Name: Kirin Gupta, 17
Accomplishment: First-ever Oakton High student to receive the Jefferson Scholarship from University of Virginia
Key to Awesomeness: When Kirin Gupta's father gave her the opportunity to travel the world, she seized it.
But in order to seize it, she had to temporarily drop out of Oakton High School. She didn't hesitate because she saw it as an education in and of itself.
The selection committee for the University of Virginia's Jefferson Scholarship did not seem to mind either. They chose Gupta as one of 25 recipients of the prestigious scholarship. More than 1,200 high school seniors were nominated.
"Since I had the opportunity to travel in Indochina and India and Nepal and all these different places, and I seized that opportunity and really made the most of it, I think that's really made me stand out," Gupta said. "I think my selection was much more about outside than inside the classroom."
The scholarship offers its recipients a full ride to UVA, along with opportunities to travel and create their own study programs.
"It also allows you to work with professors more closely, which is a big deal for me because I always sort of look for that personal contact with my teachers and the opportunity to go beyond what's in the classroom for my curriculum," Gupta said.
And it's that piece of the scholarship that is keeping her intrigued, despite being granted admission to Harvard University, Dartmouth College and Cornell University.
She has until April 20 to make her decision about the scholarship.
"In my family, there's some pressure for me to choose Harvard. I mean, they understandably see it as an incomparable education, so if you get accepted, why wouldn't you go?" Gupta said. "But I think there are a lot of opportunities with the Jefferson Scholarship. At other schools, you're just any other student. It's different with that scholarship."
She is undecided about what she will study in college, but she knows it will probably have something to do with the social sciences. She is heavily involved with the school's publication "Oakton Outlook" and works with the Youth Empowerment Society outside of school. She predicts her passion for awarenesss, communication and action will guide her path through college.
Gupta said her outlook on life has been influenced by her mother's independence and strength in raising two children, along with author J.K. Rowling's creativity and passion that brought herself out of poverty. So for incoming high school freshman, her advice is simple: Follow your passions.
"It may sound cliche to say because everyone is like, 'Oh yeah, follow your heart,'" Gupta said. "But I think the most important thing to do in high school is to identify what you're passionate about. That's the most important thing about defining yourself, and that will make you stand out to a committee. ... There is so much offered to you, especially in our community, that you can get sort of overwhelmed and you don't really know which path to take. People end up taking a lot of different paths at once and then nothing really comes from it. But if you follow one path with dedication and passion, that will really take you somewhere."
To read about other Oakton Patch Whiz Kids, click here.
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