Ensights Magazine

finding the right college fit 2021

Finding the Right College Fit for the Class of 2021

Editorial Staff
Students are matched with their college counselor at the beginning of freshman year and stay with the same counselor throughout their high school career. Seven seniors share their experience with the program and how it helped them find the right college fit.

Max Bunting

Santa Clara University

How many years have you been at Ensworth? I’ve been at Ensworth for approximately 5.5 years. I came in seventh grade from Oak Hill, then did one semester of boarding school as a sophomore.

What activities have you been involved in at Ensworth (or extracurriculars outside of Ensworth, as well)? I’ve been in chess club, played soccer and lacrosse, and was on the swim team. I’ve also been on the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Students of the Year team for Ensworth for two years. Each high school has a team, and they compete over a 7-week period to see who can raise the most money. I was a member last year, and I took a leadership role with William Vreeland this year.

Talk about your relationship with your college counselor and what it looked like over the course of the past four years. Mr. Anthony was incredibly helpful with all of the questions I had and made things very clear. I could email him with a question, and he would tell me to swing by his office and he would help me out. I wanted to apply to top schools, which I knew would require a lot of APs. He helped me in planning which courses to take. I am happy we started freshman year instead of just getting into the planning process junior year, so it didn’t feel as overwhelming.

Did you go into the process with any specific goals or particular colleges/programs of interest? In the beginning, I was interested in learning archaeology and anthropology, and I was set on that until winter of this year. However, I didn’t apply to colleges thinking that I was looking for a school with those programs. For a long time, I was set on St. Andrews in Scotland because of the community feel and the way the education system is structured, and I knew a lot of people there.

Why did you choose the college you will be attending?
I chose Santa Clara off of my gut feeling, which is what makes me feel confident in going there. I was originally against the idea of going to California, but people I knew thought I would love Santa Clara, so I applied last minute. I was going to tour the University of Denver and just went a little further west. Right when I set foot on campus and talked to some students there, I knew it was where I wanted to be. It happened very naturally. In considering colleges, you have to look at the facts along with your gut instinct. Touring the schools was the most important element in helping me make my decision.

What has been the most valuable aspect of the Ensworth experience for you? I feel like Ensworth is so broad and open to different things. I appreciate the diversity of the community and the variety of interests. I feel like I have met so many different people than I would have at other schools. I also love the teachers here; you can tell they love their job. The teachers aren’t just teaching to give you facts, but to give you a better understanding of life and the world. They are more like friends and mentors.

What advice would you give to incoming freshmen? Definitely keep your grades up. I didn’t try as much as I should have my freshman year, and that affected my GPA. I wish I had put in the same effort during freshman year as I did later. I would also participate in as many different extracurriculars and clubs as you possibly can. All of these things sound so cliche, and yet, they are true. And get to know as many people in your grade and in other grades as you can; I wish I had gotten to know more people sooner.


Maddie Hand

The University of Alabama at Birmingham

How many years have you been at Ensworth? I have been at Ensworth for three years; I came sophomore year from Lipscomb Academy.

What activities have you been involved in at Ensworth (or extracurriculars outside of Ensworth, as well)? I played on the tennis team my first two years and then ran cross country this fall. I was part of the Outdoor Adventure club my sophomore and junior year and participated in a few other clubs throughout the years. I’ve also worked during the summer/fall sessions with the kids’ tennis camps. Outside of Ensworth, I have worked a lot with Cheatham County Animal Control as well as the Buddy Up Tennis Organization, which pairs kids who have special needs with tennis players.

Talk about your relationship with your college counselor and what it looked like over the course of the four years. My counselor Mr. Phillips was awesome. The first two years, he helped me with my course load and determining which courses would best prepare me for senior year. I took a lot of APs, and he helped me even out the APs in terms of difficulty. He was very helpful throughout the whole college process. I think I went to see him every morning for the first month and a half of this past school year.

