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Student turns down $150,000, earns scholarship to dream school

Reese

WOODBRIDGE — A Woodbridge high school student turned down $150,000 in scholarship money to a prestigious school only to end up with more cash to attend the school of her dreams.

Shekinah Reese, 17, is a straight-A student who in June graduated Woodbridge Senior High School in Lake Ridge. She was captain of her high school dance team, a member of the track and field team, and attended Metropolitan School of the Arts for nine years to train in various levels of dance. She was also selected for the Center for the Fine and Performing Arts specialty program at Woodbridge Senior High School.

Reese has always had a love for film and TV, and the urge to study in the field. She took part in a high school summer program at Ithaca College in New York in 2016 for field production to earn college credit. There she had the opportunity to create a 15-minute documentary film about Ithaca’s downtown and its locals.

Afterward, impressed with her work, the college offered her more than $150,000 in tuition aid to attend the school. Reese was thrilled, but deep down she knew she was looking for something more.

“Elon has always been my dream school. They have a state-of-the-art School of Communications that reflects the education and standards that I’m seeking,” she said.

Never one to settle, the 2017 high school graduate immediately set out to find a way to get what she wanted — admittance to Elon University, in North Carolina, with the same aid package Ithaca College offered.

Elon has a top-ranked school of communications where she could focus on cinema and TV arts. Reese was also drawn to the “home” feel of Elon, and because the school was closer to her home in Woodbridge. She had focused all her academic and extracurricular efforts throughout high school with the goal of being admitted to Elon with scholarship eligibility.

So she got to work. After revisiting Elon in April for “Phoenix Fusion” weekend, Shekinah knew without a doubt that she, “really, really wanted to attend Elon.” With National College Decision Day approaching on May 1, her mind was made up, but she couldn’t afford to attend Elon without financial assistance.

Reese and her mother called the school’s assistant director of financial planning mid-April to request a financial aid appeal for additional funds.

After writing more than 30 college and scholarship essays, visiting over 17 campuses, preparing for the SAT and ACT exams and participating with The College Place program at NVCC, her determination paid off. Two days later, after a review of her file, Elon awarded Reese merit-based scholarships and grants totaling $255,200 that would allow her to attend her dream school as long as she continued to meet the GPA requirements each year.

Elon University recognized that they would be adding a valuable member to their student body by assisting Shekinah financially. They took into account the challenging courses she enrolled in throughout high school, her high ACT score, her 3.6 GPA, as well as her overall involvement and school spirit.

Reese said it’s important to start looking at potential schools early and apply early. Tour schools in which you may be interested. Craft essays and prepare for mock interviews. Attend college prep courses. Stay in contact with the dean of admissions at the colleges you want to attend. Get involved with your school and your community, so you show diversity.

And of course, keep your grades up.

But one of the most important pieces of advice: choose a school based on an academic program you want to pursue.

Reese is now working as a summer camp counselor. Then she is off to Elon, N.C. to begin her freshman year where she will pursue a degree in Cinema and Television Arts with a minor in dance.

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