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Akintunde Ahmad: Oakland, Ivy Wonder on Applying to College

Hard work pays off big for Oakland student, Akintunde.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

April 05, 2016

Akintunde Ahmad: Oakland, Ivy Wonder on Applying to College
Last year, Akintunde Ahmad made national headlines and The Ellen Show for getting a 5.0 GPA, scoring 2100 on the SAT and getting into multiple Ivy League schools. While there were several other students who had these impressive stats as well, Akintunde garnered attention because he was born and raised in East Oakland, California, which is known more for its violence than for producing Ivy League students. Of his experience growing up, Akintunde says, “Living in Oakland exposed me to essentially everything life could throw my way, both good and bad. There was cultural and racial diversity, a loving community, violence, and triumph. Living here prepared me to venture out into the world and be prepared for the best and the worst.” For Akintunde, the best is yet to come. On The Ellen Show in the spring of 2014, he announced that he would be attending Yale University, and he’s currently in his sophomore year. So far, Akintunde says that college is going well. He’s only in class for 10 hours a week so he’s been working hard this year to manage his time wisely and balance academic work with extracurricular activities. Fortunately, he’s found time in his busy schedule to provide advice for students preparing for college and searching for scholarships.

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First, Akintunde started with a goal. He states, “I always wanted to live a life where I could live where I choose, travel and ultimately have the financial power to make a tangible change in my home community. I kept this goal in mind at all times, and used it as motivation and incentive to do my personal best in school, and all activities for that matter.” But putting his goal into action was more than just staying home to study; it was getting involved in his school and community as much as possible. In addition to earning perfect grades, Akintunde was involved in baseball, basketball and football as well as playing the trumpet and French horn in the Young Musicians Choral Orchestra and Djembe for West African Ballet Companies. He states that being involved in multiple activities and working hard on every assignment was what helped him achieve so much success. There wasn’t a whole lot of downtime to distract him from his priorities; and in each case, he was pursuing a passion of his. Playing multiple sports and instruments forced him to stay on task and not procrastinate.

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Secondly, Akintunde started preparing for the college admissions process his junior year. While he had toured colleges prior to that year, he began his test prep on his own and also with the help of the Young Musicians Choral Orchestra. He says, though, that an Ivy League school was never something he considered on his own. Rather, his counselor suggested he apply. It wasn’t until he got accepted to multiple Ivies in March that it became a reality for him. For students going through the college search and admissions process, Akintunde has some sage advice: “Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, and make sure that at the end of the day, you have done everything you can to ensure that you are your best self. If you do these things, you will have no regrets, and the process will really take care of itself. Also, always mark deadlines on your calendar and be punctual!” In terms of scholarships, Akintunde has a recommendation that is reminiscent of our own: apply for every scholarship that comes your way. He knew he would need scholarships to pay for college, but what he didn’t know was that scholarships would provide more than just financial help. “The biggest scholarship came from the Jackie Robinson Foundation. When I say this is the largest, I'm not necessarily referring to the finances, but the overall support and mentorship that I have found in this foundation. They have truly had a huge impact on my life and have opened up so many doors to opportunities I never dreamed of having,” Akintunde says. In addition to large scholarship opportunities, he applied to local scholarships through churches, social organizations and fraternities.

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But his biggest piece of advice? Just be the best possible version of yourself, and use that to encourage others around you. Akintunde states, “I motivated myself to be the best person I could be regardless of what was going on around me, and I knew that if I stayed true to that, I'd be happy where I turned out.” In terms of all of the attention he’s received, he’s using that for good too. “It has never been about me building my own personal clout, but rather me being a symbol of how achievable college truly is for young people who often don't see college as a reality.”

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