By Sela Kasepa
On the night of 11 March, 2016 I woke up to a phone call and my dream became a reality.
I couldn’t believe my ears; Harvard was calling, had April fool’s day come early this year? The response was, Sela. Just in case you think you were dreaming or your parents think it was a prank, you were not and it is not.
Looking forward to welcoming you to Harvard next fall. Congratulations!
By the way the name is Sela Kasepa, a Zambian girl from ChaChaCha, Kitwe and this is how I got into Harvard.
It all began in August 2015 when I received one of the most important calls of my life. Little did I know that what seemed like a mundane call from the Zambian Institute for Sustainable Development would change my life? This NGO had awarded me a scholarship which enabled me complete my high school education at Fatima Secondary School with 10 distinctions in 10 subjects. The ZISD Executive
Director, Mr. Peter Lungu was inviting me to participate in their SAT program.
The SAT is a college entrance exam used for admission into universities in the United States. Until then I was just another high school graduate with excellent grades but no funding for university; life had played a joke on me but I was not laughing. I had done my fair share of trekking from door to door, I was worn out and so were my shoes but with this call I could see light at the end of the tunnel.
I was elated and jumped at the opportunity to return to the classroom after my two year university search had come to a stall.
The thought of attending school in America excited me, not for the glamor of the place, but for the boundless possibilities it would avail to me to pursue my dream career
This excitement was short-lived. ZISD’s SAT program is about one of the most rigorous courses I have taken; actually that is an understatement it was baptism by fire. This regimented training consisted of daily tests in English and Maths in a short time span.
NEVER EVER GIVE UP, was a phrase that was emphasized by Coach Jimmy Valvano in 30 for 30: Survive and Advance, a movie that the ZISD team showed
These nuclear words have stayed with me. In spite of insurmountable adversity and against improbable odds, never should you give up on your dream, passion or goal; it might take years to attain your dreams, but if you don’t give up, you can reach out, touch, and ultimately embrace your dreams. In the end, all this hard work paid off, I aced the SAT and obtained a perfect score in the subject test.
I did not intend on applying to Harvard, because I never thought I could get admitted; lucky for me, I had people who believed in me more than I did. In the words of Isaac Newton, if I have been able to see further it is by standing on the shoulder of giants.
When most people were going to New Year’s Eve parties, I was grappling with the decision on whether to apply to Harvard. At that moment, I received a call from Mr. Lungu following up on my Harvard application which prompted me to draft an application – mostly to get him out of my hair.
My first application cycle to U.S universities was disappointing, I got waitlisted by Stanford and Gettysburg College and was admitted into Merrimack College and Michigan State University but without a scholarship to enable me attend. However, this application cycle I was admitted into Stanford, M.I.T., Michigan State University, University of California Berkeley and Harvard with all offering scholarships.
It is without saying that I chose to attend Harvard. Many a time, we are the cause of our own ruin. We belittle ourselves, and hinder our own advancement, thus setting ourselves on a path of self-destruction. My father saved me from this path through his belief in my innate capabilities, his high expectations of me, and his willingness to sacrifice his time to help me with my challenges. I owe much of my achievement to ZISD, for it gave me the best test prep, helped me with all my fees, and provided me with a family that truly cared. These factors greatly influenced my mentality, I applied to the big schools I feared, I was challenged to take on new opportunities, and I ultimately managed to attain my dream.
Let your dreams change your reality, don’t let reality change your dreams. The road to success is riddled with many potholes, but we should endure them, pick ourselves up when we fall, and we will surely march on to victory. If you really want something, the universe conspires to make it happen.
Who would have thought that a girl from ChaChaCha would beat the odds and get into Harvard?