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How This Student is Using Tech to Make the College Admissions Process More Equal | Fairygodboss
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How This Student is Using Tech to Make the College Admissions Process More Equal
Photo Courtesy of Omika Suryawanshi
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When Omika Suryawanshi, a first-year student at the University of Virginia (UVA), joined scholar communities at her school, she was torn by their lack of diversity. After discussing her community's diversity problem with trusted advisors and peers, she realized the lack of free college admissions resources was a huge barrier to low-income students with university aspirations. With college students at various campuses, Suryawanshi launched The Admit List: a community of collegiate scholars who provide free, remote college counseling to high school students. 

On top of her work with The Admit List, this computer science and American studies student is passionate about women's STEM education and civil rights. She was a Younger Leader of the Year finalist in the Women in IT Awards, sponsored by UNICEF, for her work with Leap Into Technology — which she founded in 2016. We talked to Suryawanshi about her work with The Admit List and Leap Into Technology, dealing with imposter syndrome and how women can work to make their university spaces more diverse. 


How are you making an impact on your school or local community?

There are a solid amount activities that I’m involved with, both at UVA and back at home in Ridgefield, Connecticut. My latest passion project, which has the potential to make the largest impact of all my endeavors so far, is The Admit List. The Admit List is a community of collegiate scholars from all walks of life coming together to offer low-income, primarily first-generation high school students with free, remote college counseling. 

Outside of The Admit List, I am involved with Leap Into Technology (which teaches middle school girls about applications of technology outside of programming), tutoring at a local high school and developing curriculum for a CS/Social Impact pilot at UVA.

What made you passionate about the project or role that's allowing you to make a difference?

I am fortunate enough to be a member of multiple scholar communities, but was torn by the lack of diversity in most of them. Through conversations with trusted advisors and peers, I isolated the general lack of information and resources available to low-income students as one of the largest contributors to the homogeneity. Just the idea of diversifying the educational system really excites me and pushes me to work harder on The Admit List.

How did you get in this position? Were you elected, selected, or did you start the project yourself? What steps did you take to fulfill this role? 

In November of 2018, a few other college students at various campuses nationwide and I decided that we wanted to make a change at all of our institutions. The Admit List is a product of our conviction and desire to give opportunities to students who don’t know what is available to them.

What other activities, projects, or jobs do you do at school? Spill your resume!

I’m a research assistant for a graduate dissertation about segregation academies throughout the South. I also host high school students visiting the University of Virginia, and am working with three other UVA students to launch a program that will ideally help close the achievement gap in Charlottesville’s K-12 system.

What is an accomplishment you're proud of?

Recently, my younger brother had to write a paper about an individual he admires and he wrote about me.

What is a challenge that you've faced and overcome?

Like so many other women nationwide, I deal with imposter syndrome. It might not even be fair to say that I’ve completely overcome it, but I’ve worked hard to make sure that I don’t let  my insecurities about deserving to be somewhere keep me from achieving my goals.

What advice do you have for women who want to make a difference at their school?

Reach out to professors! Reach out administrators! Apply to grants! College is this really cool, unique space where there are so many opportunities and individuals that are there for no other reason but to help you succeed, and not enough people take advantage of it. If there’s something you want to change, reach out to the people around you. Odds are, there’s someone that feels as passionate as you do about changing the status quo.

Who is YOUR Fairygodboss? Why?

My Fairygodboss is Claudette Colvin -- at the age of 15, she recognized discrimination and defied segregation laws almost a whole year before Rosa Parks. She acted decisively and with conviction to uphold her beliefs.

Lightning Round: What's Your Karaoke Song?

“You Make My Dreams (Come True)” by Hall and Oates.

Lightning Round: What's Your Favorite Book?

"Free the Beaches" by Andrew Kahrl.

Lightning Round: What's Your Favorite Movie?

"13th."

Lightning Round: What's Your Favorite Quote?

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time.” — Barack Obama.


Fairygodboss is all about celebrating female leaders — so every other week, we celebrate a young woman who is making a difference in her school or local community. Do you know a student leader who’s making an impact? Celebrate her and thank her by nominating her here.

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