The Scholarship Games: How selective scholarship programs shaped the college admissions process for two Lane seniors

By Yaniya Gilford, Reporter

The arduous experience of college admissions is made even harder with the added stress of figuring out how to afford college. With the price of college increasing year after year, there is one question teens across the country are asking themselves: Can I afford to go to this school?

For many students across the country, going to college is more a matter of affording it than getting accepted to a certain number of schools. However, there are an influx of programs offering scholarships and financial aid to seniors making college more affordable and an achievable goal. 

Winning a competitive scholarship such as Posse, Questbridge or Gates comes at the cost of hard work, dedication, hours of writing essays, attaining teacher recommendations and ultimately being forced to compete with their peers in order to gain said scholarship. 

It is difficult to decide who deserves the money and who doesn’t, so scholarship programs have a tough choice to make. Yet how does earning or being passed up for huge scholarships affect these students who are stuck in limbo when it comes to choosing the right college for them, as they try to figure out the next stage of their lives?

Abraham Ailemen and Jonah Bahr both applied to the Posse scholarship program; Ailemen will be attending Cornell in the fall through Posse, and Bahr will be attending Yale.

Ailemen is one of the few Posse finalists from Lane who got a full-tuition scholarship to one of the Posse partner schools, and Bahr was also a Posse finalist. 

“It was very nerve wracking, but with help from [counselor Rosanna] Console and past Posse scholars I was able to go through the process with smooth sailing,” Ailemen said.

Bahr also touched on the rigorous interview process for Posse. Though the thought of doing the three interviews at first was really daunting, Bahr eventually came to like the process. 

The process didn’t feel manufactured and bureaucratic; it was more so a medium for me to reflect on why I love my extracurriculars, what my dream profession is, and who I am as a student.  Weirdly enough, I kinda feel reinvented as a person after the Posse scholarship process, as the kind of questions they ask are seemingly straightforward but get at the core of your identity,” Bahr said.

Ailemen and Bahr had slightly different reasons when it came to their decision to apply for the Posse program in the first place, however. 

Ailemen was inspired to apply to Posse by his older brother who was a Posse finalist. Additionally, his overall motive for applying was to take off pressure from his parents.

“I understood that college was going to be like utterly an immense burden on them so I just had to do what I could to take some of that burden off,” Ailemen said.

Bahr thought Posse would offer the perfect opportunity to attend his dream school, Cornell, on a full-tuition scholarship. However, after not receiving the Posse scholarship, Bahr was forced to reconsider his college options.

For both Ailemen and Bahr, receiving a college education was important to their families.

”My parents went through college so they expect all my siblings and myself to go to college,” Ailemen said. “And for me I’ve always wanted to pursue a higher education, it’s been my dream to become a doctor since I can remember.”

 “As a son of an immigrant mother and a father who was raised in a low-income, single-parent household, the intangible value of an education has been pressured onto me by my parents,” Bahr said. 

Though Bahr believes a lot of people nowadays take education for granted he’s just grateful to be able to have the chance to pursue higher education. 

“It’s crazy how an education puts into perspective how good we have it and how much we take college for granted,” Bahr said.

Though Ailemen is grateful for being a Posse scholar, he said that not getting the Posse scholarship wouldn’t have negatively impacted his college decisions very much.

“I was also fortunate enough to become a finalist for the Pursue Scholarship, so if I hadn’t gotten Posse I would’ve just focused most of my attention to the Pursue scholarship,” Alimen said. “And if not that it would be something else, but generally I would’ve kept fighting until I got something.”

After he did not get picked for the scholarship, Bahr had to rethink his college admissions plans. 

I was pretty discouraged,” Bahr said. “Especially since a full-tuition scholarship is a life-changing amount of money. But there was nothing to do but keep my nose to the grindstone and try my hand at every university I could.”

Bahr and Ailemen are happy with their decision to apply to the Posse program and said that they would do it all over again. 

“Posse is an excellent program for kids my age and not only do they provide us with a tuition scholarship, they also ensure that we’re groomed properly and able to face certain situations as calm as possible,” Ailemen said.

Bahr said that though the scholarship process was quite arduous, it was also rewarding.

Even though the scholarship process cost some tears, time away from the swim team and some grade slippage, there’s nothing that could beat the amazing experience I had with Posse,” Bahr said. “I would absolutely do it again.”

Both seniors also spoke about looking forward to attending their respective colleges in the fall and how they feel about the new journey ahead of them. 

“I never really attached a feeling to it, it could’ve been Cornell, it could’ve been Michigan, it could’ve been Madison, I’d feel the exact same way. Of course I’m happy to be getting a scholarship and honestly that’s all that matters,” Ailemen said. 

Ailemen offered some insightful parting words for the rising seniors. Ailemen’s tip for the current juniors is to stay “as optimistic as you possibly can and remain resilient because it’s gonna get tough,” and “as long as you’re resilient and calm you’re going to get through it and the payoff is massive. Remain resilient and push through.”

Bahr is ecstatic to be attending Yale in the fall.

To this day, I still can’t believe that I managed to actually get into Yale — to the point where I check my acceptance portal just to verify that my admittance wasn’t some type of mistake on the behalf of the admissions officers,” Bahr said.

Regarding any advice for the rising seniors Bahr takes a more holistic outlook.

Grades and SAT scores can only get you so far — what you do in your four years of high school is what makes you, you,” Bahr said.