Dear Malala Yousafzai, your Nobel Prize is not your ticket to Stanford

Published: September 9, 2015

Malala Yousafzai accepted the award during the ceremony in Oslo. PHOTO: REUTERS

It is time for Malala Yousafzai to start considering colleges for the next phase of her education. However, here the queen of education seems to have run into a little snag.

Though she has her eyes set on Stanford University in California among other institutions, Stanford has demanded that she demonstrate herself to be academically adept as per US standards for college admission.

Not quite interested in her stature as the youngest Nobel Laureate, the university, which ranks number third in the world, has demanded Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores from Malala.

SAT is a specialised test of academic skills in the areas of reading, writing, and math required for applying to admission to US colleges. SAT does not ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ a person but judges aptitude. The maximum score one can get is a 2400.

In the US, SAT is a huge deal for a high school student who is aspiring to get into a prestigious university like Berkeley, Stanford or Yale etc. It isn’t easy to get even a 2000 score on a SAT test. Even apart from the SAT test, the stakes are really high for anyone aiming for Stanford. The SAT test can be taken anytime during the sophomore, junior or senior high school years and the score is counted along with overall academic performance to make admission to a good university possible.

This year alone, 42,167 people applied for admission to Stanford University out of which only 2,138 actually succeeded in getting admission. Considering this, if there are questions raised as to why Malala should be granted a waiver on her SATs, it is no surprise.

Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic tweeted,

Writer and Stanford Alumni Rachel Syme tweeted,

There are arguments that Malala has done really well on her SAT equivalent testing in the UK and that those grades should suffice for admission eligibility. But then, if she has really done so well on her UK SAT equivalents, then she shouldn’t have trouble acing the US SAT either.

On a personal note, all students who are aspiring to enter a really sought after college must be academically assessed on an equal footing, Nobel Prize or no Nobel Prize.

Also, making sure she enters a university like Stanford on the basis of merit rather than ‘unusual circumstances’ will cement her respect in the eyes of her peers and will garner more respect for her in the long run than she would be able to muster otherwise.

After all, if she is the global symbol of women’s education and a resonating voice for girl’s education, she has to hold that flag up high.


Aalia Suleman

A freelance writer and poet who is keenly interested in the status of women in 21st century Pakistan. Her writing also zones in on Pakistan's new social and political status on a redefined global chessboard. She has a masters degree in English Literature and blogs and invites debates at 'Socio-politically Pakistani'. She tweets @aaliasuleman (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • XYZ123

    Stanford is right to demand that she demonstrate academic aptitude. Being the most successful manchurian candidate in recent history doesnt necessarily qualify you for one of the most demanding academic institutions in the worldRecommend

  • PostMan

    Did she ask the Stanford university to give her the admission since she is a Nobel laureate? If she did, this post and and the mentioned tweets within carry merit. Otherwise no.Recommend

  • ZAK

    Fair….very fairRecommend

  • Yashfaa Rao

    i do agreeRecommend

  • Nouman Ahmed

    80% of your blog was about the background of the issue. The remaining 20% space in which you shared your own thoughts could be summarized into a tweet.Recommend

  • Saad Bin Arshad

    1. What the writer fails to understand (or convey to the readers) in her piece is the lack of existence of any implicit or explicit claim by Malala that shows that she wants university admission requirements waived because she has a Nobel Prize.

    2. Not even one instance in her article, the writer gives evidence to support that Malala tried to apply to Stanford and showed resistance to taking the SAT. That said, she has taken the UK equivalent of the SAT AND scored well in it. Not sure if that is her case but if it were me I would try to get those credentials accepted at first because why would I waste my time on another similar test (unless absolutely required in which case I shall comply) no matter how smart I am?

