Presentation of Learning

Presentations of Learning

iLEAD Exploration is proud to introduce a special guest contributor to the Monday Message. Her name is Grace Whitecotton, and she has some great news to share about her recent early decision college acceptance to Kenyon College in Ohio. Grace will also share advice and tips for others thinking about applying to college. Go, Grace!

Grace WhitecottonMy name is Grace Whitecotton, and I’m a senior at iLEAD Exploration. I have three younger siblings, and my greatest interests are English and psychology. Some of my hobbies include reading, writing, crocheting, knitting, sewing, playing instruments and listening to music, baking, and hanging out with my friends and family. The last favorite book I’ve read? Honestly, there are too many for me to have just one favorite, but a recent read that I really like would be Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma. I’ve lived in California my whole life, but when I go to college at the start of the next school year, I’ll be moving to live in Ohio for the next four years (according to the plan, fingers crossed!).

I’ve been with iLEAD for five years, but before that, I was enrolled in a traditional public school. Though I don’t necessarily favor one over another, because they both have their advantages and disadvantages, I do value the opportunity I’ve been given to experience both educational environments. My enrollment with iLEAD has connected me with such helpful staff, including my amazing college counselor, Laura Kazan.

For me, college has always been a concept more than an actual reality. I’ll be a first-generation college student, so I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know anything other than the fact that I wanted to go. It was only when I received an invitation to the UCs that it started to become more of a reality, and I realized this was something I could actually do. I knew I had good grades, but I still wasn’t sure if I would be accepted.

In this process, it can be easy to get wrapped up in doubts. This is, after all, a major decision in a person’s life. You might ask yourself: Are my grades satisfactory? Will my extracurriculars be enough? Is opting for the early-decision route worth it? Do I really want to go here? If they do accept me, will my family be able to afford it? And though these doubts may be well-founded, sometimes all we need is an objective viewpoint to get to where we need to be. Sometimes we have to take a leap of faith, not knowing if we’re going to land—and sometimes, we don’t make it. But when we do, the benefit is well worth the risk. Isn’t it better to fail knowing that you tried, rather than to just fail because you didn’t try?

A few things that helped me in my process to overcome my doubts and gather the faith and courage I needed to get through this process were as follows:

  • Doing my research and educating myself as well as I could. I figured that, if I was informed, I would have a better understanding of what to expect and would be able to deal with any obstacles or challenges that arose. This included seeking advice from my college counselor, my family, my peers, and anyone who could provide insight. It definitely helped. However, I would suggest that it might have been beneficial to start thinking these things through earlier, because the more time you have to prepare for something, the better off you’ll be.
  • Not being afraid to take advantage of the opportunities I was presented with. All I could do—all any of us can do—is our best, so why not try? If I failed, at least I would have the comfort of knowing that I didn’t give up prematurely.

Fortunately, this all paid off. I was recently accepted via early decision to my number-one school choice, Kenyon College. I was attracted to this school due to a lot of factors, namely their incredible English and psychology programs, writing center and opportunities, and the absolutely gorgeous library. They also have a career development office, a manageable school size and student-to-faculty ratio, and they offer 100 percent need-based financial aid, with 92 percent of students finding employment while at the college or within six months of graduation!

I went the route of early decision because, ultimately, Kenyon is perfect for me and there’s no college I would rather attend. The college application process was very similar to most other colleges: filling out the Common App information, submitting the FAFSA form, and writing my college essay. These were the only differences: (1) this was early decision, which has an earlier deadline and means, if accepted, I’d be “bound” to the school, with insufficient finances being the only way I wouldn’t attend; and (2) Kenyon is a school that requires the CSS Profile, which is kind of an upgraded (and much more tedious) version of the FAFSA form. Though these extra steps turned out to be a bit of an ordeal, it was well worth it in the end. My college essay took several drafts and many more hours, but when I was satisfied with what I had achieved, I submitted it. It turned out, the college liked what they saw.

If I could give any advice to my peers, I’d say:

  • Meet with your college counselor! Keep in touch! They’re here to help. I credit a lot of my success to my college counselor. She’s really been a lifesaver.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute! College applications can be stressful, and procrastinating only makes it worse. You need time to go over your essay, to revise it, to have a “cold read.” You can’t rush that. Give yourself ample time.
  • Take the SAT sooner rather than later, if possible. I took my SAT only this year, and if I would have taken it in 10th or 11th grade, I would have had time to retest for a better score. It didn’t matter in the end, because I was accepted, but having a better score would have made me more confident about the entire process.
  • If applicable, be in touch with the colleges! Their help made my application smoother and really made it a positive experience for me.

My ultimate message to you, my fellow peers and families, is that, with enough hard work, focus, and determination, you can be just as successful! We may be first-generation college students, come from low-income families, have challenging backgrounds, or face any other challenge that makes it hard to succeed, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Tedious and complicated? Yes. But impossible? No.


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