Reaching for The Ivy League

February 16, 2016

We have all heard of those prestigious colleges that are set along the East coast and are incredibly difficult to get into because of their ridiculously low acceptance rates.  Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Brown, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, and Penn are the prestigious colleges that everyone tends to give glory upon due to their illustrious academics and notable programs.  However, a few students from FHC managed to pull off the endless hours of studying and homework doing as well as create a well-rounded person of themselves to win the hearts of the Ivy League schools.

Senior Dylan Otolski will be attending Cornell University next year as well as playing on their football team.  Last summer, he attended one of Cornell’s football camps and was later offered a football scholarship.  

“It was my first Divison 1 offer, so it was a great feeling,” Dylan said.  “When I learned I was accepted into the school, it was a very surreal feeling knowing that I got into one of the most prestigious universities in the country.”

Throughout Dylan’s high school career playing football, he has been a three-time all conference, two time all area, two time all state honorable mention, as well as an academic all state.  Not only has he been very successful playing football,  Dylan has worked very hard in school in school to achieve a grade point that would get him into an Ivy League school.

“I knew that if I excelled in the classroom and on the football field, I would have a really good chance of going to an Ivy League school which would set me up for the rest of my life,” Dylan said.

Dylan continues to explain that he learned best by taking notes and simply listening to the teacher.  Along with being in class at every opportunity he has, Dylan says that it’s more of paying attention in class than studying that helped him do well in school.  Being a student athlete, it can sometimes be hard to find time study which makes it so much more important to do well in school, not just on the field.

Choosing Cornell University among other colleges was easy for Dylan.

“[Because] Cornell was my first offer, I have formed great relationships with all the coaches.  I also loved the campus and the fact that the Cornell is the largest Ivy League school,” Dylan said.

Like any other senior planning on attending college different, life is expected to be different when leaving the heart of Forest Hills.  Dylan explains that when he is taken into the unknown of college life, mom and dad will not be there for him to fix his problems.

While studying at Cornell University and playing on their football team, the accomplished student and athlete plans to major in business with hopes that he will be able to start his own once he has graduated college.

“I try to be the best at everything I do,” said Dylan.  “I’m very competitive and won’t settle for bad grades or bad performances on the field.”

Senior Amani Allen also plans on attending Cornell University next year.  Growing up, Amani was influenced by her older sister, Ayanna Allen.  

“I think having an older sister who worked very hard in high school influenced me to do the same,” Amani said.  “I was told at an early age that hard work in high school will pay off in the long run.”

Along with being a captain of FHC’s Poms team, Amani is very proud of having the ability to maintain a social life to compliment her excellent grades.

“I would describe myself as a very hard worker and someone who takes their academics very seriously.  However, I am also someone who likes to hang out with friends on a Friday night,” Amani said.

Cornell University was the only Ivy League school that Amani applied to, and she was very surprised when she was admitted in early decision.  

Throughout high school, Amani has been involved in many programs and foundations outside of high school.  She even had the opportunity to conduct research over the past summer and attend academic summer camps.  She believed that it was these things that helped her stand out among the admissions officers of Cornell.

“I hope to be exploring the many opportunities Cornell has to offer and getting to know the University in general,” Amani said.  “Living in the state of New York will be a completely different and new experience for me.”

Amani does not know what she would like to major in during her time at Cornell University, but she is  definitely majoring in something within the science fields.  She does, however, plan on studying at Cornell’s College of Human Ecology where it focuses on the relationship between human beings and their natural, social, and built environments.

“Out of all the Ivy League schools, Cornell provides their students with the best research opportunities,” she said.  “Therefore, for me, applying to Cornell made the most sense as I hope to become a doctor.”

Because of FHC’s challenging academics, Amani believes that FHC, being one of the most difficult high schools in Michigan, has prepared her for an Ivy League school as well as prepared her for different experiences that will lead to bigger and greater things.

“I think life in college will give me more exposure to the real world.  It’ll be an awesome experience to meet new people with diverse backgrounds,” Amani said.

Another student who plans on studying at Ivy League school is Senior Sofia Stanescu-Bellu.  She will be attending Dartmouth in New Hampshire.  

From the time Sofia was little, her parents have always pushed her to do her best in high school and instill the importance of working hard academically because it will lead to bigger things in life.

“[In school], it was hard at times because academic work requires a lot of self-motivation,”  Sofia said.  “You don’t see the result of your hard work right away and there’s always the question of whether or not the hard work will pay off, but I had faith and pushed myself to work hard because the results would eventually come.”

Sofia was accepted into Dartmouth December of 2015, right before FHC’s winter break began.  Like any other student, she was nervous to open the email that determined her near future.  

All of December was pretty nerve-wracking because I wanted to hear the decision right away, but also didn’t want it to be a rejection or deferral,” she said.  “The day of, I was surprisingly calm and made it to 4:00 p.m., the time decisions were released, in one piece. I had to wait a little longer to open my decision because my entire family wanted to be present when I opened the status update on my portal.  It was a wonderful feeling because all of the hard work had finally paid off.”

Sofia explained how she did so well in high school as well as her secret to being an exceptional high school student.  

“I think the teachers here at FHC do a great job of preparing you to succeed in a college environment [whether it be] Ivy League or not. All of the teachers I’ve had throughout high school really helped me form good study habits and cultivate the skills I’ll need to do well at such a prestigious and academically rigorous institution.”.  

She continued to explain that throughout high school, she had to work on her discipline to stay focused in school.  Going to a school like Dartmouth, one must be able to handle the rigorous academics, research, studying abroad, extracurriculars, and a healthy social life.