    3. The writer seems oblivious to the fact the extenuating circumstances do matter in college admissions in the US. Having been through the process of applying undergrad colleges as well as grad schools in the US and UK, I can (as well as anyone else who has done likewise) say that good academic credentials with extenuating circumstances mentioned in a well-written Statement of Purpose will, at best certainly land you a place in a good college, and at worst, improve your chances of getting admitted. I mean hasn’t this woman ever heard of the preference given to bright, but physically or mentally challenged students or members of oppressed minorities or LGBT folk etc?Recommend

  • Yashfaa Rao

    she must appear in the testRecommend

  • knightridrr

    Stanford, MIT, Harvard etc. aren’t at the top for nothing.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Nicely said……now let’s shift gears into the real world and let’s not get too overawed by big name institutions. What does Malala have to gain from Stanford ? …….a good education. What does Stanford have to gain from Malala ? ……a STUDENT with a Nobel Prize wanting a good education. My guess is that not only will any of these institutions take her…..they will compete for the privilege of having her.Recommend

  • Vinod

    Scripted speeches at the UN conference. Peace prize for walking to school and getting shot. Do you genieunly think a person living 2 years in UK coming from a 3 rd world country pull out with straight As. Really think for yourselves. coincidentally or genius or a media puppet.Recommend

  • Asad Shairani

    The “merit” these universities claim often includes vague (and extremely subjective to judge) criteria like life experiences, surnames, inventions, etc. The flak at Stanford is justified since they have deliberately included such hard to challenge points in their process. There are people with exceptional experience AND a very low GMAT/GRE score at Ivy League schools, so this is not unusual.Recommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad

    So, what is the point? You want to say that Malala tried to trick them? Shame on you on maligning our little princess. She is in England and might not know the requirements of American colleges. She has never tried short cuts, remember this next time.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    Becoming a global icon for girls’ education and winning a Nobel peace prize for it, is ostensibly no evidence of one’s merit. Mmm-hmm.

    Apparently merit has to be proved by being the offspring of a Stanford graduate, and getting admitted on basis of legacy. Too bad Mr. Ziauddin Yousafzai is just a poor school teacher from Swat.Recommend

  • Saif

    See, your perspective is understandable and if the university demands that the test be given, then she definitely must! But that’s as far as I would agree with you. At the end of the day, her contributions will and should count, as they do for all students under the banner of co-curriculars. The system in place is to sieve out the most deserving, but in cases where things are more apparent with regard to the person’s potential then that needs to be accounted for. It wouldn’t be a first where universities have chosen a candidate with lower grades but greater possibility for present or future contributions, and rightfully so at that. So yes, malala shouldn’t be an exception and she wouldn’t be.Recommend

  • Inane much?

    Ugh please, be more inane, ET.

    SATs are one measure of a student’s ability to be successful in a competitive university environment. As a U.S. college Adviser, my main concern with students isn’t their grades, but synthesizing their interests achievements to present them as a compelling personality and candidate for a school campus. Therefore, I’m more concerned with their extra curricular activities, internships and life experiences. Malala crushes every other teenager in the world when it comes to the three, which every single admissions committee will know if they’re lucky enough to get an application from her.

    Regardless, I dont see why Malala can’t take the SATs. She’s done extraordinarily well in her O levels, and I’m sure she’d do well enough to get into Stanford even if she didn’t get the average 2200 or whatever they’re taking these days.

    Also, i think your author missed the sarcasm in her choice of tweets.


  • lathee charge

    Of course, a place taken by her at a top notch US university means one less place for someone from the Chosen Race. Actually, she should forget about applying to a US university for her first degree but rather secure one at a good British university since the honours degree awarded there is on par with anything a US ivy league college can confer. But for higher degrees, the US may well be the better option.Recommend

  • rtnguy

    Do all pakis behave in this sick manner. For ur kind info the chosen race produced maximum number of nobel laureatesRecommend

  • S

    WHATEVER! She has a Noble prize, there are less noble Laureates in the world than there are graduates from Stanford or any other University in the world.Recommend

  • Saad Durrani

    Here’s a thought. How about she leaves the scam of institutionalized academia behind and go to educate herself as a normal teen? Education is not packaged product and Malala should not let ivy league define her.Recommend

  • Aalia Suleman

    Media puppet.Recommend

  • Aalia Suleman

    I want to see every surviving student of the APL catastrophe of Dec. 16, 2014 shown the same favors and the same media treatment……Recommend

  • Aalia Suleman

    I guess I’m just a bad tweeter then who finds it easier to articulate herself in ’20 percent of space’…..!Recommend

  • Hassan

    Wont comment if she deserves or not but are you saying that people living in third world countries cant pull off straight As?

