Curtis (Hong Kong)

Claremont McKenna


Hong Kong

The Swimmer

When we first met Curtis, he defined himself as a swimmer. He swam for his school, swam for a club program, competed in international swim meets, and became an assistant coach to younger swimmers. He tested his skills by traveling to San Francisco to compete with the elite Terrapin Swim Team.

The competition made Curtis a stronger swimmer every day. He returned to Hong Kong with incredible confidence and a desire to swim in college. His father had attended schools in New England while his mother had familiarity with the West Coast, so Curtis pursued schools on both coasts. All seemed fine until Curtis started coming up short of breath in his practices and was eventually diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma. As a result, Curtis felt that he had to make a decision to pursue a college swim program or pursue a college. The Short List saw things differently and began suggesting schools where he might be able to do both. Curtis eventually found Claremont McKenna, a Division III school where he might be able to swim if he felt the desire, but where, more importantly, he would receive a great education. He would also have access to four other nationally ranked schools in the Claremont system.

Curtis knew Claremont McKenna was among the most selective liberal arts colleges in the U.S. He traveled to the school to attend an information session and take a tour, met the admissions rep when she visited his high school, and developed an email dialogue with the admissions staff. His efforts paid off: When The Short List spoke with the Claremont McKenna representative at a national college counseling conference and mentioned an interested student from Hong Kong, the admissions rep interjected, “Oh, you mean Curtis!” Curtis had made an impression in person, but now needed to do the same in his application.

He wrote about his love for swimming, the challenges he encountered, and the many lessons he learned along the way. He discussed other activities that rounded out his life and his love for learning. The Short List could see this was no longer just about his college application, but a true celebration of the young man Curtis had become. He applied Early Decision to CMC because he felt certain it was his school.

The Short List encouraged Curtis to have other applications ready…just in case. In the end, he didn’t need them. Curtis is now happily settling in at Claremont McKenna, and may yet join their swim team someday.

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