• “The workshop helped me to feel comfortable writing about myself and to work through my ideas to see what would work. It proved to be a crucial way for me to figure out what was most important to me and how to express that to the colleges I was applying to in the most articulate way. I highly recommend it as learning experience.”
  • Sophia Toles
  • Martha’s Vineyard Workshop Attendee
  • Class of 2012, Friends Academy
  • Class of 2016, Princeton University
  • “David Dent does a great job of helping students come up with revealing topics of their very own to consider for their college essays. He takes the time that is needed to transport your child beyond the routine parameters of his/her thinking to get there.”
  • Lisa Boldt, Mother
  • Alden Boldt
  • Class of 2014, Berkshire School
  • Class of 2018, Union College
  • “When Cameron came to Write for the Future, he was at the bottom of his class in writing and literature. In about 26 sessions, he has gone from a bottom to an A. It is so exhilarating to see this work-in-action. David and Write for the Future have proven that what they say, they do. Write for the Future is a testament to itself. … Now my son can analyze things, he can write things; there are not words to express the things he has done since he has been working with Write for the Future...I would recommend Write for the Future offers to anyone. You are investing in your child’s future,… and you will see the outcome of the product. Write for the Future has done wonders for my son. On Sundays, he always looks forward to his session…. I think it’s amazing.”
  • Lynn King,
  • Mother of Cameron King,
  • Class of 2016, Elisabeth Irwin High School

New York Workshops 2019: Sunday April 27, Sunday May 4, Saturday, June 15

What makes a Strong College Admissions Essay? We will guide rising juniors and seniors to discover answers to that question in a Write for the Future workshop in the Chelsea area of Manhattan. The workshop is the perfect start for students to begin to engage the process of creating admissions essays. Choose one of the following dates: Sunday April 27, Sunday May 4, Saturday, June 15. Each workshop will take place from 10:30-3:30.

The cost of the workshop is $300, which can be applied to the costs of Write for the Future’s Individualized Coaching Program in the future. Space is limited and enrollment is on a First Come, First Serve basis. To enroll, email us at

Students will brainstorm ideas of their own as we introduce them to our techniques of developing strong ideas for admissions essays. Students will also begin writing and will see several other examples of compelling essays of students admitted to competitive colleges.

Congratulations to Write for the Future’s Class of 2019 as they weigh their many choices. Here’s the latest tally: Brown-5, Duke-5, Cornell-4, Harvard-4, University of Michigan-4, Yale-4, Columbia-3, University of Pennsylvania-3, University of Virginia-3, Amherst-2, Case Western Reserve University-2, Colgate-2, Dartmouth-2, Emory-2, Fordham-2, Lehigh-2, Morehouse-2, University of Maryland-2, New York University-2, Northwestern-2, Pomona-2, Rutgers-2, Stanford-2, USC-2, University of Richmond-2, University of Saint Andrews-2, Wake Forest University-2, Williams-2, American University, Barnard, Bennington, Boston College, Bryn Mawr College, Colorado College, DePaul University, Drexel University, Eckerd, Georgetown, Hamilton, High Point University, Howard, Macalaster, Marquette, University of Massachusetts, New School, Northeastern, Pitzer, Princeton, Reed, Scripps, Smith, Spelman, Syracuse, Tufts, UCLA, University of California-San Diego, University of Pittsburgh, University of Rhode Island, University of Scranton, University of Wisconsin, Villanova, Wellesley, and West Virginia University.

What were the Most Popular Common Application Admissions Essay Topics this year? Here is the answer from The Common Application:

“During the 2018-2019 application year, the most popular topic of choice was: “Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.” (24.1%). The next most popular topics were: “Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.” (23.7%), followed by “The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?” (21.1%).”

Congratulations 2019 Acceptances!

By WFTF Staff

Brown-5, Duke-5, Cornell-4, Harvard-4, Yale-4, University of Michigan-3, Columbia-3, University of Pennsylvania-3, Amherst-2, Colgate-2, Dartmouth-2, Emory-2, Fordham-2, Morehouse-2, New York University-2, Northwestern-2, Pomona-2, Rutgers-2, Stanford-2, USC-2, University of Richmond-2, University of Saint Andrews-2, University of Virginia-2, Wake Forest University-2, Williams-2, American University, Barnard, Bennington, Boston College, Bryn Mawr College, Case Western Reserve University, Colorado College, DePaul University, Drexel University, Eckerd, Georgetown, Hamilton, High Point University, Howard, Lehigh, Maccalaster, Marquette, University of Massachusetts, University of Maryland, New School, Pitzer, Princeton, Reed, Scripps, Smith, Syracuse, Tufts, UCLA, University of California-San Diego, University of Rochester, University of Rhode Island, University of Scranton, University of Wisconsin, Villanova, Wellesley, and West Virginia University.

