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2021 Student Reflection Essay Winners


We are excited to announce the winners of this year's Reflection Essay Contest: Olivia O'Bell and Livia Kaufman.

To participate in the contest, students choose one pre-college program activity, lecture, memory, or event and write one 250-300 word essay. In the essay, they must reflect on why they believe the activity had relevance to the development of their college preparedness. All pre-college students are invited to participate in the contest, and winners are chosen by a panel of staff and faculty.

Olivia and Livia's winning essay submissions are included below.

Growing as a Writer

by Olivia O'Bell

As much as I enjoy writing, sharing my work with others in class has always been a daunting task. Well meaning high school classmates sometimes gloss over the challenge of critiquing, or they are quick to praise writings that even I’m finding new critiques as the words leave my lips. Yet my enduring struggle is the ability to feel comfortable enough to put myself out there as a writer because of self limitations in my confidence and freedom of expression. The Creative Immersion Institute experience this summer helped me to face these challenges and relish in the company of students where I felt familiar and at home in sharing my writings and thoughts.

My favorite experience in the program, and the aspect that leaves me feeling the most prepared for college, was engaging and reflecting with classmates to help improve each other's work. I felt that I was among peers who cared equally about helping each other develop our writing projects. The class time discussions were among the most meaningful I have ever experienced. Not only did I feel like the quality of my writing improved, but I appreciated the responsibility to help others in their quest to perfect the ideas in their writings. The first assignment we shared was difficult because of my own nervousness about this process and only having high school classroom experience from which to compare. However, that day had a natural ease, and we created a safe environment where we all felt comfortable being vulnerable and sharing ideas. The thoughtful and in-depth discussion that each student received was unlike anything I had experienced in school, and it was clear that all of us were very passionate about our writings. It was then that I began to realize how this class was going to levitate my experience as a writer and a student. I learned as much from listening to the critiques of other students’ work as I did from my own.

Over the two weeks we developed a close community, and I felt like I really got to know my peers even though we never were able to meet in person. I had an amazing time getting to share work and learn from other kids my age who share some of the same interests as me. I can only hope that this class is a small reflection of the amazing opportunities that lie ahead in college.

Pursuing the Mind

by Livia Kaufman

As I gaze out my window at the billowy palms, I situate myself at my desk and prop open my laptop to start the Zoom Psychology lecture. With a warm cup of herbal tea in hand, I sip and then stretch to awaken for an intellectual discussion. Nearing the end of my experience in the Introduction to Psychology course, I can proudly say it has enriched my foundation of how the human mind perceives and processes information. The most prominent overall feeling I gained from this summer pre-college program has been my eagerness and curiosity to learn even more about psychology. Being surrounded by like-minded students from all around the world felt like the beginning of my mission to acquire knowledge to impact society.

Reviewing lectures and readings for the tests, I wondered how I could best use this class to advance my fervent passion for psychology. The lecture about psychopathology bridged my interest in researching child and developmental psychology and the symptoms of depression. The research that accompanied each lecture topic was inspiring and piqued my further interest in the subject. I recognized the benefits of researching for the sole purpose of expanding your horizons and gaining a clearer perspective. My interest in depression evolved into studying parental cancer's effects on adolescents and how their experiences mold life choices. I intend to reveal my findings by writing a research paper incorporating qualitative data in conjunction with published studies, some of which were introduced to me directly by my professor.

The High School Summer Scholar's Program at Washington University allowed me to grow and learn independently, shaping my future path. This summer, my goal was to become involved in a community of students with the aim to prepare me for my next four-year journey on the arch.

Want to read more about students' experiences in our programs?

Discover Student Reflections