    Sherlock, check the list of CIE and London Board world toppers for the past ten years. You’d be astounded to see the number of ‘third world’ Pakistanis there. And an overwhelming percentage has never stepped outside Pakistan.Recommend

  • Milind A

    The blog is fine.. However I’m getting this feeling that you’re being nasty when you sarcastically term her “queen of education” in “However, here the queen of education seems to have run into a little snag.”

    Hope that’s not the caseRecommend

  • Yousaf Haque

    Assumptions,assumptions.She has not yet taken the test and the jealous are already there to belittle her.She did not ask for Nobel prize,nor does she seek any favor because of it.She was given the prize because she caused many to aspire for knowledge through education and for almost getting killed in her strive to advocate the importance of enlightenment Recommend

  • Nume

    Less place for people who can actually pass the SAT. A nobel prize says nothing about education. Even Obama got a Nobel Peace Prize so you can see how it is not always rightfully received. I’m not saying it’s the same case here, but a Nobel Prize doesn’t say anything about her education. No one forbade her to join the University. She just has to pass the SAT like everyone else. I don’t see why it’s not fair.Recommend

  • wb

    Hehehe! This is the problem with the Muslim world.

    This is not a unique problem of Pakistan.

    The truth is: Muslims pull down Muslims.Recommend

  • Nouman Ahmed

    Scripted speeches at the UN conference-Well 98% speeches at UN are scripted and mind it that Malala’s speech was one of the best speeches of UN.

    Peace prize for walking to school and getting shot? NO.Peace prize for standing against Talibans at such a little age and inspiring millions of girls around the world to get education

    Do you genuinely think a person living 2 years in UK coming from a 3rd world country pull out with straight As? Yes, I do think. Because a number of people coming from third world including Pakistanis have manged get such grades.

    Now you think that it is a coincident or genius or a media puppet.Recommend

  • Random_dude

    Don’t be surprised if she runs for prime minster’s office in pakistan in the next decade.Recommend

  • Steph Durant

    Seeing this is an article related to an institute of higher education ….

    “Not quite interested in her stature as the youngest Nobel Laureate, the university, which ranks number third in the world,….”
    “.. ranks number third…” Really?!?
    How would that use of grammar score in the SAT’s?
    Q: What is the average and the range of scores of the varsity football players at Stanford University that were both admitted and provided athletic (not scholastic) scholarships?
    Wait, what’s that? Stanford football players bring in big bucks for the university? And Malala would bring in chicken feed? Really?!?
    And where exactly, does Malala express that she expects Stanford to waive the SAT requirement anyway? Seems to me that someone representing Stanford is speaking out of turn.Recommend

  • goggi (Lahore)

    It is not quite correct that students in Stanford are only admitted on basis of academic merits. There are students who get in Stanford on basis of sports. A good example is the legendary golf player Tiger woods.

    Apropos all people who dislike Malala with their permanent negative connotations towards her in fact promote the anti-women and gender inequality madrasa philosophy.

    Malala is the best diplomat Pakistan ever had, she is a wonderful orator and
    most probably either our future Prime Minister, President or Education Minister, with or without Stanford degree!

    Ellen DeGeneres @TheEllenShow
    These 3 women (Hillary Clinton, Caitlyn Jenner, and Malala Yousafzai) are changing the world. They’re also on my premiere week, starting September 8th.
    4:59 PM – 17 Aug 2015Recommend

  • tom

    She got top marks in her A levels. All A’s and A’ star’s.EAT THATRecommend

  • Logic and Reason

    Nope it doesnt merit a free pass through admissions. Im glad we agree.Recommend

  • Guddu,Gullu and Gomnath.