From the Big Apple to the Brown Bubble: WFTF Alum Sadie Stern Adapts

From the Big Apple to the Brown Bubble: WFTF Alum Sadie Stern Adapts

By John O’Donoghue

The promise of New York – its mystery, its excitement, its energy – is something Write for the Future ‘17 alum and Brown freshman Sadie Stern will forever carry. The native New Yorker admits the transition from the city to the “Brown Bubble” was challenging at first, having been “spoiled” growing up in a place where magic can happen around every corner. But if there’s one thing the city taught her, it’s how to adapt.

As nearly two intensive semesters fade into her rearview, Sadie can describe her first year experience as “quite wonderful”. Though she is well on her way to fulfilling her childhood dream of donning the doctor’s white coat, she has also taken full advantage of Brown’s unique open-curriculum, where students can design their own majors. Sadie made the rare decision to wed her pre-medicine major with another – English. It seemed to her that Brown “put too much power in her hands,” but only at first. Once she understood the chance to design her own academic track was only “terrifying” because of the great freedom given to her, she realized the value  in “the experience of branching out and choosing who I get to be.”

That great freedom makes her schedule a hodgepodge: on any given day, Sadie translates the writings of Che and Fidel from Spanish in her comparative literature class (her favorite), then crosses the College Green to Social Psychology (her second favorite), where she analyses the interconnectedness of people’s behavior, and, to cap it off, then heads home to plough through an organic chemistry textbook. But for Sadie, it all clicks: the wide variety in education she pursues only hardens her belief that “despite all of our many differences, we will always have more in common than not.”

Medicine is likely the more grueling of Sadie’s academic pursuits, but English at Brown is no softball. Her days are filled tackling thick stacks of dense reading, hefty analytical essays, and heated in-class debates, and all the while she is working to become a doctor! She credits the stellar education she received at The Little Red School House for her success. “LREI taught me time management,” something that has helped her juggle her academic, social, and extracurricular endeavors without dropping a single ball. And with Sadie’s schedule, time management is essential. Outside of the classroom, she has continued her high school traditions of both athleticism and teaching: she runs point for the Brown women’s basketball team and tutors 4th graders at a nearby elementary school in Providence. Sadie played both basketball and volleyball in high school and praises sports for both giving her a supportive community and a relief from the classroom. As well as dishing out assists on the court, she passes down the strong education she has received to others. In high school, Sadie discovered her passion for teaching when a friend mentioned the GO Project, a volunteer program that supplements the education of low-income New York children. She translated her valuable time volunteering there into her current, weekly commitment to two Providence children, whom she tutors in math, science, and English.

Sadie remembers how helpful it was this past year to have a relationship with upperclassmen who suggested interesting classes and advice on how to excel at Brown. To return the favor, next year, she will serve Brown’s incoming freshman class in the Mickel John Peer Advisor Program where she, now with a year of experience under her belt, will mentor incoming first year students. Sadie’s past, present, and her uncertain future – down the line she could be performing open-heart surgeries, writing novels, or both – is oriented towards one purpose: “I know it sounds cheesy…but in ten years I want to be making a difference.” With medical school still far over the horizon, Sadie is not sure just yet how she will be making that difference, but believes a stint with Doctors Without Borders could be in the cards. But as much as Sadie likes the idea of seeing another part of the world and serving a community in need, her heart will never leave New York: “The city has this magnetism, once you’re there, you can’t help but feel its pulse.”

Essay of the Week: Swimming Through the Love for English vs. Dyslexia

Essay of the Week: Swimming Through the Love for English vs. Dyslexia

By Danielle Quick-Holmes

The smell of chlorine signaled the excitement of a new challenge lastSpring when I entered the pool: lifeguard training. A knot grew in my stomach killing that thrill of anticipation with the trainer’s first words: “Once everyone gets here we’re going to start off with our 200, under a minute and forty. ”

I searched the bleachers for a friendly face, or a nervous one similarly intimidated by the trainer’s words.  To my surprise, everyone looked totally fine; almost a little bored. One kid was slumped down on the first bench, nodding in and out of slumber, while another girl was texting in the corner. I suddenly felt extremely unprepared.

I sat anxiously on the bench while the kid who was previously passed out in the front row, suddenly woke up and jumped in the pool–exceptionally fast and confident. Am I in a little over my head? I threw the question out of my mind as I heard the trainer’s whistle blow, and on cue, sliced into the pool just like I once dove past the obstacle of dyslexia to pursue my passion for English.

