Jay Murali, a high school senior from St. Louis, is one of the more than a dozen Indian American high school seniors who were named the 2019 U.S. Presidential Scholars. It’s important that desi parents let the kids pursue their own interests, he tells the American Bazaar in an interview.
Every year, the U.S. Presidential Scholars’ Program recognizes and honors some of the country’s most distinguished graduating high school seniors. Established in 1964, by an executive order of the President, the program recognizes up to 161 students who are named as Presidential Scholars. This year, as the American Bazaar reported on Monday, more than 10 percent of the Presidential Scholars are Indian American students.
While it indeed is a huge achievement for a student to get the nation’s highest honor for high school students, those who have been selected say that it is not just academic excellence that is required to become a Presidential Scholar.
Jay Murali, a high school senior from Marquette High School in the Rockwood School District, St Louis, is one of the two students from Missouri recognized as U.S. Presidential Scholars.
He talks to the American Bazaar on how he prepared for the honor and what helped him make the cut from among 3.6 million high school seniors.
Many congratulations for the honor! When and how did you receive the news and what was your reaction?
I was at school at around 10:00 am when I got the email. I was incredibly surprised and could barely believe it at first, then after reading it a few more times, I called my parents to tell them the good news.
Did you follow any specific routine to get this recognition?
Since there wasn’t an exam for this award, I just had to fill out an application, which consisted of some essays and explanation of my extracurricular activities. I had already gone through this process while applying to colleges, so I felt I was better equipped for this application process.
Do you have any research in your mind that you want to pursue post the honor?
I do plan on pursuing undergraduate research in college. I am incredibly interested in photonics and light-based computing as a potential career field, so that is probably where I will start.
What’s your advice to a lot of students looking ahead to achieving similar goals?
Do not try and zone in on any one facet of your high-school experience. Academics are important, but the admissions board wants to see that you have set your time towards getting really, really good at something outside of school. Also, don’t pursue extracurricular activities just for the sake of reward. If you truly enjoy doing something, seek it out. Don’t feel the need to start a school club or take up an internship just for a resume starter; if you enjoy something and get really good at it, the benefits will naturally follow.
What has been your key to success and what really helped you get selected?
I know that there were many other qualified students that deserved the award, and I’m very honored to have received it. I just focused on being the best student that I can possibly be. I started looking for competitions, internships, volunteer opportunities, and other activities years ago, which gave me time to plan out my high school experience and prioritize my time.
What would you say to a lot of Indian American parents who want similar academic excellence from their kids?
Don’t be overly controlling or force them to excel on your terms. I’ve seen this backfire with other students before. It is much better to be more hands-off and let the kids pursue their own interests without being overly critical of their decisions.
16 Indian American students named Presidential Scholars (May 28, 2014)