During Sofia’s time in high school, she has chosen to stay away from summer internships, music, clubs, sports, or other extracurricular activities and take a different, unique route: chess.  Sofia has qualified for the World Youth Chess Championship as well as the North American Youth Chess Championships.

“There’s this myth that you have to be extraordinary to even think of applying to the Ivy League and it’s not true,” Sofia said.  “I think the Ivy League schools pride themselves on selecting a diverse group of students whom they see as doing well in whatever they pursue. You don’t want to be the jack of all trades and a master of none, but rather try to find your niche and excel in it.”

Studying at Dartmouth, Sofia plans on possibly double majoring in computer science and economics modified by mathematics as well as minoring in French.

“I’ve recently been interested in computer science and with the advancement in technology, a background in [it] would be a great asset in any field,” she said.

She is also choosing economics because she has always had a passion for math and likes the idea of economics having a math modeling aspect.  Later in the future, Sofia hopes she will attend law school and become a corporate lawyer or work in the finance industry on Wall Street as an investment banking analyst.  

Sofia says that regardless of where one ends up going to college, you’re going to be spending the next four years of your life with people the same age and sharing the same interests, similar to high school.  However, the Forest Hills bubble will be set aside, allowing for new possibilities.

“I think the [‘Forest Hills bubble’] won’t be that big of a phenomenon in college because you’re more independent, can step out of your comfort zone and do different things you couldn’t do during high school, and travel with internships and study abroad programs. I think I’ll really enjoy the time away from home because the college experience will help me define myself as an individual and start over in a new place.”

Senior Grant Carlson was one of the roughly 3,800/37,000 people who applied to the University of Pennsylvania and was accepted.  Throughout Grant’s high school career, he has always made an effort to do his best in whatever situation he is in.

“If I am going to spend so much time [at school], why not make the most of my opportunities at hand,” Grant said.  “In every facet of my life, I have always found that if I am going to do something, I am going to do it well.  I greatly enjoy the rewards of applying myself.  Long nights and anxiety pays off.”

During Grant’s time at FHC, he has taken several Advanced Placement classes for college credit: U.S. History, World History, Chemistry, Language and Composition, Computer Science, Macroeconomics, Government, Literature and Composition, Physics, Calculus, Statistics, and Psychology.  For many students at FHC, enrolling in this many A.P. classes would be too much for one to handle, but Grant has a different point of view.

“I’ve prepared to go to Penn via developing the ability to persevere through tremendous workloads and still find a way to be passionate and outgoing in the face of adversity,” he said.  “Academically, [FHC’s Advanced Placement] program is excellent in comparison to many other high schools.  A full A.P. load is fairly comparable to a semester in college, so excelling at this level is a fair indication of future performance.”

Grant continued to explain the application process for an Ivy League school.  He said it took an “unfathomable” amount of time and effort to create a flawless application to send to the University of Pennsylvania.  According to Grant, having the grades, the test grades, the character, the extracurriculars, the culmination, and the effectiveness are crucial to being accepted.  

The University of Pennsylvania is looking for exceptional and well-rounded students that cannot only perform above the average student in high school, but continue to keep up the work in college, considering their acceptance rate of 9.9% in 2015.  

Grant applied for early decision at Penn.  This mean that if he were to be accepted, he would attend.  

“I was relieved when I found out that I was accepted into Penn.  My plans for college were sealed,” he said.  “This was a burden lifted off of my shoulders.  If I would have been rejected or deferred, I would have applied to ten more schools.  This would have forced me to go through the painful experience of crafting many, many more essays and applications.”

While attending the University of Pennsylvania, Grant plans on getting a degree in a concentration of engineering as well as another in either finance, political science, physics, or economics.  

“I want to further my technical, STEM education as well as dive into more of the business and government side.  [Also], I am sure that I will receive graduate-level education at some point as well,” Grant said.

Grant believes that the University of Pennsylvania is one of the more social of the Ivy League schools because it places a large focus on pre-professional education and on real-world applications, which interests Grant more than a purely theoretical education.

“Of course, the school has great academics, but additionally, the social side of the school is advantageous as far as networking with future leaders in industry. A classmate could be the future CEO of Google.  Who knows?  At Penn, I feel as if I will get that Ivy League education as well as an exciting college experience.”

Grant continued to explain that because the University of Pennsylvania is located in Philadelphia, it will be a profound resource and a fantastic city in which to live.  He believes that it is the perfect, most ideal fit for him.

In one year, Grant plans on taking classes, getting involved in medical research, and performing in music ensembles at Penn to continue to his passion of drumming.  

“I see myself exploring either the growing fields in technology or biomedical engineering, and, hopefully, leading innovation, possibly via starting my own company,” he said.  “I have a passion for using my life for the betterment of humanity.”

Grant offered advice for younger students who wish to be accepted into an Ivy League school in the future.

“Let your passion really shine through.  Do things that you love [because] it shows,” Grant said.  “A lot of Ivy League admissions are about if an admissions officer can draw a straight line through your profile, which is the culmination of your data and qualitative data.  Make it known who you are and for what you stand.  Show how you’re different than the other 70,000 applicants who have 4.51 GPAs, 35 ACTs, 5s on every A.P. exam taken, stellar extracurricular, and a compelling story.”

These four students who will be attending Ivy League schools next year cannot say what is for sure to come for them in the future ahead.  All they can do is keep their head high, push forward for a promising future, and continue to pursue their hard work ethics

“I am constantly pursuing excellence, whether it be drumming, school, relationships, or anything,” he said. “ I take any opportunity I can to better myself, and I feel like that is a quality that is sought after in almost every facet of life.”

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