Senior Year Chronicles: Rhea
Senior Year Chronicles: RheaAndrew Elwell, Director, Communications and Marketing
Throughout the 2016-2017 school year, four College Board staff members talked regularly with four students who were navigating their senior year of high school and preparing for their futures. This installment of the “Senior Year Chronicles” summarizes Andrew Elwell’s conversations with Rhea from New Jersey.
My first impression of Rhea was her polite and respectful manner. It reminded me of my southern upbringing, minus the "yes, ma’am." As we talked, it became obvious that she has a close relationship with her parents, who were key in helping her prepare for college.
When I first asked Rhea about college, she confidently rattled off her plans. She wanted to major in Information Science and International Affairs because of her interest in cyber security and counterterrorism.
“As a kid, I grew up always being surrounded by the news," she told me. "My parents are firm believers that you should have a proper understanding of current events so you can try to make a difference in the future. Whenever I would sit and read the paper with my parents, they would explain to me that sometimes bad things happen on a daily basis. Being constantly surrounded by these events every day inspired me to want to help people in my future career. I knew public service was what I wanted to do, but I never really knew what that meant for me. In middle school, I took an online forensics course through John's Hopkins University and immediately fell in love with it. This then inspired me to want to incorporate technology in my public service career. When I grew older I became fascinated with the stories of the FBI using technology to thwart a terror attack, and I decided I wanted to go into the field of counterterrorism to do exactly that.”
Rhea's parentswere very helpful in assisting her with college applications, having navigated the process before with her older sister. Her parents were also very supportive about the major and colleges she had chosen to apply to, and they accompanied her on visits to college campuses. By October, she had settled on George Washington University (GW) as her top choice.
On top of preparing for college applications, Rhea played tenor saxophone and was also a member of the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), where she served as Vice President of Community Service. Each year the organizatoin hosts a large event called Project Hope; people from all over the county attend, and proceeds are donated to a specific charity chosen for the year. This year Rhea was in charge of selecting the charity and appointing club members to run different activities at the event.
While her goal was to attend GW, she decided not to apply early decision. She applied early action to a few schools, including Northeastern, Rutgers, Temple, Drexel, and University of Maryland, and regular decision to Boston University and University of Pennsylvania. She wants to have plenty of options should it not work out for her to attend GW.
Once Rhea finished her Common Application essay, she was able to easily apply to most of the schools on her list because they didn't require supplemental essays. While writing additional essays for the schools that required them was challenging—especially while she tried to balance application work with her school work—fortunately her older sister was available to help by providing feedback and editing the essays.
When it came to financial aid, Rhea's mother was a great help. Together, they completed the FAFSA and the CSS PROFILE.
Rhea’s work with FBLA continued with an exciting opportunity to attend the FBLA National Leadership Conference. This was the first time she had been away from her family for an extended period of time. While it was a bit daunting, she said it was a very positive experience, and it gave her a taste of what it would be like to attend college.
At the conference she and a fried had to create their own small business, including a 30-page business plan outlining all the aspects of the business and how to run it. At the end of the week, they presented this plan to a board of judges. It was hard work, but Rhea got a lot of satisfaction from it and enjoyed working with her friend.
As Rhea headed into the final stretch of senior year, she had anything but senioritis. In addition to taking four AP courses, she was gearing up for the Project Hope fundraiser, attending New Jersey’s Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) State Leadership Conference, and participating in the Relay for Life. She was also practicing for her band trip to Disney World in April, looking ahead to her senior trip to Dorney Park in Allentown, PA, and last but not least, preparing for senior prom.
As Vice President of Community at FBLA, Rhea's main focus in the spring was on their Project Hope event. Originally, the event was going to support the March of Dimes, but the team ulitmately decided to go with a New Jersey-based charity called A Birthday Wish instead. This organization provides foster children with cards and gifts on their birthday to let them know they are special; they also work to raise awareness of the need for foster parents so more children can be placed in loving homes. Much of Rhea's time was spent on the public relations aspect of Project Hope, drawing attention to the event and getting sponsors.
But back to the college search: Rhea was accepted to all but one of the schools she applied to. While she may not have gotten in to Boston University, she did get into George Washington University—her top choice—as well as Rutgers University, Temple University, Drexel University, and the University of Maryland.
Rhea was on the fence as she narrowed down her choice to two: Drexel University and GW. After a final visit to Drexel University at the end of April, Rhea was ready to make her final decision. In the end, while she was very familiar with Drexel (her sister has been enrolled there for the past five years), she felt like GW was best suited to what she was looking for in a college. This fall she will be headed to Washington, D.C. as a proud Colonial.
Even though it was difficult balancing college applications with her school work and extracurricular activities, Rhea says she didn't feel overwhelmed by the process.
“Besides writing the essays, applying to college was not as stressful as I expected,” she told me. “Prior to applying, I had done my research on which universities provided me with the specific curriculum I was looking for.”
The process of applying for financial aid, however, was a bit of a challenge.
“Although I have an older sister who went through the entire college planning process, it still felt like a brand new experience to my parents. That was definitely the most challenging part,” she said.
In late spring, following her participation in the NJ state FBLA conference, Rhea wrapped up her FBLA responsibilities for the year; she took part in competition and supported her friend in her campaign for state office. And the Project Hope event she organized for her FBLA chapter was a resounding success—it raised more than $1,000 for A Birthday Wish.
With AP Exams in May, Rhea spent most of her free time getting ready. She practiced with friends, and even listened to a podcast that her AP Statistics teacher created for each chapter of their textbook to help her and her classmates study.
While she’s anxious to step foot on campus in the fall—the result of all her hard work the last few years—Rhea knows she’s ready to tackle a new challenge.
“I’m super excited to live in a completely new city freshman year and study a major that I am so passionate about,” she said. “I’m a little nervous being so far away from home and meeting so many new people, but I’m confident that I will adjust just fine after a few weeks.”