GPS junior accepts offer to attend college next year.
Like most high school juniors—particularly those who have good academic credentials and score well on college entrance exams—Komal Patri receives an abundance of mail from academic institutions around the globe. Typically those letters and cards wind up in the family recycling bin, but a particular letter at the beginning of this school year caught her father’s attention.
RHP is a highly selective program that encourages exceptional high school juniors to apply for early entrance, bypassing their senior year of high school. According to USC, the program accepts students who have the social and emotional maturity to function independently as college freshmen. Interested students should have a record of success in high school such as honors, AP, and IB courses in addition to summer programs, leadership experience, and special talents.
Komal initially began the process as a means to practice the college application process, which she knew would be a daunting task during the fall of her senior year. However, as she began to research the program, Komal says, “I thought it would be cool to surround myself with a cohort of intellectual and talented juniors from across the nation.” The RHP, housed inside the Honors College at USC, would provide her access to all of the resources available to a college freshman.
While she was still considering other schools when she applied, Komal found USC especially appealing because of its undergraduate research opportunities, access to biotech startups, and emphasis on an interdisciplinary education. In addition, her major, computational neuroscience, which blends her passions of science and technology, is rare to find at other universities. She was motivated to choose this field of study after experiencing firsthand a family member’s and a neighbor’s struggle with neurodegenerative diseases.
Komal’s father, Neelanjan Patri, says hundreds of students are encouraged to apply to RHP with only 18 selected as entrants this year. “She was also nominated, with her acceptance, for the Presidential Scholarship and was the only student among the RHP applicants to secure this honor,” he shares.
In addition to the application, Komal had to complete the Common App
and submit letters of recommendation, as well as supplemental essays and short answers. Komal received her letter of acceptance into the Residents Honors Program and nomination for the Presidential Scholarship in late January after completing an interview with the director of RHP via Skype.
To prepare for her scholarship interview, Susan McCarter, her GPS College Counselor, arranged practice interviews with Komal’s current teachers. “In my first mock interview with Dr. Covino and Dr. Becksvoort, I bombed,” Komal says. “It was really hard to hear the criticism, but their feedback forced me to look beyond what I thought the panelists wanted to hear and instead use the opportunity to share my story in my own voice.”
Even after her second mock interview with Dr. Harrison and Ms. Piper, a few days prior to her flight to LA, Komal’s biggest challenge was relaxing and remaining unflustered. “Before I left for LA, my teachers told me that I was both an intellectual person as well as a person who was interesting to talk to,” she says. “They reminded me that USC had already recognized my intelligence, and now was the time to show my passion and personality.” After working on her communication skills, Komal delivered when it came time for her interviews with USC.
While in Los Angeles, Komal and her father were able to tour campus and get a feel for the environment. When she returned to GPS, those teachers who helped in her mock interviews were the first to ask Komal how she had fared, eager to celebrate the accomplishment regardless of the outcome. At the end of March, she received notice of her Presidential Scholarship Award. “It was unreal,” Komal says. “But I remember when I told Ms. Piper about my acceptance, she told me that she was incredibly proud but not surprised. In that moment, I realized how much belief my teachers had in me.”
A GPS Bruiser since sixth grade, Komal debated leaving school a year early and missing out on the traditions afforded to her as a senior such as May Day, Cat-Rat, Chapel Talk, and Commencement. “I really will miss experiencing my senior year with my friends at GPS,” Komal says. “They have all been incredibly supportive throughout this entire process, because they understand firsthand the competitiveness of college. Truly, my friends are so happy that I was given this opportunity and continue to encourage me to take advantage of my early admission.”
Ultimately the ability to enter college with a select few as opposed to applying with thousands only a year later was too appealing to pass up. Komal formally committed to USC’s RHP in April.
At the end of her junior year, Komal is one English credit short of completing her requirements to graduate GPS and will fulfill that requirement over the summer, securing her high school diploma before heading to California.
“I’ve grown so much from my time here,” she says. “GPS prepared me to take initiative and advocate for my own journey. Though I will no longer be able to randomly walk into Ms. Berotti’s room and ask for advice, I am excited to see what this next chapter in my life holds for me.”