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How We Got to College: Ava Wallace

Here's how this Maryland high schooler chose to attend Northwestern University.

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The journey to college acceptance is one best told by the experts: high school seniors who've just completed the process. Learning how others got into college can help inform your own effort, so we asked students from the Class of 2011 at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Md., to relate their experiences, tips, and observations.

"I want to work for ESPN," says Ava Wallace, who is headed to Northwestern University to study journalism. When it comes to experience in sports and journalism, she's got some background: co-editor-in-chief of MB's school newspaper (online), a participant in varsity lacrosse and tennis, and repeat winner of a scholar-athlete award.

After considering seven schools, she applied at three with strong communications programs: early decision at Northwestern, plus the University of Maryland and the University of North Carolina. Watching her brother, who is a year older, go through the application process made her own journey easier.

GPA: 3.77 unweighted

SAT scores: 660 math, 740 critical reading, 690 writing

Extracurriculars: Besides the online school paper, captain of the tennis and lacrosse teams, National Honor Society

Essay topic: Building homes in New Orleans for three summers

On visits: They can make all the difference. "I loved it," she says about visiting Northwestern; conversely, she scratched Duke University off her list after a visit there.

Tip: She figured that as a writer, she'd rip through the application essays. But "it's not like an essay you can put off for class."

[Get 10 tips for writing the college admissions essay.]

Eye-opener: Friends got into Columbia University, Yale University, and New York University, but ended up at Maryland because of costs.

Helpful tech: CollegeProwler.com provides a lot of anecdotes about schools.

Bottom line: "You have to have self-esteem," she says now. "If you don't have confidence, it will show in your essays and college interviews."

More Montgomery Blair High School student profiles:

Laura Anthony

Theodore 'Teddy' Bremmer

Robert 'Kit' Durban

Janet Henkai

Sarah McMillian

Eli Okun

Nicole Turchi

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