Connecting the Dots: A Parent-Student Perspective on the Within Reach-Guided Application Process

We are back on the blog with the third entry of our ongoing series called “Connecting the Dots: a Parent-Student Perspective on the Within-Reach Guided Application Process”. To refresh your memory, we introduced you to Emily*, a high school freshman from a rural high school in the Washington, DC, area in October, when she shared a colorful recap of her Stanford University tour and info session. Today, we are thrilled to hear from Emily a second time, as she shares her wonderfully insightful perspective on navigating high school with intellectual curiosity, humor, and an incredible drive to succeed.

[March 25, 2015]

Hi again! I am totally ready for Spring – is anyone else with me?!

Since I last wrote for the Within Reach blog, I have been working hard in my second semester of freshman year of high school, I’ve planned my Summer 2015 activities, and I’ve been to visit Duke University – which I can’t wait to tell you about.

As you may remember, my mom and dad are both Duke alums, so I have been fortunate enough to visit the Durham, NC, campus several times already. I’ve also spent some time at Duke through Duke TIP, which is one of my favorite programs ever!


A few weeks ago, my family and I drove south again to Durham for the Duke men’s basketball game versus Clemson. It was my third game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and it was just as crazy and fun as I remember! The highlights for me? Definitely the guy in a banana costume and “Crazy Towel Guy”. A fixture at every home game, Crazy Towel Guy whips his towel (and it’s a different one every season) around in the air when Duke makes a play he likes. Every game the students chant “CRAZY TOWEL GUY, CRAZY TOWEL GUY!”, and he’ll stand up and wave his towel around. At the end of Duke’s season, he auctions off his towel for charity – and I love that.


After the game, the five of us went to Satisfaction, an awesome pizza place in Durham; I saw a lot of Duke students there, so I’m pretty sure it’s kind of a student hangout spot. The next day, my mom and I sat for a Duke information session, but it was honestly pretty redundant given my prep with Within Reach. Most of the other students in my session were East Coasters, and I’m fairly sure I was one of the only freshmen. I did learn that Duke has more women’s golf championships than men’s basketball championships – which I never would have guessed! During the session, I asked Josh, a Duke alum and our info session leader, if he knew the percentage of Duke undergraduates who are accepted to veterinary school post-graduation. He answered, saying he thought the percentage might be similar to Duke’s medical school acceptances, so I sent a follow-up email when I got home to thank him for his time, compliment him on the info session, and tell him a little bit about myself and how I hope to be a Duke Blue Devil in a few years. Thanks to Morgan at Within Reach, I know how to effectively interact with admissions officers like Josh!

A few other things I loved about our trip to Durham were:

  • Meeting up with a few of my mom’s Duke friends.
  • Eating at Foster’s Market – the scones and the muffins are the best!
  • Going to the Emily K Center, an afterschool program designed to help students “achieve in school, gain entry to college, and break the cycle of poverty in their families.” We brought them books from our Books in the Barn program, and they were so excited!

I’ve also been doing ACT test prep with Within Reach, and I’ll take the ACT in April and again in June. When I took the test in 8th grade without any tutoring, I felt very frustrated because I couldn’t do some of the Math! Now, I feel much more confident and have really been trying to take Morgan’s suggestions.

In school, I’ve been talking to my friends a lot about college. A few of my friends are not quite as open-minded as I am about finding a school that fits them, and I think it’s because they intend to follow in their families’ footsteps at a number of local colleges. A few of my other friends don’t really understand why I’m concerned with college admissions as a freshman, but I just tell them that it’s worth it to start early in order to get into a good school! We all try to be pretty supportive of each other, so that’s nice.

Oh! Before I forget: I am headed to Duke TIP again this summer, but in a slightly different location. I really wanted to take the Beaufort Marine Lab class, but there weren’t enough spots, so I will be going to Sarasota, Florida, to take a field studies class called The Salt Life: Large Creatures of the Sea! I think we also get to take a field trip to Epcot to talk to the staff members about Epcot’s marine program – yahoo! I’m also going to work in a local vet’s office this summer to see what it’s really like to be a vet and gain some animal experience. I’m really excited about that.

I think that covers everything! My mom and I are going to visit Vanderbilt University this fall, and we might drive up to Swarthmore College and Princeton University this summer as well. I’ll be sure to let you know how that goes!

Until next time…



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