Did you go into the process with any specific goals or particular colleges/programs of interest? I didn’t have a particular college of interest, but I’ve always wanted to go into healthcare; I will be majoring in nursing. Mr. Phillips helped me find courses that would best prepare me and enable me to get a lot of transfer credits for going into a healthcare program and STEM-centered major.

Why did you choose the college you will be attending? I chose the University of Alabama at Birmingham, because out of all the colleges I was considering, it is the newest, and it is in the middle of downtown with a few different hospitals surrounding the campus. There will be so many opportunities for me in terms of internships and field work. I can begin floor work in the hospitals as soon as freshman year. I applied to 11 colleges originally and picked all of them for different reasons, as I wasn’t sure which criteria were most important for me. I ended up choosing UAB because it has the best program for my major, and that’s more important than all of the other factors, to find a school that suits my future best.

What has been the most valuable aspect of the Ensworth experience for you? Overall, Harkness has been most valuable. Before coming here, I didn’t really speak up in class at all. Harkness helped me learn how to communicate my ideas with other people and brought joy into discussing intellectual ideas. I feel like I can express myself better without needing to rehearse what I want to say 30 minutes before going into something. The classroom experience here is a lot better, and I love that all classes are challenging in different ways. There’s never a down day; you’re always learning something new. You discover new things about what you already knew, because you are looking at things from different angles all the time. Someone will ask a question that will cause you to look at something differently.

What advice would you give to incoming freshmen? I would say to pick something you want out of high school and go for it. What I picked was to push myself academically and get lots of credits for college. That was my main goal, to learn as much as I could. But at the same time, don’t let the grades and numbers dictate how you feel about yourself. That’s what Ensworth taught me: that number in the gradebook doesn’t reflect your effort. Learn how to measure success in your own terms—we all value different things—you should find what you value and measure yourself based on that.

Salwa Daouk

Vanderbilt University

How many years have you been at Ensworth? I have been at Ensworth since pre-first grade, so 13 years.

What activities have you been involved in at Ensworth (or extracurriculars outside of Ensworth, as well)? At Ensworth, I have served as co-president of the Tearing Down the Walls club, which seeks to promote diversity and inclusion on campus. We organized Ensworth’s MLK and Black History assemblies, various events, and our summer conference. I also was on the first head committee of the Boundaries alliance. This committee aims to encourage healthy boundaries among the student body and make sure that everyone feels respected and safe at school through an annual week-long assembly program. I was also a part of the leadership committee for Project TALK that helped foster difficult conversations among students. Outside of school, I am involved in various leadership roles surrounding social justice issues with organizations such as the Tennessee Immigrant Refugee Rights Coalition, The American Muslim Advisory Council, Mixedlife Media, and the American Civil Liberties Union. Aside from those, I am also a second degree black belt in karate and enjoy playing volleyball!

Talk about your relationship with your college counselor and what it looked like over the course of the four years. At first as an underclassmen, conversations with my college counselor revolved around creating the “four year plan” and structuring my academic interests within high school. Around junior year, the conversations evolved to be more about specific schools or majors to pursue and look into. Throughout senior year, I would make frequent trips to the college counseling office. Mr. Anthony helped me answer every single question I had throughout the entire process. He definitely simplified the process and helped me make a plethora of difficult decisions along the way.

Did you go into the process with any specific goals or particular colleges/programs of interest? Initially, my vision for what I wanted to study was different than the major I ended up applying for. I shifted from an international relations track to a history and law track. Ever since freshman year, my top school had always been Vanderbilt, so that did not change. Once I found a program within Vandy that I was really interested in called “Law, History, and Society,” I knew I wanted to go down that path. With that in mind, I began applying to other schools that offered similar programs.

