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A bid to enroll Arabs in U.S. colleges

MIT students help dispel their fears and doubts about applying to American schools, where they remain a relative minority after 9/11.

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Mentors: MIT students Hassen Abdu and Iman Kandil help Arab students come to US universities.

Tom A. Peter

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Like any good high school student, Lana Awad dreamed of an Ivy League education. But when the Syrian teen started applying to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, and Harvard College, her guidance counselor told her to think smaller. After all, no one from her high school in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia had ever gone to a college farther away than Lebanon, just across the Arabian Peninsula.

"They wanted me not to be disappointed, not to feel, you know, rejected ... advising me not to aim too high," says Ms. Awad. In the end, she got into Princeton and MIT, where she is now a freshman.

At a time when Arab enrollments in US universities are still recovering from a post-9/11 plunge, it is experiences like Awad's that an MIT student group is trying to change. The College Admissions Arab Mentorship Program (CAAMP), whose members have just returned from their annual tour of Middle Eastern schools, aims to ensure that myths about American colleges and life in the US don't deter Arabs from studying here. The group encourages Middle Eastern students to take advantage of US universities so they can become more effective leaders in their homeland, as well as agents of cross-cultural exchange.

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