The Short List started working with Summer after she had been denied by most of the schools to which she had applied. We had worked with several of Summer’s classmates who recommended she speak to us before deciding between acceptance to a U.S. school that did not excite her, school in the U.K., or a gap year before applying again.
Summer was a top student who should have had more choices. It soon became clear that her application materials were a key part of the problem: There was no theme to them. Her essays were not very well thought out and she did not highlight the things that we felt would have made her stand out.
We helped Summer plan a gap year to deal with her loss and find a new purpose. She spent the first months after graduation at home with her mother as both adjusted to life without her father. While home, she learned that she had scored a perfect 45 on her IB final exams, something that only 1% of students worldwide achieve. She then signed up for an art history course in Italy and was awarded a two-month marine conservation internship in Madagascar for December and January. From February on, she stayed in Beijing with extended family and took an intensive language course.
Summer had started running as a coping mechanism and, as she built her endurance, decided to run the New York City marathon, registering with the American Stroke Association to honor her father. She spent several weeks prior to the race in the U.S., and we encouraged her to use the time to visit schools. She wrote essays that revealed her strengths in meaningful ways and sent her early application to Princeton only once she was fully satisfied with it. Days later she found herself at the start line of the marathon. Summer shared that she met other families who had lost loved ones and thought about her father throughout the race: “This year is bittersweet; wonderful developments are happening in my life but I can’t share them with my dad. I know that wherever my dad is now, he is looking down on me with pride.” Six weeks later, Summer learned that she had been accepted to Princeton.
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