DEARBORN HEIGHTS — 18-year-old Zaharaa Altwaij, a senior at Crestwood High School, has been accepted to three prestigious universities.
Altwaij received acceptances to Harvard, Yale and Columbia.
With an intended major in mind, Altwaij said she applied to see what was out there.
“My intended major is biomedical engineering,” she said. “There aren’t many universities in Michigan that offer that, so I decided to see what was out there. When I was a junior, I became affiliated with QuestBridge, which helps low income students apply to bigger universities.”
Biomedical engineering combines medical technologies and creativity and helps create things like prosthetics and Altwaij said she became interested in the field by following her passions.
“I participated in a summer program offered by MIT called ‘Biomedical Signal Processing,’” she said.“It was a college enrichment course that I took alongside a science, writing and communications course, and I really liked it. I have always been a science geek and I really like science and math.”
While Altwaij isn’t yet sure which university she will choose, she said her parents are just as excited as she is.
“I remember reading my decision letters and having to walk away because I was in disbelief,” she said. “Then when I told my parents, they were jumping and down with me; we were all so excited. Before the happiness, though, there was some disappointment as I was not accepted to MIT and I was waitlisted by Duke and Northwestern, but receiving these acceptance letters meant the world to me.”
Having received many messages regarding her advice to younger students, Altwaij said just do your best.
“High school is what you make of it, like any stage in life,” she said. “Don’t kill yourself for the grade. Participate and get involved in things that interest you and show initiative and leadership. I couldn’t have done this without the endless support of my family, teachers and the whole community.”
Altwaij participates in track, cross-country, community service and the National Honor Society.
Her parents, Fatma and Abbas Altwaij, said that it’s important for the community to believe in themselves.
“You have to push yourself because no one is going to do it for you,” they said. “Our Arab youth today should continue to persevere even when obstacles come their way.”