Kartik Sawhney

Stanford 2013 - Full Aid

Kartik of DPS RK Puram secured admission into Stanford, in 2013 with full financial
aid. Although deprived of sight, Kartik is blessed with razor sharp insight and a wonderful
vision that has enabled him to make learning and school education more easily accessible to
blind students in India and abroad.
Kartik Sawhney says: My Journey to Stanford

It was class X when I was thinking about the education stream that I would take up. With a passion for Science, I was confident about my choice. However, the norms prohibited a blind student from studying Science at the Sr. Secondary level. After several petitions and fervent appeals, I finally secured the permission to study Science in classes XI and XII. Despite this success, I was taken aback at the insensitive attitude of several education authorities including the CBSE and IITs. It was in July, 2011 that I met Mrs.Seema Patnaik as my English teacher. After two classes, she advised me to try for international admissions. She apprised me of the numerous facilities available at the institutions abroad. While I was somewhat convinced, my family was totally against this idea. Keeping in view the circumstances and my family’s views, I decided to drop the idea, and continued to prepare for the IIT-JEE in complete earnest.
After teaching for six months in the United States as a Fulbright fellow, when Mrs. Patnaik returned to India, she once again interacted with my mother and me and informed us of the accommodations available for me as a blind student, and the numerous opportunities for scientific research in the States. Meanwhile, I had received several disappointing letters from the IITs, laying down policies that did not provide me with an equal opportunity to compete in the entrance examination. I was now determined to explore the options abroad, and try for admissions to these institutions. It, however, took me nearly six months to convince my parents, who were apprehensive of sending me all by myself in an alien country. In August, 2012, I received a letter from IIT, Delhi which left me espondent. The institute forbade me to use the assistive devices and technology in the entrance examination, while also not allowing be to take advantage of a test reader who could read Math and Science. I finally decided to register for the SAT, and try for admissions to a few schools in the US.
With no familiarity with the application process and less than six months of time, I was baffled. It was then that Mrs. Patnaik came to my rescue, and guided me step-by-step.We started off with the special accommodations process for me alongwith the counselor at school, requesting the services of a test reader and a scribe. She then helped me out with the SAT test preparation. The Critical Reading sections and the Writing sections on the test require a different approach than what we are accustomed to at school. She helped me develop those critical skills necessary for success in these sections. She would take up one topic at a time, and then read out a plethora of exercises testing the concept. As regards the writing section, she would guide me on important things like syntax, grammatical rules, style analysis, among others. The best part was the way she would encourage me to think for myself. This helped me develop critical thinking, which is essential for success in the 21st century.
Standardised tests were not the only component of the application. I was clueless about the documents that were to be mailed to the universities. Mrs. Patnaik provided a checklist of documents, and requested one of her students to guide me. With their support, I finally was able to send all of the required documents in time. The most important component of any application to the schools in the US is the application essays. These provide the applicant with an opportunity to voice his concerns and aspirations. It is, therefore, extremely imperative that due thought is devoted to these essays. I, however, did not know what exactly was wanted by these institutions. It is then that Mrs. Patnaik helped me out by proof-reading my essays and brainstorming. Although the process was cumbersome, I thoroughly enjoyed it. This gave me an opportunity to think deeply about the issues that concern me, while also reflecting about myself-my challenges, aspirations etc.
The application process is challenging for any student. Being blind made things all the more difficult and complicated for me. Right from applying for accommodations to taking the SAT test, there were several hurdles. There were times when I did not know what to do, and would feel low. It was then that my parents and teachers would support me, giving me the necessary strength. Mrs. Patnaik’s belief, “If you work hard, the universe conspires to make everything happen,” encouraged me, and has now become the mantra of my life. In fact, it is the guidance and continued support I received that finally brought me acceptance to Stanford University with 100% scholarship. With hard work and support from my mentors, I was finally able to scale a peak that I could have never imagined. I now look forward to the vast array of opportunities and facilities that await me on the farm!
Kartik Sawhney, 2013

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