First of all, I want to congratulate you on this momentous step. Applying to college is a big decision, and the fact that you're here shows that you're taking this process seriously!
Furthermore, you're clearly a person who plans ahead. This will serve you well both in preparing your college applications and in life, insha'Allah.
I founded Five Before College to help Muslim high schoolers and their families get access top-quality information and advice on how applying to college REALLY works, so that you can make the best decisions for your deen and dunya, for this life and the next.
Over my career, I’ve gotten a really good understanding of college admissions. More specifically, over the past decade, I’ve advised hundreds of Muslim students through the college admissions process.
This experience has given me a unique, high-level understanding of how college admissions works for Muslims specifically.
And that’s what I want to share with you.
Believe it or not, Muslims actually have some big advantages applying to college. This certainly doesn’t mean that any Muslim can get into any college he or she wants. But it does mean that you can put your best foot forward.
So I want to start off by sharing five of the secrets I've learned that can help Muslim high schoolers succeed beyond anyone's expectations.
Secret #1: You have five minutes
The first secret to applying to college is simple:
Admissions officers read up to 100 applications PER DAY. If you do the math, that means you have only 5 minutes to make an unforgettable impression.
The fact is that you ARE unique. The special combination of your background, your ambition, your accomplishments, and your faith make you a person who naturally stands out from the crowd.
But as you can imagine, when admissions officers have to read hundreds of applications back to back, after a while they all start to look the same!
To be successful, you need to make sure that your unique gifts shine through on your college application.
When you do that, the admissions officer who reads your application will come into their next meeting - the one where decisions are made - talking about YOU.
Secret #2: Apply early (the right way)
Over the past couple of decades, many of my students have gotten into their first choice college. Many have gone to the Ivy League. Many more have gone to prestigious, competitive schools with very low acceptance rates.
Some of my students have even gotten accepted to colleges that, frankly, surprised me. From my experience, I knew they had a low chance of getting in. But they did.
Most of these outliers had something in common:
THEY APPLIED EARLY.
Applying early is the single best way to increase your chances of admission to a particular school. Competitive colleges often fill a third or more of their freshman class with early decision and early action applicants. This simple arithmetic means that if you know where you want to go to school, you should apply early.
But that’s a big “if.”
There’s a right way and a wrong way to go about applying early. Do it right, and you’ll have a great chance of getting in, and probably a much more fulfilling, more intentional, and less stressful experience of applying to college overall.
Secret #3: Enjoy the process
There are a lot of misconceptions about applying to college. There’s a lot of uncertainty, a lot of anxiety, a lot of pressure.
Some of that is natural.
But a little goes a long way.
The truth is that a lot of the stress and difficulty of applying to college can be avoided if you have good advice, if you really understand the process, and you know what to expect every step of the way. You’ll also have an experienced advocate in your corner, someone who you can turn to with questions when you need help or reassurance.
When you know what to expect, when you have an advocate on your side, you’ll feel more confident, so you can actually start to appreciate the beautiful and beneficial aspects of this unique phase of your life.
Yes, you heard that right.
YOU CAN ACTUALLY START TO ENJOY THE PROCESS!
As Muslims, we know that God’s decree encompasses everything. When we remember this, and also do the work - to tie our camels, so to speak - applying to college can actually be a joyful experience.
I always encourage my students to shift their mindset and to treat applying to college as a process of self discovery. I sometimes refer to that as “finding your qibla.”
Secret #4: Share your faith
It’s okay to be unapologetically Muslim.
Now, there are different ways to talk about our faith, and we have to know our audience. It may not be wise to talk about certain highly controversial, hot-button topics if you don’t need to.
But remember, you have only five minutes to make an impression. Among hundreds and hundreds of applications, you have to stand out.
AS A MUSLIM, YOU NATURALLY STAND OUT.
Remember that the Prophet, peace be upon him, told us:
“Islam began as something strange and will go back to being strange, so glad tidings to the strangers.” (Ibn Majah)
Colleges are looking for people who are different, who have strong character, who will contribute to the wider community. All of those things come very naturally to us.
Believe it or not, many colleges actually look for Muslims specifically. I know of one prestigious school that has a stated goal of tripling the number of Muslims in their student body over the next three years!
Secret #5: Make du’a
This one brings it all together.
We do our work to the best of our ability, then we turn the results over to God. As a brother told me when I first took shahada: “Do your best, and surrender the rest.”
Allah tells us in the Qur’an:
“Success is surely achieved by those who purify themselves” (87:14)
If we approach our work properly, no matter what happens, WE’VE ALREADY WON.
When we trust in that, it frees us to benefit from this unique time in our lives, and to treat it as a period of growth and opportunity, without unnecessary stress or difficulty.
My goal is to help you get there.
Since you’re here, you’re probably planning to apply early.
