East Valley teens with Ivy League dreams did just about everything possible during high school to impress college admissions officials.
The students took collegelevel courses and earned straight A’s on every report card. They aced their SATs, participated on clubs and sports teams and volunteered in the community.
But some top-tier colleges still said no. Duke rejected Desert Mountain High School standout Alex Blum in Scottsdale. And Harvard said no to Mesquite High School valedictorian Leslie Shen in Gilbert.
But many prestigious colleges also said yes. Schools from the Ivy League on the East Coast to Stanford University in California lined up for the four scholars the Tribune has followed since August.
That meant the students had their chance in May to turn the tables on admissions officials and send their own rejection or acceptance notices. How they made their final choices might surprise you. Hint: Princeton’s social scene can be a little dull.
- Alex Blum, Scottsdale’s Desert Mountain High School, will attend college in Medford, Mass at Tufts University.
Alex Blum’s Ivy League plans didn’t turn out quite as he had hoped.
His 4.2 grade point average in Desert Mountain’s International Baccalaureate program, his experience with student government, National Honor Society, starting up a book club and volunteering with sick children — all these were not enough to gain admission to Duke University, Georgetown University or the University of Pennsylvania.
The news that those three schools rejected him came on the same day in April.
But Blum, 17, is not looking back. “Honestly, I feel like the colleges are missing out on me,” he said.
Instead, he’s focusing on his future at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. Tufts and Brandeis University originally placed him on wait lists, which left him feeling “pretty hopeless.”
“I don’t think many people ever get off those,” he said.
But last week, they both gave him the green light.
“I visited (Tufts) when I was in Boston over the summer, and it seemed to have incredible people,” Blum said. “It kind of has the things I’m looking for: It’s near a big city, but not in one, it’s a midsized school with good academics.”
Still, the big decisions are never easy. He considered American University because he received an $18,000 scholarship there, but he wanted stronger academics.
Tufts won’t be cheap. Tuition, room and board come to $45,000 per year, which his parents will pay.
- Leslie Shen, Gilbert’s Mesquite High School, will attend college at Wellesley.
Leslie Shen is going to become a Wellesley Woman.
Following in the footsteps of Hillary Clinton and Madeline Albright, Shen decided to attend the all-female Wellesley College near Boston.
“The main goal of Wellesley is to educate women and empower them to lead this world,” Shen said. “I think my vision of what kind of (school) I want to go to changed along the way.”
Shen, valedictorian at Mesquite High School in the Gilbert Unified School District, said college applications soaked up the majority of her senior year.
She set her sights on Harvard University in the fall.
But her research into the private liberal arts college started making her think twice about the Ivy League — even before Harvard twice denied her application.
“This will be the only chance I have to go to a liberal arts college,” she said. “I will always have a chance to go to a larger university for graduate school.”
According to U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges 2006,” Wellesley ranked fourth among liberal arts colleges, which only offer bachelor’s degrees.
She has a passion for visual arts but plans on studying economics and international relations.
“I am kind of nervous to go to such a prestigious school and compete with all of these intellectual women around you,” Shen said. “So, I will probably do some academic preparation this summer — but not as intense as (when I’m in) school.”
Her graduation at Mesquite will be May 24.
- Jessica Guo, Mesa’s Dobson High School, will attend college at Clumbia University in New York City.
Everything’s on the upand-up for Jessica Guo, 17.
Not only was she accepted at every college to which she applied, but the soon-to-be Dobson High School graduate from Chandler is going to the school of her dreams: Columbia University.
“I’m not as excited as I thought I’d be, but it’s growing every day,” she said.
The only thing making Guo nervous at this point is how she’s going to cover tuition costs at the Ivy League campus in New York City. So far, she’s managed to earn a $5,000 annual scholarship from Tempebased homebuilder TW Lewis.
She’ll also have to find a job this summer to “save up” for college.
Columbia appealed to Guo, who has a perfect score on the SAT, mostly because it’s a small college in a big city and has a core curriculum centered on liberal arts.
Guo said she’s not quite sure what she’ll major in, but political science and environmental biology have both caught her eye recently. Or she “might end up doing something random,” she said.
She’s looking forward to living in New York, though she knows her parents are a bit worried. “I’ve always stayed at home and been under their supervision,” she said.
Until her high school graduation in about two weeks, Guo said she plans to enjoy banquets and other celebrations and relax. “All very cheery, happy things.”
- Vinayak Muralidhar, Tempe’s Corona del Sol High School, will attend college at MIT in Cambridge, Mass.
More than a dozen colleges and universities opened their doors to Corona del Sol High School valedictorian Vinayak Muralidhar, 16.
And after several weeks of sorting through scholarship offers and visiting campuses, the Chandler teen narrowed his list down to two finalists: Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and Princeton University in New Jersey.
“This is where it got really tough,” Muralidhar said.
Both schools had strong academics. And both carried prestige. But Muralidhar noticed while visiting the campuses in April that Princeton was in the “middle of nowhere.” And the social scene was grim.
“That was the final tip factor,” he said. “The MIT social scene.”
That does not mean Muralidhar plans to party away his college years.
In fact, one thing he likes about MIT is the heavy workload. Besides dancing, sports and hanging out with friends, Muralidhar actually enjoys doing homework.
“I usually do some math problem every day just for fun,” he said.