John McGowan is the winner of the $2,500 College Raptor scholarship! Congratulations are in order. Recently I had the chance to chat with John about his college search journey and what challenges he faced along the way. Check out this interview with a scholarship winner!
Tell us about yourself!
My name is John McGowan. I live in Kinnelon, NJ, a small suburban town about 35 miles west of New York City. My father works as a broker in New York City and my mother is a paraprofessional in a nearby high school. I have one older sister who attends a D1 college on an athletic scholarship for gymnastics.
As a senior at Kinnelon High School, I have attended Kinnelon schools my entire academic life. Academically, I have enrolled primarily in honors and AP courses, including AP Calculus BC, AP US History and Government, and many AP science and history courses. My favorite subjects have been history and English including creative and expository writing.
My most important extracurricular activity is competitive swimming. The swim team has been an important part of my life since I made the team at 8. Competitive swimming teaches lifelong values such as goal setting and discipline. Also, swimming has shown me how embodying inner motivation and perseverance work to reach those goals. Training and competing alongside friends, cheering teammates, celebrating successes and supporting losses, has made swimming fun and satisfying.
As a member of a YMCA swim team, community service and complying to high standards of character are essential. YMCA swimming has also given me the opportunity to participate in the prestigious Emerging Leadership Academy, a one year program geared to improve leadership skills while performing community service. Last, YMCA swimming has given me the skills and certifications necessary for employment during the summer as a lifeguard at our community lake, swim team coach, and swim lesson instructor at my local YMCA. I mention so much about swimming because it has played an important role in making me who I am today and it was an aspect of my college choice.
Before using College Raptor, which colleges were you considering?
Although not the only criteria, I wanted to attend a college that offered a competitive swim team with a healthy team culture while also offering a high-quality education. I knew my credentials (SAT scores, grades, and swimming) allowed me to look at many competitive colleges. The colleges on my list included Navy, The College of William and Mary, Emory, Lehigh, Villanova, and others. I also included Rutgers University and The College of New Jersey because they were competitive in-state colleges. My list generally included colleges whose price tag although expensive were lower than many of the more elite.
How did using Raptor affect your college list?
College Raptor helped me expand my college list. First, to generate a college list, I filled out the questionnaire: the questions included the size, cost, distance from home, and major. It really made me think about what type of school I wanted to attend and how much it may cost. Also, College Raptor rated the possibility of acceptance.
I decided I wanted to stay in the northeast and go to a smaller, rural school. My list then included highly competitive liberal art colleges, some of which were a reach, but all had men’s swimming. Bowdoin College came up on my list as a college known for its Government and Legal Studies major and helpful financial aid!
What drew you to study poli-sci and/or pre-law?
History and English have always been my favorite subjects. It is not only that they were easy for me and writing seemed to come naturally, it was the exchanging and flow of ideas and the understanding of how the past influences the present and future that really appealed to me. I wanted to understand the forces of society, and how and why events and social change occur.
After college, I hope to continue on to law school because I believe it is a field that will best utilize my college education, strengths, and interests and allow for a productive career. I also want to become a lawyer because I believe ensuring adequate fairness in the legal system is an important goal.
Cost played a big role in your search. Did anything about the cost of college catch you by surprise? How did Raptor help?
The cost of college played a big role in the colleges I was thinking about. The $75,000 price tag kept many possible schools off my list. However, College Raptor clearly listed the “real” cost of college when I included my financial information. This information made many more colleges financially feasible. This would allow me to attend a highly prestigious college with the major of my choice without accruing crippling college debt.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to fellow students also searching for colleges?
One piece of advice I would give to fellow students is to really do your research on the cost of college: do not look at the price tag that is publicized because that may not be the “real” cost. There are many colleges that give aid that is scholarship and grant-based that will not lead to loans that can negatively impact your future. A high school student should be worried about working as hard as possible, taking the most challenging courses in high school, and getting into the best school they can, not worrying only about money for college. There are many colleges that will help and College Raptor can assist with finding that information.
Congratulations again, John!
If, like John, you’d like some help in your college search, make a free College Raptor account! With it, you can discover personalized college matches, cost estimates, acceptance odds, potential scholarships, and more!