Richwoods girl in running to be named Presidential Scholar
Alice Chen has done very well in school, but she had no idea she was going to be recognized nationally for her academic excellence.
In early February the 18-year-old Richwoods High School senior was notified she was in the running to become a Presidential Scholar.
“Honestly, I was completely unaware the program even existed until they contacted me and told me I was a candidate,” Chen said.
The Presidential Scholars Program, established in 1964 by executive order of the president, honors some of the nation’s most distinguished graduating high school seniors.
Each year, up to 141 students are named as Presidential Scholars.
Chen is now anxiously awaiting word about whether she will make the next cut.
A review committee of people in secondary and post-secondary education evaluate the candidates on their academic achievements, personal characteristics, leadership and service activities, and the quality and content of an essay the potential scholars submit.
About 500 candidates are named semifinalists, and their names are forwarded for further review.
In April, the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars reviews the applications. The commission selects up to 121 Academic Scholars and up to 20 Arts Scholars.
History, Chen said, has always been her “absolute” favorite subject, but she said she also loves physics and English.
Chen said she has hopes of earning the honor, but knows she faces some stiff competition.
“It’s a pretty tough screening process. I have to submit an application with a bunch of essays and information about my community service, jobs and extracurriculars, and I have to send a teacher recommendation and my transcripts for all four years of high school,” she said.
“Now that I know about it, I guess it would be a really cool thing to achieve. It’s prestigious. They only name about 140 scholars a year, so it’s a pretty big honor.”
Chen said the waiting is tough.
“I don’t find out until April,” she said. “It feels like another college decision to wait for.”
Chen plans to study medicine. She wants to be an oncologist. Chen has applied to 12 schools across the country, including Duke, the University of Chicago and Johns Hopkins.
“I guess I just have to wait and see,” she said.
She said academic excellence has been important to her for a long time.
“I’ve known that I wanted to be a doctor ever since I was little, and the road to get there is definitely not easy,” she said.
“I just want to make sure I do the best I can so I can achieve this goal. I’ll be pretty disappointed if I’m not selected, but it won’t be the end of the world or anything,” she said. “Life goes on.”
Chen prefers thinking about the possibility of winning.
“If I’m chosen, I get to fly out to Washington, D.C., for a week in June and meet government officials and other accomplished people,” Chen said.
“There’s a ceremony and everything, and I even get to bring my favorite teacher. That would be a lot of fun, so I guess I have my fingers crossed for that.”