What has been the most valuable aspect of the Ensworth experience for you? The most valuable part of the Ensworth experience has been the incredible support network of teachers. They are incredibly qualified, caring, and encouraging. I have met some truly amazing educators and mentors at this school that I will never forget. These teachers have helped me grow academically and seek opportunities to pursue these interests in and outside of the classroom—and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Why did you choose the college you will be attending? Something about growing up in Nashville and seeing Vanderbilt everywhere prompted my interest in the school. I remember saying I wanted to go to Vanderbilt when I was much younger. Obviously, then I wasn’t entirely sure why, but as I grew older, I found appealing qualities in Vanderbilt that I wasn’t able to see in any other school I applied to. First, I wanted to stay close to home, and Vanderbilt’s campus was perfect for that. Second, the school’s culture of inclusivity was something that felt comforting and welcoming to me. Third, I wanted another challenging academic environment like Ensworth where I could push myself to explore all my academic interests. These three reasons incentivized me to put Vanderbilt as my top choice and apply Early Decision 1.

What advice would you give to incoming freshmen? I would tell incoming freshmen to try new things and join a variety of clubs. I would encourage anyone to become as involved as they can in an area that they love being involved in, whether that is theater, sports, academics, etc . This is the time to pursue interests and really discover what you’re passionate about. I’d discourage anyone to just get involved haphazardly and do things that they don’t care about just to put on a college application. It’s ok to want to be a good candidate for a competitive school, but it means so much more when all the work is genuine rather than for show. I would say to follow what feels right to you and take it and run with it.

Caroline Gracey

University of Georgia

How many years have you been at Ensworth? I have been at Ensworth since fifth grade, and lived in England during my sophomore year, so I will have completed seven years here.

What activities have you been involved in at Ensworth (or extracurriculars outside of Ensworth, as well)? During high school, I played softball and was part of Model UN and Service Club. I also have a job outside of school where I work a couple of days a week.

Talk about your relationship with your college counselor and what it looked like over the course of the four years. My college counselor is Mr. Whitehill, and he is the best counselor I could have asked for while at Ensworth. He helped me so much over my years here, and I am so grateful for all he does. Mr. Whitehill was always present in my high school career, even from the beginning of freshman year when we planned out what my next three years might look like. He was especially helpful after sophomore year in my transition back to Ensworth by making sure I could take all the classes I needed to meet my graduation requirements. During junior year, he helped me make a few course changes that benefited me in my course load, and this past year, we had many meetings about my college applications. I emailed him countless times for advice, and I always received honest and complete answers that helped me so much in the process. I really don’t think I could have done it all without him.

Did you go into the process with any specific goals or particular colleges/programs of interest? Going into the college application process, I had a very vague idea of what I wanted out of a college. I knew I wanted to study International Business, but other than that, I was unsure. Mr. Whitehill helped me consider the main differences between colleges and what I did and did not like about some I had previously visited. From that information, we came up with a list of schools that had what I was looking for, but were still plenty diverse in what type of experiences they offered.

What has been the most valuable aspect of the Ensworth experience for you? The most valuable part of my Ensworth experience has been learning time management and organization. This year was hectic taking AP classes, doing college applications, playing sports, and more. Learning how to balance this while still enjoying my final year has been the best lesson of my four years in high school.

Why did you choose the college you will be attending? I ended up choosing to attend the University of Georgia for many reasons. I was accepted into the Honors College and the school has a reputable business school, so I knew that with that, I would be able to have a successful academic experience. Georgia also has a great atmosphere where it is easy to have fun while still maintaining good grades. I can’t wait for game days and Georgia football! Finally, when I visited campus I got a feeling I never had when visiting any other college campus. It’s hard to describe, but when you get it, you know that this is the right place to be.

What advice would you give to incoming freshmen? I would say to not be overwhelmed by everything that is thrown at you about the future. It is definitely important to come in with a plan for what you want from high school, but plans change and you never really know what might happen, so don’t obsess over the future and miss out on the present. Just make sure you work hard each year while still having fun and enjoy your time here while you can.

Zion Wynn

Rhodes College

How many years have you been at Ensworth? I came to Ensworth in seventh grade from Meigs Magnet Middle School.

What activities have you been involved in at Ensworth (or extracurriculars outside of Ensworth, as well)? I’ve played football and basketball, and I’ve run track since seventh grade. I was in chorus, advanced chorale, band, and chamber singers. I’ve also been involved with Tearing Down the Walls and Project TALK. Outside of Ensworth, I’ve worked on special projects with Nashville Humane Association and Turnip Green Creative Reuse.