The Five Before College Early Application Masterclass is designed to give you an inside understanding of the college application process, with a special focus on early decision and early action applications. Over five weeks, I’ll walk you through a step-by-step formula to help you craft an application that makes an unforgettable impression.
Here's how the class will go:
An "inside look" at how admissions works, why admissions officers are looking for reasons to reject every application, and how not to let that happen to you! We'll cover the key elements that MUST be present for your application to be truly memorable, and how the different parts of your application work together.
Deep dive into the components of your application, including your transcript, activities section, personal statement, and supplemental essays. You'll learn how to present what you've done in a compelling way, so that your accomplishments truly pop off the page.
For seniors, the personal statement is the single most important part of your application that you can still control. When you're applying early, this goes double! And the most important part of the essay itself is the topic. You DON'T want to just go with the first idea that comes to mind. We'll go through various exercises for topic selection, so you can find a winner.
Now it's time to actually write your essay! This session will help you narrow down your ideas and choose the one that works. We'll look at a number of successful essay examples to give you a better idea of what is possible. You might be surprised what a truly great essay can do!
The best essays are the ones that are refined and polished, until every word is in place. This session is about helping you hone your rough draft into a final essay that you can be proud of. We’ll also look at supplemental essays and how to approach them for each school.
Remember, admissions officers are scanning for truly interesting candidates - students whose personalities, character, and unique strengths are almost oozing from the pages of their application.
And by the end of the FBC Early Application Masterclass, you'll have an application that will show it.
If you join the FBC Early Application Masterclass, and you do the work, you’ll have a standout college application finished well before the early application deadline.
That’s my promise to you.
You can find out more details below.
Part of the Five Before College mission is to make top-quality advice accessible to everyone. We never want finances to prevent you from getting the help you need. If you would like a pay-what-you-can discount, please email us. No one is turned away!
Email: [email protected]
What time are classes?
Classes will be held Wednesdays at 7:30 pm eastern time, weekly from August 30 through September 27.
How long are classes?
Classes will be 90 minutes each.
How will I access classes?
The Zoom link for each class will be sent by email beforehand. Class recordings will be available shortly afterwards.
Will there be time for questions?
Class time will be packed! We'll try to address some questions during class, but you can also ask questions during the weekly office hours sessions. Office hours will open to both parents and students. Office hours will be on Sundays iA, time TBD
Will there be any 1-on-1 time with the instructor?
All students in the FBC Early Application Masterclass will get a free 15 minute personal consultation.
If I have already written my college essay, can this class still help me?
Almost certainly, yes. Even the best college applications can always be refined and polished, to better showcase your distinctive personality and strengths. Since you've started early, you're in great position to make your application even better! The course is also a great opportunity to work on your supplements.
Will I be able to access personal coaching if I need it?
Personal attention very helpful for most applicants. Hamzah and the Five Before College team are available for 1-on-1 consultations, essay editing, and application review on an hourly basis.
Do early application Masterclass students get a discount on one-on-one coaching?
Yes! Early Application Masterclass students will have LIFETIME access to one-on-one coaching at the discounted rate of $150/hour ($75/30 minutes).
How do I access one-on-one coaching?
Head over to https://hamzahhenshaw.com/ to book a meeting.
Is this course only for seniors who are applying early?
This class is primarily for incoming high school seniors who are planning to apply early, or at least strongly considering it. If that’s you, you’re in the right place. If you’re not planning to apply early, or if you’re not yet a senior, you may still benefit, but it’s not quite so urgent for you to get started immediately. You may want to enroll in the regular FBC College Application Masterclass later this fall instead.
Will there be any opportunity to meet other students in the class?
Absolutely! One of my goals for these classes, and for Five Before College overall, is to help Muslim students to connect with one another, support each other through this process, and to build relationships that will continue into the college years and beyond insha'Allah.
