Yara Shahidi on her Harvard goals and why she selects socially conscious roles

The actress will attend Harvard next fall.


Yara Shahidi already has a full plate, but the Grown-ish star is about to be challenged in a whole new way when she attends Harvard next fall.

The 18-year-old beauty recently revealed how her Black-ish and Grown-ish character has helped her prepare for college.

“I feel like what Black-ish and Grown-ish have taught me is that my opinion matters,” she told PEOPLE. “Being on a set in which they want to hear your voice, and they want to hear your input — you know, it’s very special for an actor — but particularly, a teenager. And a teenage girl. There’s statistics done on just how subdued our voices are, because we aren’t really given a space, or the support.”

Yara Shahidi is an activist in her own right, constantly speaking up on social issues like gun control.

“Being on a show like Black-ish to begin with, in which every week is a new topical issue that we’re discussing, it means that we had parallel conversations in real life. And I think it did do a lot of, it helped me prepare, just because it really did make me think, at the age of 14, at the age of 15, 16, 17, 18, what my opinion was, and why.”

Shahidi plans on double-concentrating in social studies and African-American studies while at Harvard.

“With everything that I say, or with everything that I learn, I try to be more and more intersectional in just my thoughts,” she says. “I think it’s fortunately very helpful, being at an intersection myself, of race, ethnicity, gender, geography. And so I’d have to say that I’m just trying every day to be the best human possible, and to figure out how I can contribute, and in which ways my platforms could be helpful, and which ways my voice can be helpful, so that I’m not speaking on behalf of somebody, but if I am able to be in a position in which I can amplify a message, then I am glad to do so.”

Although she has her sights set on higher education, Yara Shahidi won’t be hanging up her acting hat anytime soon. She plans to continue playing a college student on grown-isa while she does the real thing in real life.

“We’re going to have very different experiences, which I’m really looking forward to, because of course I think Grown-ish college is nice, and of course, it’s taught me a whole lot about college that I didn’t know before, but it is cool to live a very alternative experience, and not feel as though my own college experience is being taken away from me, or I’m living it,” she said. “I get to live a new, authentic experience that’s going to be so different from what we do on set.”