Talk about your relationship with your college counselor and what it looked like over the course of the four years. When I started high school, I was stone set on which schools to consider, or at least, I thought I was. My counselor Mr. Phillips knew I had big ambitions, so he pushed me to take several classes and diversify what I was going for. As we approached senior year, he kept reminding me of my GPA and let me know about scholarships that were available. He made sure I wasn’t just taking the easiest classes, and that I was challenging myself with APs, so colleges would really consider my applications. He was very helpful in getting me to my final decision.

Did you go into the process with any specific goals or particular colleges/programs of interest? As a freshman, I was very interested in writing, and I wanted to pursue that for a career, and I really wanted to go to the University of Southern California. I also knew that I wanted to run track and go to a college that was pretty far away. So I came into the process with the idea that I needed to have certain grades and scores, so, when the time came, it would be a no-brainer for me to be accepted there. It definitely changed as time went on, and as I was exposed to new things. I ended up applying to 22 colleges; some of those colleges were recruiting me for athletics, and I applied after they approached me. Some of the colleges were thrown into the mix to see what kind of scholarship I could get. Others I was very ambitious in applying to, such as Penn, Vanderbilt, and University of Chicago; I was trying to push the envelope. Going into the process, North Carolina A&T and LSU were my top two schools.

Why did you choose the college you will be attending? I will be attending Rhodes College. I was accepted at both of my top schools and most I applied to, whether they were ambitious or not. With Rhodes, I was immediately enamored of the campus—it is beautiful. And there are so many service organizations around the city I can connect with for internships and service opportunities. I will also get to compete in college athletics, and it’s a small enough community where I will know the people, and my professors will really care about me. When I was visiting, the people I met, my future peers, felt like a family, just like at Ensworth.

What has been the most valuable aspect of the Ensworth experience for you? The most valuable thing has been the relationships I have built with both my teachers and my classmates. The teachers are like secondary parents to me; they check in on me and my grades to make sure I am staying on track. They let me know about opportunities they think I would be interested in, and they’ll tell me if they think I am not putting forth my best effort. My classmates have become like my brothers and sisters; even if I don’t know them personally, I know there is a mutual care for one another. I never hear anyone shoot someone else down; it’s always praise and encouragement. I think that’s really beautiful. The community is our biggest selling point, and it’s hard to understand unless you are here.

What advice would you give to incoming freshmen? I would tell them to definitely use their resources. There are so many teachers available to help you. And you’ll need help, so lean on your advisor when you don’t know something. They are there for you, and they are there to listen. Also, try new things. Ensworth has so many different programs and opportunities—gaming chess, math club, robotics, beekeeping, sports, acting—you never know when you are going to find that thing you really love and want to do.

Vanessa Frigon

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

How many years have you been at Ensworth? 9 years

What activities have you been involved in at Ensworth (or extracurriculars outside of Ensworth, as well)? I am the founder and President of W.I.S.E. (Women in STEM @ Ensworth), which I started because I wanted to give girls with STEM potential a community in which they can garner support and respect to help them turn their Ensworth years into a good head start for a future STEM career. I am also the President of the Service Club, which I love because its mission is to connect students to our community and foster life-influencing opportunities to help others. Outside of Ensworth, I am an AI (artificial intelligence) research intern at Healthcare in 3 Dimensions, where I help develop a predictive analytics tool to correlate cost and outcomes based on patient-level and network-level factors that are profoundly influential to a patient’s journey.

Talk about your relationship with your college counselor and what it looked like over the course of the four years. Mr. Whitehill is the best! I was very lucky to have him in my corner. He always gave me accurate, helpful, and honest advice. I wouldn’t have been able to manage all the stress or navigate the complex application process without him.