    Malala is an extra ordinary person. She may be from the sticks,
    backwoods, hill country, but she is has more grits, guts and courage
    than some others who can only dream of it,… in 7 lifetimes.
    This is a ‘SOUR GRAPES’ article. Reeking of jealousy.
    There you have it. Malala and her educational advisors
    and counselors are not mentally challenged. They weighed
    all the options before Malala applied for admission. The
    university will be the one benefiting, it would be like a million
    dollars worth of free advertising for the university. Besides, the fact,
    a two bit hick expounding on SAT tests and scores, how important
    they are. And how your life hinges on scoring well. If Dubya [Bush Jr.]
    can get admission to an Ivy League university, so can Malala. Anyone
    remember Bush saying “I am the decider….” man has a degree from Yale !
    Doubt it very much anyone gives a hoot what SAT is,…outside
    of US. Let’s make it more simple : Standard Academic Test….SAT.Recommend

  • Fareed

    She should take the SATRecommend

  • Ahmed

    Getting a high score on SAT is not the same as scoring A and Aplus grades in “O” and “A” levels. SAT I is an aptitude test, not everyone scores well. It would be surprising though if Malala is asking for an exemption since she talks about equality everywhere. And all those people talking about how children of notable figures/alumni/donators get a free spot, what a bullshit logic. You see, two wrongs do not make a right.Recommend

  • Ali Syedain

    Mate, you missed the obvious sarcasm in the two tweets you quoted. So how are you at comprehension?Recommend

  • lathee charge

    Did I mention anything about her Nobel Prize and whether that would
    suffice in lieu of meeting the requisite academic standards ? No. All that was mentioned was my feeling that a good British first degree might be something to aim for, since she is doing her schooling in the UK anyway.Recommend

  • lathee charge

    I capitalized Chosen Race because I respect them for their achievements. I note you have not. Your other error is presuming that I am from Pakistan and for using a derogatory term for people from that country. Kindly explain yourself.Recommend

  • BP

    Don’t know about the Muslim world. But yes, it is a Pakistani trait.
    AND an Indian trait. To try to pull down and malign a successful,
    iconic person. Malala is honest as the day is long. Never used
    her status to gain anything. Yet we have this sick blog about her.Recommend

  • Oxy Moron

    The blog is toxic.

    But there was a lingering doubt in my mind about whether I was misinterpreting a careless choise of words as vituperation. I also know the titles for these blogs are sometimes not coined by the authors

    The author’s comments below evaporated that hope of mine.

    Now I’m really lost. If an educated Pakistani woman cannot get what Malala’s campaign is about and labels her a media puppet, what hope does the campaign have.

    I’m truly truly heartbroken by these comments.Recommend

  • Bibloo

    Alas, the troll has nothing to explain. What could he
    explain? His boiling hatred for Muslims? For Pakistanis?
    An inferiority complex that goes back thousands of years?
    Civilization, going back thousands of years,…but only 68 years of recent freedom !Recommend

  • Parvez

    Nothing wrong in that……. But Malala was called out by name and shot and she survived……call it her destiny, call it what you will but please don’t demean or try diminish her stature.Recommend

  • Brain Think

    Bingo. Finally some sense.Recommend

  • Mueed

    So youre telling me that a normal person acing GCSE’s is a looser and Malala is a genius because she got shot by someone. Now she should be given an admission to the Stanford University just because She’s Malala. My cousin had a better GCSE result than Malala and yet he didn’t get into Stanford. She talks about fair rights of education, would that be fair? I suppose not. She is no extraordinary person, I can give better speeches than her. It only wonders me why she is given so much value. Does it not bother you? Recommend

  • Mueed

    Little princess? What the heck? Open your eyes! The world is too dark for you to realise! Everyone knows the requirements to an American University! She lives in England, I live in England I know the requirements to an American university! What short cuts are you talking about anyway? You’re the same person who was strongly critiquing Ali Zafars house but you’re ok with Malala living in a mansion in England and studying in Stanford. I salute your hypocrisy sir!Recommend

  • Nouman Ahmed

    Wannabe blogger spotted!Recommend

  • WimBiz

    Absolutely rubbish article, with an absolutely misleading title. When did she demand from Stanford on not taking the SAT?, and consider her admission solely on the basis of her prestigious awards? Seems like the author is envious of the fact that she can never gain such accolades. Shame!Recommend

  • Aq132

    All malala lovers
    I strongly believe all people who believe malala is real and people who write against are just “jealous” for her ,actually deserve an Oscar for being ultra dumb.
    1.if you guys use common sense ,does it allow you to think that the western media will ever give fame to a Muslim or a Pakistani girl for being that great .

