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Columbia University in New York City. Image Credit: Columbia University website

Abu Dhabi: An Emirati teen who has been accepted to not one but three Ivy League universities in the US, considered among the world’s most selective institutions, said anything is achievable “if you have the will and determination to get it done”.

Sultan Al Dhaheri, 19, said students should “concentrate on your education; don’t waste time on petty things which won’t matter in the long run”. He certainly seems to have focused on his studies — he earned 9 A*s and one A (level 7) in his GCSEs, and three As in A-Levels while graduating from The British School Al Khubairat, Abu Dhabi.

Top choices

Al Dhaheri then got offers from three Ivy League establishments — Columbia University, Cornell University, and University of Pennsylvania. He was also accepted by four other leading American institutions — Johns Hopkins University, George Washington University, Boston University, and Tufts University.

Sultan Al Dhaheri

Out of his seven choices, he selected Columbia “for its unique core curriculum which included a wide range of subjects” as well as its “amazing campus and incredible location in New York City”. Al Dhaheri said he was the only Emirati accepted for undergraduate admission last year at Columbia, where the acceptance rate was below five per cent. This was confirmed by Hale Education Group, a Dubai-headquartered independent international educational consulting firm for foreign students seeking admission to North American universities.

Dedication to country

Though this is his first semester at Columbia, where he plans to major in economics and political science, Al Dhaheri has not yet attended lectures in person. “All my classes are online. I have not yet set foot on the NYC campus and can’t wait to do so, which looks like it will be in September of next year,” Al Dhaheri said. He added that he was inspired to choose his major “due to my desire to give back to my country and further the vision of [the UAE’s first president, the late] Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan”.

Al Dhaheri said: “Since a young age, I have been passionate about contributing to the future of this country. I intend to work in the UAE government, and be part of a new generation of leaders who will lead this country into a new era of prosperity.” At school he was part of the UAE Ambassador’s Organisation, which he said helped him develop his leadership and oratory skills and gave him a platform to work closely with people from all around the world. “Initially, this group was restricted to Emiratis, but I decided to open membership up to all nationalities in order to foster an environment of inclusivity and cooperation.”

Drawing inspiration

Al Dhaheri said his father, who completed his doctorate at the University of Cambridge and his law degree at Harvard University, is his inspiration. “He always instilled in me a strong commitment to justice, equality, and respect for education … I was initially intent on following in the footsteps of my father and elder brother to attend the University of Cambridge. I then realised I was better suited to the flexibility of the US curriculum, which I have really enjoyed. I also want to thank my mentors [from Hale Education Group] Peter Y. Davos and Nathan Vanelli; without their help, I never could have achieved this success,” Al Dhaheri said.