In seventh grade English, I am as lonely as I felt in the bleachers at that first session of lifeguard training. Though this time my loneliness actually comes from being prepared. No one in the class but me appears to have read the chapter of Things Fall Apart. Before class, I overhear the nervous clamor between peers:

“Who read the chapter?”

“I didn’t! Did you?”

I was spared the panic. I read and loved the chapter, especially the character development of Okonkwo’s son, Nwoye.

Class starts. Ms. Georges poses a question, precisely about Nwoye and waits for hands–any hand, to rise. I shift in my seat tucking my hands under my thighs. I know the answer, but fear raising my hand may encourage Ms. Georges to choose me to read a passage. Having to stop every few seconds to half-silently sound out a word, or ask the teacher how to pronounce something is terrifying.  

A much worse feeling than not knowing, is knowing the answer but being afraid or feeling unable to respond. It was one of the central challenges of my dyslexia.

I watched her eyes dart around the classroom – -just enough time for that all too familiar knot to rise in my stomach and my throat to tighten. After a beat, she called on Sue. I missed that bullet.

Reading aloud was always taxing, especially when I struggled to pronounce words that my peers would breeze through. But reading silently, though still difficult, proved to be worth the struggle. My hunger for the stories, the meanings and lessons behind them produced a tenacity to improve, helping me overcome this seeming disability. Whether it was my work with a learning specialist or reading aloud to myself on my bed with only Misty, my cat, as my audience, I eventually became a strong reader and English is now my favorite subject.

By eighth grade, I no longer felt held back by dyslexia. Words like ‘superfluous’ no longer read as if they were French. That year in English we read The Odyssey by Homer. Whenever the teacher asked for someone to read I often volunteered even when passages were covered in complex words. I no longer feared those tongue twisters.

My last day of lifeguard training was without fear. I had swam the 200 countless times, and I knew CPR as if my life depended on it. Everyone got in the pool for the last time waiting for the trainer’s signal. The water was freezing and I could feel my heartbeat making waves in the pool, but I was ready.  He blew the whistle and I went to work. When it was all over and I got out of the pool. The trainer broke the few seconds of silence:

“Congratulations, you are now a certified lifeguard!”

Danielle Quick-Holmes, a graduate of the Grace Church School, is a freshman at Vassar

Essay of the Week: A New Dad and a Dead Cat

Essay of the Week: A New Dad and a Dead Cat

By Sydney Stephens

A wall hits me when I walk into class–an odious aroma permeating the lab. I hesitate. So do my peers, but Ms. Wise, my anatomy and physiology teacher,  commands us to enter: “Come on in guys.”

A scalpel, pair of scissors, and a teasing needle sit atop the black lab table. A bag in the center of our tray encases a dark brown cat. Her forepaws guard her face, her hindpaws are tucked delicately beneath her thighs while her mouth remains slightly agape; if alive, she would be adorable. She reminds me of Gandalf, my neighbor’s cat who I play with when I babysit Sophie and Amanda.

I pull the cat – soaked in preservative –  out of the bag. The smell is repulsive. My three lab partners do not hide their disgust. Immediately, Emily turns her head and nose upwards. “Ughh, there is no way I’m touching that.”  

I had a similar feeling a couple of years prior when Mom began dating. “Sydney, come into the pool!”  My sister’s voice bounced off the concrete and onto the pool chair I’ve made into my private island.  

No! He decided to show up so I refused to enjoy any part of this getaway.  The “he” being Carlos, the man Mom dates. He and his daughter, Maya, tagged along on the Stephen’s Girls’ trip to Atlanta. I ignored Him, Maya and my sister, Olivia, who keeps urging me to jump in the pool. I buried my nose deeper into the book I pretended to read.

The idea of Mom dating made me feel like my dad was being replaced even though he died when I was five.  As I stared blankly into my book, my godmother’s words echoed through my mind.  “You have no idea how lucky your mother is to find a man who loves not only her, but you and your sisters as well.”

I began to feel guilty. As the oldest of three girls, I sometimes have a difficult time being immature and irrational especially when I consider the potential of my behavior rubbing off on Olivia and Lola, my other sister. I jumped into the pool for a few minutes. This big sister instinct to lead also came over me when I pulled the chemically soaked cat out of the bag and placed her on the lab tray. I looked at my lab partners to see if anyone wanted to make the first incision. Seeing hesitant faces, I grabbed the scalpel made the first cut. They looked relieved.

I found things to be bit strange at first–the cat and the new dad. (Mom married Carlos) I hadn’t lived with a man in the house for most of my life and thought he would fit the stereotype of a burping, macho man. He did not even smell and was surprisingly clean. When I picked up the cat, I was also a bit surprised at how heavy it felt in my arms. This was my first time holding a dead animal except for the snake I caught many years ago and accidentally killed by dropping a rock on it’s head.