Did you go into the process with any specific goals or particular colleges/programs of interest? I realized that some colleges allow you to take rigorous business courses as an undergraduate, which appealed to me greatly. However, I also wanted the academic freedom to explore arts and sciences. Thus, I was aiming for a top undergraduate business program with plenty of curriculum flexibility and interdisciplinary strength. I found it in Penn. Next year as a Joseph Wharton Scholar, I will be able to pursue a Wharton concentration in Business Analytics with a minor in Data Science from Penn Engineering. I will also take advantage of global opportunities, mentorship, and leadership training.

What has been the most valuable aspect of the Ensworth experience for you? Ensworth teaches you how to work well with others, and I believe this ability is one of the most important requirements for success.

Why did you choose the college you will be attending? When my parents took my older brother to look at colleges, they let me come, too. Even though I was just a middle schooler, I knew right away on the tour of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, that it was everything I wanted. I could study all the ways STEM and business intersect; my professors would be innovators and leaders in their industries, and my super-talented classmates would come from all over the world. Discovering my dream school so early gave me ample time to plan how I would try to show Penn that I could thrive at Wharton. I am very grateful that my plan worked. I am beyond excited to start.

What advice would you give to incoming freshmen? Believe in yourself, no matter what. Don’t let people’s opinions, whether good or bad, determine your destiny. Make your own life happen and enjoy the journey.

Liam Frumkin

Duke University

What activities have you been involved in at Ensworth (or extracurriculars outside of Ensworth, as well)? I have been involved in fall/spring plays, musicals, student government, model UN, drum lessons, math club, tennis, jazz band, and playing music in the pit.

Talk about your relationship with your college counselor and what it looked like over the course of the four years. The first time I met with Mrs. Stewart, it was a mandatory “get to know you” meeting freshman year. By the beginning of junior year, I started going to see her of my own accord. I highly suggest going to see college counselors as soon as possible. At first, I didn’t realize how much of an advantage it is that Ensworth offers this, and I wish I had taken more advantage of it. Junior year is when I started the process of vetting colleges. Whenever I was unsure of something, I would stop by Mrs. Stewart’s office. She would have time for me whenever I needed her. She literally knows everything; she has all of the answers to all of the questions.

Did you go into the process with any specific goals or particular colleges/programs of interest? When I first met with Mrs. Stewart, I knew that I wanted to do something with business and that I didn’t want to go to a massive school, but that’s all I had. Based on my interest in business, Mrs. Stewart suggested ten schools, and by junior year, she helped me narrow it down to five. After visiting the colleges, I would go back and debrief with her about what I liked and didn’t like, and then she would give me very specific recommendations based on my feedback. We narrowed it down much faster than I thought. I didn’t like the structure of the schedule at U Penn—that’s when Mrs. Stewart recommended Wash U and Duke, which became my top two.

Why did you choose the college you will be attending? I liked the flexibility that Washington University and Duke both offered. You are not stuck in a business major; you have the ability to get a well-rounded education, then get an MBA. After talking through my options with Mrs. Stewart, I decided to just apply to Duke, and I applied Early Decision.

What has been the most valuable aspect of the Ensworth experience for you? The most valuable aspect of the Ensworth experience for me was the connections that I was able to make with my teachers. At Ensworth, my teachers not only became my mentors and role models but they also became my friends. No matter what, I always felt comfortable going to see a teacher, whether to talk about homework, talk about our days, share insights, or catch up. Ensworth helped me realize how valuable student-teacher relationships are. My good relationships with my teachers allowed me to enjoy each class, love learning, and be excited to come to school every single day. I plan to stay in touch with many of my teachers because they all have changed my life for the better. I am not sure what I would do without them.

What advice would you give to incoming freshmen? I would advise incoming freshmen to NOT BE SCARED. Sure, high school might seem like a huge step up from middle school, but, really, it is just another stage of life with an unfathomable amount of opportunities at your fingertips. Don’t be scared to put yourself out there. Don’t be scared to meet new people. Don’t be scared to reach out to teachers. Don’t be scared to try something new. Don’t be scared to be yourself. High school goes by way faster than you think. You can never have those four years back. Have fun. Don’t let yourself get too sucked into the anxieties of school. Make the most of each day.
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