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How I Got to College: Johnson Thomas

Here's how this Massachusetts high schooler chose to attend Salve Regina University.

Johnson Thomas, a graduate of Somerville High School near Boston, opted for Salve Regina University.

Johnson Thomas, a graduate of Somerville High School near Boston, opted for Salve Regina University.

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This spring, U.S. News visited Somerville High School near Boston to ask members of the Class of 2012 to talk about their journeys to college and pass on any helpful advice.

Somerville is home to a mix of blue-collar families, young professionals, college students, and recent immigrants. The school's 1,324 students speak more than 50 languages; about one third are white, just over another third are Hispanic, and African-Americans and Asians account for most of the rest. The graduation rate is 81 percent; 77 percent of grads go on to college. In the last school year, 129 students took 160 AP exams. Hear from grads on how they got in.

Johnson Thomas's search strategy involved picking schools where he could play basketball and earn a criminal justice degree. He got into his top choice, University of Arizona, but "Arizona wasn't recruiting me as an athlete," he says.

Several Division III schools in New England did recruit him, including Elms College and Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts, New England College in Henniker, N.H., and Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I., his pick. The Catholic college has a robust criminal justice program with internship opportunities. His financial aid package will take care of two thirds of the $45,000 cost through grants and loans.

Haitian-born, Thomas credits gaining U.S. citizenship with giving him "a chance to excel in school and look forward to go to college." He says it also "just made me appreciate life more."

GPA: 2.8 unweighted

SAT scores: 330 math, 350 critical reading, 450 writing

Extracurriculars: Basketball, football, and track teams, Italian club; worked at a clothing store and as a camp counselor

Essay topic: Gaining citizenship and "how that changed my life for the better"

For jocks: Thomas uploaded basketball footage of himself, his résumé, and grades to the website of the National Collegiate Scouting Association, which assists student athletes with coaches. He was contacted by more than a dozen schools as a result.

Do-over: SATs. He would have retaken them.

Advice: One of the main reasons he was accepted nearly everywhere, he thinks, was that he got recommendations that spoke to his character and hard work. Connect with your teachers and other adults, and make sure you ask for recommendations from people who know you well.

More Somerville High School student profiles:

Wriju Adhikary

Tania Ahmed

Zoe Blickenderfer

Michael Kemp

Norman Li

Zachary Sciuto

Julia Zoukhri

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