Youssef Abdelhalim Wins Presidential Scholars Award


courtesy of Youssef Abdelhalim

Senior Youssef Abdelhalim won the 2021 Presidential Scholars award.

Sam Renz, World Views editor

After a rigorous, selective application process and many rounds of narrowing down the applicants, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program has announced its 161 winners for 2021. Among this small pool of nationwide high school seniors is Hillsborough High School’s Youssef Abdelhalim.

Abdelhalim moved to Hillsborough in eighth grade and quickly became a part of the Hillsborough school community. Through high school, he has spent countless hours outside school at cross country and track practices for HHS as well as club soccer on his own time. In addition to the time dedicated to these responsibilities, Abdelhalim has also managed an intense schedule, having taken AP U.S. History, AP Language, AP Chemistry, AP Biology, AP French, AP Literature, AP Physics 1, and AP Calculus AB in the last two years. Despite the amount of time committed to his extracurricular activities and his massive workload, Abdelhalim was able to maintain an impressive GPA and perform well in his classes, on the track, and on the soccer field.

As for the Presidential Scholars Program, the application process is very strenuous. Applicants were automatically invited based on their performance on the SAT prior to the end of October 2020, and they were required to submit essays, self-assessments, school reports, transcripts, and leadership and service activities. These materials are evaluated by an independent committee to select around 500 semifinalists, 19 of whom were New Jersey residents, before the Commission on Presidential Scholars selects finalists.

Abdelhalim described this time-consuming process; he wrote 8 strenuous essays and had to submit 8 extracurricular activities, special talents, community service, and jobs. In the end, this paid off for Abdelhalim, for he was selected as a winner for the program. As a reward, Abdelhalim was given a certificate signed by the President of the United States, as well as a network for future opportunities.

Regarding the amount of effort spent and success met through this process, Abdelhalim said, “No matter how many people believe in you, you never make it until you believe in yourself.”