When I founded Select Entry Outreach, the underlying goal was, and remains, to promote equity in educational opportunities. I knew that having access to (or simply being aware of) the opportunities that academic selective entry schools afford, had the potential to change lives. What I didn’t yet appreciate was the profound impact it would have on my own.
When I started at Melbourne High, I was by no means the most diligent student. Truthfully, I was committed to basketball and not much else. My parent-teacher interviews were full of comments like “great potential”, “impressive when he applies himself” and “needs to focus more”. In other words: not stupid, but lazy.
However, as I matured and became more focused academically, I began to consider my long-term future. As my short-sighted fog began to lift, the value and importance of education became increasingly clear to me. My goal of attending college in the US, propelled by my desire to play college basketball, began to appear in a new light. I now saw college in the US through the primary lens of advancing my studies and my personal development.
It was just over two years ago – around the beginning of year 11 – when I first heard about the Robertson Scholarship, a full ride scholarship to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill or Duke University, awarded as an investment in “young leaders who strive to make transformational contributions to society.” I examined the selection criteria and considered myself a good match. Of course, I would need to prove this to the selectors in order to stand a chance against the other 60,000 applicants competing for ~30 spots.
Thankfully, I was at Melbourne High, where I knew opportunities, resources and support were abundant. At the end of year 10, I had been named as a Keith “Bluey” Truscott scholar, awarded for all round achievement and leadership at MHS. Clearly the staff and Old Boys (MHS alumni) saw something in me. I used this as an opportunity to become involved with the MHS Old Boys Association, to learn from and collaborate with the extensive alumni network.
Melbourne High also allowed me to not only get involved with, but also to obtain leadership positions in a diverse range of extracurricular activities: Senior Basketball, Indonesian Club and MHS Entrepreneurs to name a few. In my final year, I was appointed Vice-School Captain with John Poliniak at the helm (I encourage you to check out his article on the SEO blog if you haven’t done so already!). Perhaps most importantly, my Melbourne High peers (credit to Co-Founder Kion Sapountzis), teachers and mentors all contributed to the success of Select Entry Outreach, which I hope will leave a lasting impact for years to come.
In the classroom, the vast majority of my teachers were highly knowledgeable and committed to the success of their students. With their support, I was able to reach the academic standard necessary to be competitive for such a prestigious scholarship. Fast forward to November 2018: my last VCE exam finished on the 21st. Whilst my friends enjoyed their newfound freedom, I scrambled to craft essays, collect recommendation letters and collate my school reports in order to meet the December 1st Robertson Scholarship application deadline. I posted my application (begrudgingly paying the express postage charge due to the tight deadline) and waited in anticipation.
By mid-February, I still hadn’t heard anything. Doubts pervaded my mind. What was I thinking? How did I ever think I would be competitive against other applicants with perfect grades and seemingly endless CVs? Just as I was losing hope, a phone call came. I had been shortlisted for an interview! The selection committee offered to fly me to Sydney for the interview. Sweet, I thought, if nothing comes of it, at least I’ll look cool/professional in a suit whilst travelling there.
I did feel cool, at least until I walked past business class and became convinced the businesspeople were internally shouting “FAKE!” as I passed them. In all seriousness, my nerves (likely not aided by 4 coffees between Melbourne and Sydney) were calmed by supportive messages from family and close friends.
I arrived at the interview determined, but not uptight. Talking to the Scholarships Officer Sonia helped me relax. I thought the interview went reasonably well but after meeting some of the other amazing candidates, I didn’t get my hopes up. In any case, I wasn’t expecting to hear back from the selectors for at least a few days.
It was a fine day, so I headed down to the beach to soak up some fading summer sun and clear my head. I sat down and checked my phone. One missed call – strange, I thought. I called back and it was Sonia. She informed me that I had been offered the Robertson Scholarship to UNC! I tried to express the depth of my gratitude. Quickly, I called my parents in euphoric disbelief. After an emotional phone call, I took a moment to indulge in contentment. Looking out over Bondi Beach, how Australian, I thought.
For those interested in the specifics of the scholarship, for the next 4 years, I will get to study at both the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University as the sole Australian recipient of the Robertson Scholarship for the Class of 2023. “The Robertson Scholars Leadership Program invests in young leaders who strive to make transformational contributions to society.”
▸Valued in excess of $350,000 over a 4-year undergraduate degree
▸Covers full tuition, mandatory fees, room and board at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
▸Offers unique access to the academic and extracurricular offerings at both UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University
▸Three summers of domestic and international experiences
▸Customised leadership and professional development opportunities
▸Approximately 30 students are selected from among more than 60,000 applications to the two schools each year. I was chosen as the only scholar from Australia to be part of the Robertson Class of 2023.
I never could have guessed where attending an academic selective entry school – Melbourne High – would take me, or my peers for that matter. I hope my story inspires others to seek out educational opportunities and dream big!