STUDENT Spotlight
The search begins: BCPS student sets out on college journey

08/12/2015

Student Spotlight
Monaé Wilmore, Western School for Technology

With senior year, comes curiosity, followed by a choice and, finally, a succession of changes, all culminating in a student’s successful transition to a new stage of life: college. And, for Monaé Wilmore, a rising Grade 12 student at Western School for Technology and Environmental Science, the journey to college is only just beginning with a summer spent attending preparatory programs, drafting essays and touring university campuses.

College, Wilmore remembers, landed on her radar early on in her academic career – in part, due to her parents’ encouragement and, in part, due to her own exploration.

“My parents often told me college would help me secure a better job than a high school diploma would,” she says about her initial interest in higher education. “Then, as I discovered my passion in life – animals and being a veterinarian – I researched and realized that I would need to complete eight years of college to fulfill this passion.”

As daunting as eight years of college – four years of undergraduate school and four years in a doctor of veterinary medicine program – might sound, surprisingly, Wilmore wasn’t afraid. In fact, excited to “take classes” and “make lasting friendships,” she explains that her only concerns surrounded the life that she knew, not the one that she would come to know.

“My initial fears were leaving my parents and becoming an independent adult,” she says about beginning the transition to college. “After 18 years of being dependent, freedom can seem intimidating... [but exercising my new freedom] will lead me in my desired path.”

Though freedom might guide her ultimate course, Wilmore already has taken the first steps toward her “desired path” with the help of the academic opportunities available at Western Tech. According to her, the school’s environmental science magnet program has given her the “strong science background” necessary for a career as a veterinarian, while its Advanced Placement (AP) offerings have allowed her to develop the study skills that she will use in college.

“I have taken three AP classes – world history, psychology, and environmental science,” she says. “[The courses] have taught me better study habits because the tests are harder than those I have taken in other classes. They also have helped me with taking notes and using those notes as study tools and aids when I don’t understand a concept in class.”

For the past two months, though, Wilmore hasn’t spent her time studying or taking notes inside a classroom; instead, she has dedicated her summer to activities focused on the college application and selection process.

The first of those activities, the BCPS College Application Boot Camp, took place this past June at Loch Raven High School. Held for a third time this year, the free, two-day boot camp offered attendees an opportunity to learn about college admissions – and, for a lucky few, a chance to meet the faces behind admittance decisions.

“There was a college fair during lunchtime on the first day [of the boot camp],” says Wilmore about the special chance. “I got to speak directly with faculty from the University of Maryland, Notre Dame, and York College of Pennsylvania.”

Between her conversations with the admissions officers and participation in essay revision workshops during the boot camp, Wilmore feels that she gained invaluable knowledge and insight, some of which she already has put into practice.

“I learned that college admissions counselors look at so much more than grades and SAT scores,” she says about her takeaway from the boot camp. “I also learned ways to make myself stand out in the application, especially the essay... The essay portion of the boot camp helped me shift my focus from an academic essay to a personal essay that highlights my strengths and helps admissions counselors see me as an individual.”

As Wilmore worked to perfect her essay in the weeks after attending the boot camp, she also set aside time to visit local colleges. From Towson University to the Baltimore County and College Park campuses of the University of Maryland, the schools that Wilmore toured were among those to which she might apply this fall.

“I used College Board to help narrow down my options based on my desired criteria,” she says about how she selected which campuses to visit. “I also used it to give me more information on schools I’m interested in.”

While several colleges have caught Wilmore’s attention during her search, she mentions that one in particular has stood out against the rest.

“After I graduate, I hope to get into the College of Veterinary Medicine located in Blacksburg, Virginia,” she says. “I hope to go into veterinary medicine with a focus in surgery or emergency medicine.”

For now, though, Wilmore looks forward to the start of her senior year of high school. Between classes in the mornings and an internship at Falls Road Animal Hospital in the afternoons, this school year’s bound to be a busy one for her. Yet, even with her demanding schedule, Wilmore is confident that her search for the right college will continue going strong.

“Don’t compromise completely on a school,” she says about the advice that’s guiding the rest of her college search. “The biggest thing I have learned during this search process is not to let everyone else’s decision change my own and to make a decision without regrets.”

For an update on Wilmore’s college search, check back later this fall.

Story by Blake Lubinski, Department of Communications and Community Outreach.

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