Amir Alsad 

Let me tell you a story. A story that I consider to be one of the most impactful stories of my life. 

It was a crisp, calm Saturday morning. The birds were chirping outside my window and the sun’s rays made their way into my room.  

“Wake up Amir, we have to go,” my mom told me.  
“Where are we going?” I said cluelessly.  
“To see the presentation of that S. A. S. school,” my mom replied.  
“But I already told you, I don’t want to go,” I complained. 
“Let’s just try it. Come on, get ready,” my mom said walking off, leaving me with no choice but to accept her mandate. 

The night before, my mom had received an email about some school named ‘School for Advanced Studies’ that invited high-school sophomores with a certain GPA to apply to the school or at least attend an information session. I was in the middle of a video game match, so I rapidly skimmed the email as my mom held the phone to my face. Now, I’m generally not considered to be a dumb guy (I made it to MIT if that says anything), but for some reason, when my brain processed the words ‘Associate in Arts’, I thought of a LITERAL degree in ART (painting, music, and all other things art). Thinking to myself that I’m not an artsy person, I immediately rejected the idea of attending this school and explained to my mom why (though I now realize how silly my reasoning must have sounded). 

Anyways, back to the ‘present.’ My mom and I attend the information session and there is no better word to describe it than ‘bizarre.’ It wasn’t the session itself but the experience. I was groggy and quite literally had zero clue as to what to expect. Hearing about the opportunities that the school provides, I felt embarrassed for thinking what I thought, but at the same time I was genuinely excited. Unlike many that had to think about it, I instantly made up my mind. 

I grew up in the public school system, which, more often than not, is a place barren of opportunity. But SAS is different. To me, it truly feels unfair to categorize SAS among the other schools. SAS has the opposite problem. It is not a place of scarce opportunity, but one where opportunity is abundant. In fact, SAS has an issue: there’s simply too much opportunity. It’s a pleasant issue to have but an issue nonetheless. 

It’s this opportunity that allowed me to shine as I have in these past 2 years. We all have a great potential within us, we just need the chance(s) to unlock it. Trust me when I say this:  a life of unfulfilled potential, a life filled with ‘What if?’ is not a pleasant life to live. 

The amount of change I’ve undergone (for the better) is indescribable. I was never outgoing or social or the most charismatic guy, but SAS showed me that I had it in me. I never considered myself to be hard-working or resilient, but SAS brought it out of me. I never thought that I would sit down as an alumni and write a lengthy testimonial for my former school, thinking about how grateful I am to have attended it, but here I am. SAS has pushed me to become Student Government President, a National Merit Finalist, a Ronald-Reagan Program Semi-finalist, a U.S. Presidential Scholar Nominee, and a Silver Knight Honorable Mention in General Scholarship. Not to mention me winning third place in a national competition hosted by NASA and competing against collegiate seniors or getting accepted into MIT. All this for the kid that did nothing but homework and play videogames up until the 10th grade. These accolades aren’t just for me, they’re a reflection of the amazing work done by this school. There’s no magic to all this. No miracle. No surprise. None of this would have come if not for the difficult conditions of SAS. 

I’m sure no one else has been sugarcoating the reality of SAS and I won’t be the first to start. It IS difficult, but you will learn to see that the difficulty IS the beauty within this school. It’s the difficulty that allows you to graduate with your AA degree before your high-school diploma. It’s the difficulty that forces you to cooperate with others, allowing you to build strong connections. It’s the difficulty that allows you to unlock your potential! You will struggle. I don’t care if you’re a genius, you will struggle in one way or the other, and you will come out a better person as the result of it.  

Now, I told you I wouldn’t sugarcoat, but I won’t dismiss all the resources that SAS has to offer either. Let’s start with the fact that you are given much more freedom over your time, giving you the opportunity to actually get work done and avoid procrastinating (which many will inevitably fall into at some point). Second, the teachers are ABSOLUTELY PHENOMENAL. I cannot emphasize this enough. They are always open to you during their office hours and will adapt to who you are as an individual (as is the nature of small communities). On top of that, I guarantee you that, unlike at other schools, you will NOT have a deadbeat teacher that doesn’t teach. Third, the high-school counselors and other administrative staff are there to HELP YOU, not to treat you as just another statistic. Finally, there will be many other students just like you to help you on your journey. Don’t think that you’ll be going through it alone.  

I often think back to that one Saturday morning. If it were not for that singular moment (love you mom <3), I wouldn’t have attended such a spectacular school and lived 2 years as amazing as these past ones have been. I shall be eternally grateful for SAS. I’ll leave you with my favorite quote from Jim Rohn: “It’s all risky … I’ll tell you how risky life is: You’re not going to make it out alive!” Take that risk, pursue the pain of being outside your comfort zone, and eat your vegetables. 

Amir Alsad 
School for Advanced Studies West Campus, C/O 2024 
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Class of 2028