    2.Malala was shot in the head with a bullet,PLEASE TELL ME WHERE IS THE BULLET MARK?

    3.seems likes this clown has sworn that she would only speak negative about Pakistan making it look worse than Afghanistan.

    4.when ever the drama princess is ready for her circus she wears the most dirty cloths with oil in her head to potray Pakistani people as the most ugliest one .
    5. She’s against pak army

    6 she’s an agent

  • Browncoat

    ” queen of education ”
    Wow might I inquire why does your rectum hurt so much from her fame?Recommend

  • Aq152

    We just a few patriotic people in our country like you.
    A few more facts for you
    1. America is a genuine alley with Pakistan.
    2.western media loves Pakistan.
    3. 9/11 was real and done by Taliban
    Osama was found in Pakistan
    Malala is real
    Malala was shot with an invisible bullet which left no Mark.
    Every one speaking against her are jealous of their fellow Pakistani . deserve a noble prizeRecommend

  • Guddu, Gullu and Gomnath

    We are telling you nothing. You are conjecturing. And creating
    scenarios. Your cousin may be the most boring person on
    earth. With deadbeat off the internet covering letter, to his
    application to Stanford. Maybe the dean of admissions fell
    asleep halfway through it. [if he applied, If it really happened]
    Once again, Malala is an extraordinary person. something YOU
    can only wish for. And your biased, bigoted persona is clearly
    shining through all that fake veneer.Recommend

  • Guddu, Gullu and Gomnath

    Who gives a doozy where you live. And you know zilch about
    admission to an Ivy League prestigious university. Grades and
    SAT scores are NOT the only criteria for admission. You have to
    prove you are WORTH IT for Stanford to invest it’s time and efforts
    in educating you. Students with excellent grades are a dime a dozen.
    Students with personality, a genuine drive to excel and be counted
    for …..are few and far apart, something Stanford explicitly requires
    and wants.Recommend

  • BlackKid13

    so much for doing so much for education, westerns are disgustingly annoying. From an African perspective, she deserves to study anywhere in the world, what more commitment do you need to prove that almost getting killed for what you are passionate about?Recommend

  • someone

    20 years down the line, this girl could be a savior of Pakistan. Heck,she could be the second woman PM of Pakistan and get rid of all ills of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Guddu, Gullu and Gomnath

    . Keep inventing conspiracies,
    they befit you.Recommend

  • lathee charge

    On your last sentence; you mean people like Asif Zardari ?Recommend

  • Joseph Jikku George

    What a bullshit article…there is no proof that she didn’t want to take the exam,your making a big assumption because she is a Nobel laureate. On a side note how many students got into ivy schools based on their parents status and wealth and not on the person’s achievements? This article is severely biased and completely unfair.Recommend

  • Nargis Kamal

    Haha so she’s an agent is she? Wow… Our people continue to amaze me… And as someone said in a post above, Pakistanis/Indians want nothing but to pull each other – Heavens forbid should someone from our country receive some recognition! Ghastly!
    Do you genuinely believe that women are given their due rights in our country? That we the people are doing everything in our power to ensure out little girls get an education? I think you need a serious reality check…
    Why does it bother you what she wears and whether or not she puts oil in her hair? What does that have to do with what she stands for? Would you rather she lose the dupatta, get highlights in her hair, piles on loads of make up and sheds some clothes? Will that make her pretty enough for you?
    Come on… Get real… Honestly… If you can’t do anything positive yourself, please please stop defaming people who stood up for something they believed in… Seriously… How about you be the positive change agent and represent Pakistan on a world forum for something good? It’s very very easy to point fingers and lay blame… If you must change something, change yourself first… Peace!Recommend

