QS World Merit Undergraduate Scholarship: 2022 winner | Top Universities

QS World Merit Undergraduate Scholarship: 2022 winner

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Aisha Khan

Updated Sep 20, 2022




We’re pleased to announce the winner of the 2022 QS World Merit Undergraduate Scholarship is Riya Sharma. 

First launched in 2017, the scholarship awards up to US$5,000 to one student starting their first year of a bachelor’s degree at any QS-ranked university. This scholarship is for applicants who are keen to transform the world and contribute to the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with the help of their education.   

We caught up with Riya to learn more about her study plans and how she managed to start her own non-profit.  

What was it like starting your own non-profit and how did you convince volunteers to come onboard? 

Due to my non-profit being a result of my intertwining interests in biology, education, and policy, founding it was an exhilarating but challenging process. Biology for Better is a non-profit advocating for educational equity in STEM by supplementing STEM education in rural schools around the world.  

Starting from just nine board members, by conducting weekly meetings, setting action steps, and recruiting volunteers, we expanded to a family of over 200. From brainstorming with the marketing team on how best to encourage the youth to join, to creating lesson plans with the directors of education in collaboration with school administrators, I not only learned about the inner workings of a sector I hope to join, but also built relationships with a group of passionate people.  

Convincing volunteers to come on board was initially a daunting task, but excitement is infectious. Through social media campaigns, posters, magazines, blog posts, and webinars, we raised awareness of the power education has to reshape lives. By tapping into the potential of the youth, we were able to create a global community to advance SDG 4: Quality Education. 

How have you balanced your school workload with starting your non-profit and other activism work?

I believe service is as important a component of education as academics, so I’ve always made time for my activism work. Not to sound like a broken record, but nothing truly makes me happier than helping people, so I’ve devoted a lot of my time in high school to volunteering and advocacy for the causes I hold close to my heart. 

Where do you plan to study for your degree and why? 

I plan to study at the University of California, Berkeley (UBC) for my degree as it’s a stellar institution which offers brilliant professors and some great co-op placement opportunities. It has one of the world’s most beautiful campuses and I feel very fortunate to have received a place to continue my education there. 

What advice would you give to other students who are looking to make a difference in their local communities but are unsure of where to start? 

My advice would be to find a cause that they feel is most important to them and advocate for it in a way that feels safe and authentic to them. Finding innovative ways in activism and involving their friends and family in their mission would amplify it.  

Seeking the guidance of a mentor, either an adult or a peer who’s working on a similar cause, would motivate them beyond words. And as always, they should believe in themselves and trust that they can accomplish whatever they set their mind to. 

What advice do you have for other prospective students who want to apply for the scholarship? 

My advice would be to just go for it; they never know if they can make it unless they try it. If they’re working on a mission that they care about, their passion will shine through their application. I’d advise them to take a deep breath, relax, and write about their high school journey with candour and appreciation. Harnessing their storytelling skills and honing their achievements with humility would go a long way. 

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