A look into McQuain’s college application success

Kayla Baltazar, News-Features/Opinion Editor

  It’s the time of the year again: students are receiving letters from colleges and universities with their admission decision. Many are celebrating their results, happy that they got accepted into their dream schools. 

  For Senior Ava McQuain, there’s even more reason for celebration. McQuain was offered a full ride scholarship to Carleton College. 

  “I am planning on going to Carleton College,” said McQuain. “We all come in undeclared, but I’m planning on majoring in biology and potentially double majoring in biology and environmental studies.”

  McQuain has joined multiple programs that have helped her achieve this opportunity. She was part of Taste of Carleton, a program that flew students in to visit Carleton College. McQuain is also part of QuestBridge, a common-app like program that helped match her to Carleton, and a program called The Alexander Hamilton Scholars.

  Mikala Lain, Assistant Director & Director of DEI at The Alexander Hamilton Scholars explains that the Hamilton Scholars is a program that “recognizes young people for their academic, personal, service and entrepreneurial accomplishments”.

  “Winners of the Hamilton Award receive two $500 cash awards to pay for college expenses at their entrance and exit from the Empowerment Program,” said Lain. “Furthermore, prior to beginning university, Scholars receive a laptop to assist in their college studies. After accepting the Hamilton Award, students enter the Empowerment Program alongside fellow cohort members and receive a comprehensive network of support and practical guidance to assist their transition from high school to college, and from college to future professional or academic paths. The Empowerment Program, provided at no cost to the student, consists of individual and group support. Throughout, students receive mentorship, practical guidance, and a comprehensive network of support — much like Hamilton had — so they, too, can leave a lasting legacy that will forever change their communities, our nation, and the world.”

  McQuain spent a lot of time researching these programs to assist her with the college application process. Andrea Rusk, college counselor, notes that McQuain never gave up when it came to finding scholarships and programs that would help her.

  “Her biggest strength through this entire process has been the fact that she never stops asking questions. She came in early and asked where she could find things and then she went on a deep dive,” Rusk said. “I do not know how much time she puts in on her computer at home doing research– she seems to love it. And so it’s not just about finding the right resources but asking the right questions and continuing to push the envelope.”

  It takes a lot of dedication and determination to persist through and apply to all these programs. Rusk has noted McQuain is “exceptional” and Lain has stated that “the world needs more ‘Avas’”.

  “Ava has always shown a clear dedication to her community,” said Lain. “From organizing rummage sales and shoe drives, to leading environmental initiatives, to helping others gain the opportunity to learn about new cultures, she is an incredibly warm, giving, and brilliant student. We have been impressed with her ability to rise from any circumstances dealt to her and look at the positive side of life. Her infectious personality and genuine personality is always a pleasure to be around.”

  Overall, McQuain’s one piece of advice for students looking to try and apply for programs like this is to start thinking about it now.

  “Find what makes you unique,” said McQuain. “Even as cheesy as that sounds.”