SAYA Youth Explore Colleges

By Nusrat, Grade 12

When it comes to junior and senior year of high school, students are busy with finding information and selecting colleges. Not to mention, many students are afraid of college, since they have always dreamed of it but never experienced it. 

With the goal of preparing high school students for college and career, South Asian Youth Action holds a lot of youth leadership programs and take students on campus tours to different prestigious colleges around the country. This summer, during August, the SAYA college trip was to upstate New York to the some of the most popular colleges in the state. During the trip we visited Syracuse University, University of Rochester, RIT, Cornell University and SUNY Binghamton. Simultaneously, youth got the opportunity to enthusiastically learn more about college, and to travel outside of the city. After being exposed to the different curricula of colleges, youth choose what’s best for them. 

University of Rochester


In navigating the plethora of colleges and universities in existence, students struggle most in their journey of finding a school perfectly suited to their interests. We all have ambitions and aspirations that may have had to take a backseat in our path to finding a secure and well payed job; the University of Rochester believes in no such compromises.

This University not only accepts but even encourages diversity in educational interests. While many schools limit the combinations of double major possibilities to similar departments, the University of Rochester has no problem with you being in pre-med and having a dance minor.

Better yet, this school doesn’t have any required subjects! Rochester prides itself in this liberal curriculum, as the extra time allows more students to take up to 3 majors throughout the school’s three divisions of learning.

Clusters are something unique to the University of Rochester; they give students the opportunity to have even more control and flexibility over their own course loads. Clusters are “a set of related courses that fall within one of the three academic divisions.” They bear at least 12 credits, and are often even created by the students to conform to their own interests and desires.

Rochester has a mandatory writing class due to their belief that expression and eloquence are necessities in all fields of expertise. When taking a tour through the campus our guide explained one of the initiatives of the school; the University of Rochester believes writing is a form of expression that is beneficial to engineers, writers, and all subject areas in between.

Walking through the campus revealed to us students of varying appearances, races and genders. From this limited sample size of summer students at the University of Rochester, it can be gathered that the community is quite diverse. With the school’s well rounded and encouraging curriculum, their underground hallways to avoid the extreme weather of the seasons, and their diverse community of students, the University of Rochester is an ideal school with great academic rigor and diversity.

Cornell University


With its great hilltop views to the many trees from various species, you’ll never be bored walking through Cornell University. This prestigious university isn’t known for its landscapes, but it will surely overwhelm you with courses ranging from Asian American Studies to Veterinary Medicine. During my experience touring this school, it really made me wish that I could redo high school to achieve the grades that would allow me to even think about applying to Cornell. To the lowerclassmen reading, I suggest you pick up the books and study hard, and to the upperclassmen, it may or may not be a little too late to get the grades this noble university is patiently waiting for.

Once reaching Cornell University, I was mesmerized by the beauty of the campus because it reminded me of more agriculturally soothing Hogwarts. Never would I have thought to be blessed with the opportunity to tour the Ivy League university, and my tour guide made sure that we would fall in love with her school. I like to think of Cornell University as its own city, especially since it caters to around 20,000 students, which is crazy because I thought my high school was overcrowded with just about 3,000 students! Don’t worry about ever feeling alone because there are over 1,000 clubs, such as Bhangra, Cycling, Writing, and even a club fit for the Harry Potter fans, Quidditch.

On to the academics, Cornell obviously fits this category well. With a highly selective admissions rate of 14.2%, Cornell looks to find the best of the best from all of the applicants. The university contains 14 colleges and schools; the two largest undergraduate colleges are the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Cornell’s popular majors include Engineering, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, and Business. Your major shouldn’t bring you down to only choosing courses specific to its category, especially with 4,000 courses across 100 academic departments, so knock yourself out with diverse courses to fit your interests in any field.

The shine from our tour guide’s constant smile proved that Cornell is everything to be proud about. One fact she shared with us was that one notable alumni, Bill Nye the Science Guy visits and takes whoever resides in his previous dorm out to dinner.

Rochester Institute of Technology

By Aritra, Grade 12

Tuesday morning, it was 6:30 AM and I realized I was late to go to the SAYA center where we were supposed to meet with everyone. However, I ran to my closet and grabbed some fresh clothes to wear and ran to the bus stop. I was surprised that when I went to the center, I was one of the early arrivers there. So early that the door for the center was locked. Even though we didn’t leave until 8 AM, it felt satisfying to not be late. When I got onto the bus, one of many things that excited me was that I was going to visit two of the colleges that I have been wanting to visit for a long time.

I was excited to visit Rochester Institute of Technology because I have heard many compliments about their STEM programs. RIT is not a prestigious school for liberal arts degree or any kind of degree other than STEM. Nonetheless, their engineering program is nationally recognized by many large companies. Companies like Microsoft, Google, Oracle, and Intel hire graduates from RIT every year. In addition, Microsoft is one of RIT’s many industrial partners, which means some of RIT’s curriculum is made according to their standard and reviewed by professionals working in those companies. RIT also hosts the only Microelectronic Engineering program in the whole United States that is accredited by ABET. RIT students are required to do Co-op in their fifth year in order to graduate; co-ops help graduates learn practical uses of what they learn.

Some of the cons of RIT is that 70% or more of the students are male and only 30% are female students. You definitely will see more guys hanging around the campus than girls. Lack of trees around the campus area could be a negative thing, though, there is a huge park behind the campus. Not to mention, if you love snow then don’t worry you will have plenty of it if you go to RIT, so much snow that you might be able to catch some snow in the beginning of summer. Every building in RIT is made out of the same colored bricks, so if that’s your style then you will love it.

In conclusion, Rochester Institute of Technology is a great school for anyone who is interested in STEM. One can totally see their tech oriented environment just by noticing all the amazing projects sitting around the campus. In my opinion, I can see myself going to that school as a student someday.

Syracuse University

By Angie, Grade 12

After approximately a four hour ride on the bus, SAYA’s youth and their chaperones laid eyes on the first college of their tour. Syracuse University had a big, beautiful campus that had hills where students had fun sledding down during the winter. They had a mix of new and old buildings that were covered in vines. This, in my opinion, gave the campus character.

The school offered over 300 clubs for students to participate in during college. These included debate, dance, Greek life, gaming, and more! Something that seemed really helpful was they had their own ambulances called Syracuse University Ambulance. This health-services based student organization helps over 1,500 emergencies each year. This is helpful because students won’t have to pay for the cost of ambulances and since it’s on campus, they could respond to emergencies faster and rush students to the nearest hospital.

There was a funny anecdote about how the school got their colors. Their colors use to be pink and pea green. However, the track team got made fun of their colors so they had a meeting and told the chancellor about their experience. Thus, their school colors were changed to orange since no school had claimed that color.