PATERSON, NJ - The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) and Columbia University are widely considered two of the top universities in the country, if not the world. Both of these Ivy League schools boast world-renowned professors, rigorous academics, and incredible alumni networks. Any student would be thrilled to get into either of these universities, whose acceptance rates range from 6% to 8%.

But Aamya Perez isn't just any student. The President of the Paterson Youth Council (PYC) was recently accepted to both UPenn and Columbia, as well as Northwestern University, Case Western Reserve University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), and Kean University. Aamya said, "It was surreal to be accepted by all these schools!" While it wasn't easy to make a final decision, the International High School senior was lucky to have PYC alumni to turn to for advice, including Alysha Acosta, who is a freshman at Columbia.

In the end, UPenn won out. Aamya said, "An overnight visit to UPenn helped me realize it's the way I always imagined my college experience would be. I was impressed by students' school spirit and the campus feel, and I love UPenn's location in Philadelphia." And thanks to a generous financial aid package, Aamya won't have to worry about student loans. The future doctor will have plenty of other things on her plate, including studying for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (at the #1 nursing school in the world), taking pre-med classes, and participating in student clubs.

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Until recently, despite her many accomplishments, Aamya would never have pictured herself at an Ivy League school. She said, "Before NJCDC's Ivy League tour last year, I didn't have the confidence to think about applying to Ivy League colleges. But after talking to tour guides, admissions officers, and current students, it became really clear to me that people from Paterson can go to the Ivy League."

While the college admissions process first seemed daunting, NJCDC was there every step of the way. "As a junior, I was so nervous about applying to colleges, but NJCDC really broke it down for me through workshops, college fairs [which she helped organize], and college tours. I also saw other people, like Alysha, get into the colleges of their dreams, and it made me think that I could do it too," said Aamya. She was also supported by QuestBridge, which links high-achieving, low-income youth with leading colleges.

We have no doubt Aamya will thrive at UPenn. A highly motivated student, at International High School she serves as President of the National Honor Society, Treasurer of the Student Body Government, a member of the Chinese National Honor Society and the Chinese Culture Club, and the founder of the Volleyball Club.

She has also been heavily involved in the Paterson Youth Council, serving as Vice President last year and President this year. Aamya said, "PYC has been such a great experience. Prior to PYC, I honestly never really thought about how to give back to my community, but now I know there are so many opportunities to get involved in Paterson." In fact, her essay for Columbia on how to improve Paterson earned her a special letter from their Admissions Office, congratulating her on her dedication to her hometown.

When asked what advice she would give to Paterson teens preparing for the college admissions process, Aamya said, "At the end of the day, the most important thing is trusting in yourself."

Congratulations to the Paterson Youth Council Seniors!

Aamya Perez (President) - University of Pennsylvania

Maria Chowdhury (Vice President) - Rutgers University - New Brunswick

Shannette Acosta - Rutgers University - Newark

Thanya Begum - Princeton University

Raymond Decoste - Montclair State University

Jennifer Morales - Ramapo College or Rutgers University - Newark

Diana Rosado - Stevens Institute of Technology


This story is shared with permission from NJCDC