“College applications are undoubtedly daunting; with a laundry list of factors to take into consideration and an increasingly volatile college landscape, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds of it all (I know I did at least). When struggling to whittle down ideas for a personal statement, Hamzah’s help was a godsend. He brought a wealth of knowledge to the table — knowledge that I, as a first-generation American Muslim, was not privy to — and made sure to handle my application with care and conscientiousness. He’s proven himself to have mastered this process, and I could not recommend his services more highly.”Amina N. (Williams College)
“Initially, I was concerned about writing a story about myself. What if the essay would not reflect my personality and goals, what if it sounded fake? Hamzah, however, not only encouraged me to do it but also gave me the right tools through his insightful and deeply reflective suggestions. The best proof that working with Hamzah is effective and almost essential is that I am proud of my essay and I cannot only use it for the MBA applications but for my future personal and professional development.”Zeynep A. (Columbia Business School)
“My feelings towards Br. Hamzah, his classes, his help, and support can never be expressed in words. Wallahi, I won't be able to show he how much I appreciate and respect everything he did for me and all the other students! After Allah (SWT)'s help, if I hadn't had such a great teacher, mentor, advisor, and caring person like him, I would've been somewhere completely different in life. He always made an effort to respect our feelings, needs, and wants while solving the problem with patience and care. I pray that one day I could be just as inspirational as him and help change other people's lives.”Ahd H. (Brown University)
“I would not have gotten to where I am without Br. Hamzah. He coached me throughout the college application process. We explored different options together, and the insight he provided made me know what to expect. Br. Hamzah not only helped me reach the Ivy League but also helped me figure out how to find the best fit for me. He got to know me, so he was able to give me genuine advice tailored to my preferences and needs. He also helped me distinguish my voice among thousands of other applicants. Br. Hamzah always made himself available when I needed advice, regardless of how busy he was. Our meetings were cathartic in the sense that once they were over, I would always have an answer or know which direction to proceed. I really could not have done this without him.”Yasin S. (University of Pennsylvania)
“It’s rare to find a mentor so deeply invested in the success and happiness of their students. Br. Hamzah not only spent the time to get to know every one of his students on a personal level, but he was also incredibly knowledgeable about how to use that information to their benefit. Br. Hamzah leveraged his extensive experience as a phenomenal English teacher and a seasoned college counselor to both oversee the logistics of applying to college and help me craft authentic, polished essays. I can confidently say that he was a decisive factor in my college acceptance results, where I ended up committing, and ultimately where my life stands right now.”Injy E. (Brown University)
“Br. Hamzah played a crucial role in helping me tackle the college application process. He provided me with examples of great storytelling essays to help us write our narrative essays, he taught me strategic methods to filling out the common app (especially in terms of utilizing space in the activities section), and he supported me in my essay writing process by helping me showcase the most diverse and compelling parts of my personality and life story. Br. Hamzah helped me put my best foot forward by helping me present my best self to colleges.”Ayia E. (Tufts University)
“Br. Hamzah changed my life. He is the “realest” teacher and counselor I have ever met that truly showed me the realities of life and the beauty in everything. During my struggle to apply to and decide about my new school next year, he went out of his way to sit and have a genuine talk with me. He genuinely wanted me to succeed and be the best I can be while also showing me that college is not the only aspect of life. For that, I will be always grateful. He has shaped me into the person I am today and the person I strive to be in the future. He is just as inspirational as John Keating in Dead Poet’s Society.”Zaynab K. (Boston University Academy)
“While everyone else around me was grumbling about how they didn't know what they wanted to do in college, I was certain it was going to be English, and I have him to thank for that. I also really really admire the way he prioritizes Islam above all else. It's so inspiring to hear him talk about Islam because he's so well-spoken and he does such a good job at instilling of Allah in my heart. It's been so refreshing to see someone so grounded in faith.”Hira K. (Wellesley College)
“Br. Hamzah encouraged my growth throughout the entirety of my high school career. And he saw potential in me even when I didn't see it in myself. His class taught me so much more than just applying to college. It taught me about myself. It enabled my growth as a person in general and for that I will be forever grateful. I will forever and always attribute my success to the lessons I have learned from him.”Rayan T. (Northwestern University)
“I can't put into words how grateful I've been for Br. Hamzah’s counsel and guidance. He instilled a lot of self confidence in me especially pertaining to my writing abilities, and I can soundly say that I will never enjoy an English class as much as I did his. I have respect for him as a teacher as well as a sort of second father figure. The way he speaks makes me want to open up a book and absorb new ideas. May Allah reward him for all that he’s done to help me.”Fatimah L. (Tayseer Seminary & UMass Amherst)
“Br. Hamzah is the best teacher I have ever had. I was a shy, timid student. But he is an exceptional teacher who knows how to connect with the students. His amiable nature, kindness, and warmth makes him our favorite teacher. My family was very happy and proud of me because of him. I thank him for making me a better human and a little more confident and social. May Allah bless him with happiness and accept all his good deeds. I pray that he gets the best of both worlds.”Shamiza Q. (MCPHS University)
“After years of having Br. Hamzah as my teacher, through all the great ups and downs, I can confidently say that he is one of the greatest mentors I've had. I hope his contributions will continue to have such a beneficial effect on our community.”Ali N. (Williams University)
“I mean it with everything in me when I say how happy, appreciative, and thankful I am that I was able to be one of Br. Hamzah’s students for 3 years. He has taught me so much about English, Islam, and life in general. He believed in me to be and do great when I didn't believe in myself, and I thank him for pushing me to become a better student and human. He changed my outlook on life, and I really would not be the person I am today if it weren't for everything I've learned from him. His sense of humor is most definitely unmatched by anyone. He was more than just my teacher, but my mentor and friend as well. He truly is one of my greatest role models and I hope to be even HALF as great as him one day. ”Yumnah E. (Middlebury College)