going to matter whether you get an A or a B in Chemistry. If you do not plan on going to graduate school, grades are not the most important thing. If you do plan on going to graduate school, just remember that you will get in with the help of Allah alone. This does not mean you sit back and do not work, but as long as you put forth the effort, remember that the rest is in the hands of Allah.


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