The brave, the few, the early birds


art by Erin Barck

Abby Kempf

[heading size=”14″ margin=”10″]Students plan, prepare for their future with college applications[/heading]Senior year is notorious for the hardships and thrills that come along with applying to college but for some, the worry of which school to choose is already a thing of the past.
Guidance counselor Leslie Kersha helps students with the process of applying to college every year and generally sees students making choices closer to the national “decide by today or don’t go to college” date, May 1.
“The majority [of students] make their final decision very much later because often times it comes down to seeing their full financial aid package, which doesn’t usually come out until the spring to see the actual numbers,” Kersha said. “There are always some kids who early on know where they are going, but I would say the majority definitely wait to make their final decision until the spring.”
Senior Elaine Phillips is one of those few early bird deciders. Phillips has known for years where she would be attending college.
The University of Missouri (MU) has had her heart since she was young. Growing up around the University meant she knew the school well and understood how to get the best deals.
“I love MU. They are giving me a pretty good scholarship, [and] they have a good biochemistry program,” already-admitted Phillips said. “I already have a job on campus, [and] I want to live at home the first year to save money in my college fund for medical school.”
Because Phillips knew MU was the right school for her, she applied as soon as the applications opened.
Within two weeks she had received her letter of admittance, coming as no surprise to the high-achieving and heavily-involved Phillips.
“[It was] super easy. It was online and then I had to send in my transcript and they already had my ACT score,” Phillips said. “I just have to fill out a scholarship application now.”
Kersha said many students share Phillips’ natural affinity for MU for many reasons.
“I think MU is a really good school and the fact that it is here in town definitely is a huge draw for students,” Kersha said. “So when they see that there is a school with a degree program that they want, and that is right in their backyard they naturally default to staying here and going to MU.”
For Phillips, choosing MU wasn’t all about comfort though. MU is a great option for saving money and for exploring her passion for health care.
“I knew I wanted [to go into] medicine. I have loved all of my science classes and want to do endocrinology. I have loved chemistry and biology, and Mizzou was going to give me an extra $1,000 to be in CAFNR (College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources), and they have the greatest medical school acceptance rate of any department at Mizzou,” Phillips said. “They also have the most research money.”
Senior Shray Kumar also has his post-secondary path all planned out. Like Phillips, Kumar wants to go into the medical field, but, unlike Phillips, Kumar is applying early decision at Duke University.
“First off I heard it was a good school. That’s what got it in my headlights initially. It has such a good pre-med program, and the connections I can gain from going to Duke would help me in the long run,” Kumar said. “I ended up visiting the campus in the summer after my freshman year and thought it was extremely beautiful. The lush green forest and the gothic architecture really made the place look different from the downtown-esque Mizzou.”
Kersha said students such as Kumar who select early decision are very focused and motivated. These early deciders are not like the typical student; they have had their mind on college as soon as they knew what it was.
“[A student who chooses early decision] is a student who has family members who have gone to a certain school and they want to continue that legacy or it is a student who has for a very long time known their career path and where they want to go.” Kersha said. “They started thinking about it way before their senior year, so going into their senior year they kind of knew. Often it is high achieving students who are very focused on what is going to happen next after high school.”
This profile fits Kumar perfectly. Not only is Kumar an active member of many clubs and activities, but he has been stretching his boundaries by attending academic summer camps that are filled with education and rigor.
“I went to summer camp [at Duke] after sophomore year and lived there for a few weeks to study neuroscience. I’ve loved it ever since then,” Kumar said. “The reason why I chose early decision was to increase my chances. It’s nine percent with regular decision compared to 25 percent with early decision. I figured I’m probably going to go there if I get accepted anyway, so might as well go early decision.”
Kumar is almost ready to click “submit” on his application; he just has to finish up his essays to count himself as an early decision applicant.
“Currently, I am in the middle of editing my essays,” Kumar said. “A guy that reads college essays as part of the admission processes for big schools offered to help me. As soon as I feel my essays are perfect I’ll be applying.”
Kumar is also finished with his letters of recommendation, selecting other trusted adults to build up his application.
“I’ve gone with teachers that I’ve had in the past and know me well, since they would write the best letters,” Kumar said. “One of my teachers is one I’ve interacted with daily for nearly every day that I’ve been at RBHS.”
Students like Kumar already have a grip on how to apply to college, but these students are the minority at RBHS, Kersha said.
“As counselors we go into the senior classes to try to help students navigate the college application and post-secondary process,” Kersha said. “In some ways that is a challenge for us because we have some students who already know a lot about the process, to a student who knows nothing and isn’t sure where to start. We are trying to make sure that the information that we provide is useful to everyone.”
By Abby Kempf
art by Erin Barck