STUDENT Spotlight
The search continues: BCPS student selects colleges, submits applications
Student Spotlight
The search continues:
BCPS student selects colleges, submits applications

For the first part of Monaé Wilmore’s college search, visit https://www.bcps.org/students/spotlight/searchBegins/.

In January, high school students across the county were deciding which classes to take next school year.

But Monaé Wilmore wasn’t one of them. At least, not yet.

A Grade 12 student at Western School of Technology and Environmental Science, Wilmore faces a different choice first: which college to attend this fall.

Since beginning her senior year last August, Wilmore says she’s been “learning to balance school, an internship and homework.” Attending classes in the morning, Wilmore spends her afternoons at Falls Road Animal Hospital. There, she interns while earning credits toward graduation.

“I have seen surgeries – eye removals, spays, neuters, dental extractions; drawn up vaccines; restrained animals for blood drawings; and [done] so many other amazing things,” says Wilmore about her internship. “The opportunity to have experience in the field I wish to enter has slightly eased my fears about the future.”

And that’s a big relief for Wilmore, especially given how much thought she puts into life after high school.

College was still more than a year away when she attended Baltimore County Public Schools’ College Application Boot Camp this past summer. In the following weeks when Wilmore began visiting university campuses, it came a little closer. But, even as she familiarized herself with applying to and selecting colleges, Wilmore admits that she started the 2016-2017 school year still somewhat uncertain about what laid ahead of her.

“During the first month or two of school, I was still unsure of where I was applying,” she says. “I had three schools on my list but wanted a total of five or six, just to have a larger number of options when it comes time to make the final decision.”

To help expand her list, Wilmore says she first turned to her peers, many of whom “had been researching schools [she] had never heard of.” With their help, she learned about dozens of colleges, including in- and out-of-state schools, private and public universities, and two- and four-year institutions. But, with so many options from which to choose, Wilmore needed guidance. She met with her school counselor, Andrea Tavernia, shortly thereafter.

As chair of Western Tech.’s guidance department, Tavernia has helped countless students search for and apply to colleges. And, understanding the challenges that they often face during the process, she encourages students to start early – “before their senior year,” if possible – and focus small.

“The college application process is time-consuming, tedious and can be expensive,” says Tavernia. “[What] I tell students about applying to college is to narrow down their list of schools to apply to... Shortening the list of applications allows students to thoroughly and accurately fill out their applications without feeling overwhelmed by the process.”

Heeding Tavernia’s advice, Wilmore reviewed her list of colleges – then much longer than it started – and created what she calls her “Maryland and Virginia rule.”

“I finally made an agreement with myself to only apply to Maryland and Virginia schools to narrow my options,” she says.

And Wilmore stuck to her agreement – for the most part, at least.

“I applied to University of Maryland, Baltimore County; University of Maryland, College Park; Mercy College – broke my ‘Maryland and Virginia rule’ here; George Mason University; and Towson University,” she says.

While Wilmore already has reached her goal to apply to “five or six” colleges, she says she still plans to apply to Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. To do so, she’ll follow a process similar to when she applied to the first five colleges.

“I began by filling out the whole application, except for the essay section, and then I saved my session,” Wilmore says of her process. “After writing the essay and editing many times, I would copy and paste it into the box and submit. Days later, I would call and ask the admissions office if it received all the required documents.”

When Wilmore submits her last application, she’ll be one step closer to choosing which college to attend this fall. But, while her college search will be winding down, she knows another search will be just beginning.

“After applying to Virginia Tech., I will begin the scholarship search,” says Wilmore about her next step. “I just recently filled out [the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)], so I will be calculating [financial aid] packages and, hopefully, making the best decision based on that.”

Having spent the last few months researching tuition and room and board costs, Wilmore certainly understands the importance of financial planning for college. In fact, that’s why she encourages students to “include [their] parents in the search” and use resources like the BCPS video tutorial for filing FAFSA.

“[Y]ou do not want to have a dream school and apply, then get accepted, but you cannot afford it,” she says.

And she’s right. But financial planning advice isn’t the only guidance that Wilmore has to offer; she also gives tips for organizing college mail, completing application essays and building strong résumés.

“Make a separate college email,” says Wilmore to students who are or will be applying to colleges. “Save all essays because, sometimes, you can use them for another application or just use their main ideas for another application... [And] get involved in your community or school because it will bolster your résumé and make you a more well-rounded student.”

Most importantly, though, Wilmore offers one key piece of advice: “Learn what you like so that you can choose the college that not only has the best academic program for you but that has the right ‘fit’ and where you will be comfortable.”
For the meantime, that’s one tip that Wilmore is still exploring.

“At the moment, I do not have a top school,” she says. “But I think I would be happy at whatever school I choose.”

With National College Decision Day, observed each year on May 1, still a few months away, Wilmore has time to think about which college to choose. But, once she makes her decision, it’ll be only a matter of time before she, too, is picking which classes to take next school year – though, this time, as an incoming college freshman.

To find out which college Wilmore chooses, check back later this spring.

Story by Blake Lubinski, Department of Communications and Community Outreach. Photo by Monaé Wilmore, Grade 12 student, Western School of Technology and Environmental Science.

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