  • Nargis Kamal

    Last time I checked, it’s a free country… It’s entirely her choice where she wants to continue her education…Recommend

  • Nargis Kamal

    Thank you Parvez for being a voice of reason and sanity.Recommend

  • Ar152

    I must say you have Zero knowledge about the current affairs
    Miss kamal,you sitting there in London assume too much of people living in guys have zero knowledge about Pakistan ,yet you guys assume that people in Pakistan are still too uneducated and lack moral value you guys on the other hand settled(bbcd) in UK have achieved everything in life and you guys and comment and look down on fellow Pakistanis.

    Coming back to the point miss kamal ,please tell me where is malalas bullet Mark?does that make sence to you?Recommend

  • Shehzad

    Like always, we miss the point. and of course it makes sense why. Lives of Pakistani youngsters revolve around getting into a name brand school just to be crushed years later when being unemployed, they end up venting on these very pages. But coming back to the point at hand, developed nations and institutions work by rules. Sat’s are a requirement that cannot be waived according to stanford’s policy, just like interviews are a requirement for most jobs, physical testing is a requirement for fire-fighting or police jobs or securities license is a requirement for trading others money. Simple as that. There is little doubt that she would not have to get the same score that an average applicant would have to get as schools would want her barring something truly negative.Recommend

  • Shah Wahid

    If Benazir could enter Harvard, she will enter Stanford. US of A is not the bastion of fairness and merit it is deemed. Goofs like George Bush go to Ivy League Universities because of connections. Stanford will take her if she has the right connections.Recommend

  • jenny_brn

    Haters will hate.Recommend

  • jenny_brn

    Don’t bother. This gentleman knows that we are already perfect and need nothing more. Certainly not the likes of a sincere little girl out to rebel against this ‘perfect’ society.Recommend

  • Imtiaz rafiq

    Miss Jenny where do you see the bullet sign like the gentleman asked?you guys must be fools not to figure that out.Recommend

  • Hameedullah

    “3.seems likes this clown has sworn that she would only speak negative about Pakistan making it look worse than Afghanistan.” And this what someone would say if they are ignorant of what malala has been saying.

    “4.when ever the drama princess is ready for her circus she wears the most dirty cloths with oil in her head to potray Pakistani people as the most ugliest one .” That one is hilarious and reeks of extreme jealousy and hatred indeed because whenever she steps in on any forum or stage wearing traditional pakistani clothes she is representing pakistan. And she looks beautiful and everyone including the “evil” west recognize that. the fact that YOU find her ugly speaks more of your hatred for her than anything else. Which is saying a lot, because a lot of pakistanis girls dress like malala with or without oil. Now if you think that is ugly, its your problem.Recommend

  • Theresa Lopez

    Ok, so somebody who can shoot a ball in a hoop can be given admission regardless of SAT scores but this phenomenal human being who won the NOBEL PEACE PRIZE can’t?


  • Faisal

    most universities look at your extracurriculars as well and a nobel prize is one hell of an extracurricular. Regardless, lots of celebrities get into prestigious schools based on their stature, take james franco at yale for example.Recommend

  • Aaliya

    Hah. Queen humbug now wants free ride to Stanford. Dear Malala, if you are as passionate about acquiring knowledge as you claim to be, surely a little SAT test is no big obstacle for you? Time to walk that big talk now. The world’s watching ;)Recommend

  • Husky™√

    LOL tribune you’re so dumb that you mentioned the tweet by jeffrey Goldberg in which he mean to condescend SATs and not MALALA you ignorant writerRecommend

  • Subhash Juneja

    Well, she has achieved what millions of stanford graduates will never achieve- i.e., Noble Prize, and she is a great icon for women’s voice and for the world- She is in the right direction- she got into Oxford. Oxford is above Stanford in ranking 2018Recommend