I was actually starting to think of our cat as cute in a strange, dead-cat way. Halfway through removing the skin from the abdomen, I suggested we name our cat to make my lab partners more comfortable. We named her Philicia.

Similarly,  I became more comfortable with the presence of a man at home.  I still hold onto the memories of playing “tickle monster” with my biological dad. He would lay under a blanket “asleep” and my sisters and I would sneak up to him and run away. When he caught us, he would tickle us into loud laughter.

Mom’s marriage forced me to accept change, while still cherishing memories of my biological father. As I learned after making that first incision into Philicia, true lessons come through great challenges.

Sydney Stephens, a graduate of Providence High School in Charlotte, North Carolina, just began her freshman year at Howard University.


Essay of the Week: Summer Pride Grows into Action

Essay of the Week: Summer Pride Grows into Action

By Tsion Syoum

For most of my classmates the word summer is a verb: summering in the Hamptons, the Berkshires or the Vineyard. My summer home is in East Africa. And it really is home.

Sitting on my grandparents’ front porch in Asmara, the blazing sun hits my face and the roasty smell of Buna, traditional Eritrean coffee, consumes my senses. A girl who looks my age, 12 at the time, drags her donkey across the road. A 1997 volkswagen lumbers by, honking at the traffic of people and their attendant animals.

The vehicle disappears into a shroud of dust. I’m reminded of the tumult in this region when I was an infant. Eritrea, a new nation bordered by Ethiopia and the Red sea in the horn of Africa, won its independence from Ethiopia in a bloody war two decades ago. Dad grew up in Ethiopia, Mom was raised in Eritrea, and they found the American Dream when they met in New York.  

By the time I was born, politics had ruptured my family tree. Mom is not allowed in Dad’s homeland. My own inner-battle was not in being both Eritrean and Ethiopian. It was in being both American and East African, spoiling the excitement of a field trip in 3rd grade. “Museum of Natural History, pack lunch this time!’ my classroom advisor announced.

When we broke for lunch at the museum I looked around the table as students opened up their lunch boxes, exposing Americana:  Lunchables, Mac and Cheese, and grilled cheese. My hands became sweaty. I slowly unzipped my lunch box. The smell sprung forward.  Ethiopian food: a variety of stews and pungent spices with distinctive aromas that cling to your clothes, anchored by injera, a spongy sourdough bread. I shut it immediately hoping no one detected the foreign smell, the foreigner, amongst them. It was too late.

“What is that smell!”  

“It’s disgusting.”  

My face turned red with embarrassment. This shame faded with every trip to Eritrea in the following years. By the time I returned to school in Seventh Grade, I was ready to spotlight my culture’s vibrancy and beauty. For a project on our summer experiences, I presented a video of me brewing that potent East African coffee, Buna, at my grandma’s house. The ooh’s and ah’s from attentive peers was an affirmation that I was pretty cool after all.  

My awareness of Eritrean life beyond the coffee and Summer beauty grew after I reached peace with my heritage, I became conscious of the other side of my summer country, such as two young girls, around the age of 6, asking for water one day. Heartbroken, I solemnly obliged and as I handed them my bottle of water. Guilt washed over me.I became frank with myself. How long would that water last these distant cousins of mine? An hour? A few minutes? All I had done was give them what was expendable to me and a momentary relief for them. I decided to turn this guilt into action, and to turn short-term charity into sustainable partnership.

It was the summer before freshman year. After months of research, I decided to build a well. Eritrea’s Ministry of Water helped me find a school in the small village of Sheka Wedi Bisrat where thousands of students often missed classes, or left early to walk several miles to the nearest well to pump water to take home to their families.

My goal was to raise $25,000. I created a Gofundme page, a website, a Facebook page, and an instagram account, friending everyone. I sent links to all of my family, friends and classmates.By junior year, I reached the fundraising goal. The well was built by Christmas — around the same time that I launched my current, larger-scale campaign. It is another opportunity to support a country and a people, that will always be a part of me.

Tsion Syoum, a graduate of The Chapin School, will be a freshman at Haverford College in the fall.

Essay of the Week: From “Ragdoll” to Captain of the Football Team

Essay of the Week: From “Ragdoll” to Captain of the Football Team

By Joshua Alexander Mattingly

She glanced at my nearly bald buzz cut scalp and my bony shoulders cloaked in a yellow basketball jersey. The length of the Kobe Bryant jersey I sported fit my 6’1 frame, however, the jersey was so wide I could have fit two more Josh’s inside of it — really, there was more than enough room.  She paused mid-exhale, whispering as if telling a secret: “Do you have, like, cancer or something?” I laughed even though it wasn’t funny and assured her I didn’t have “cancer or something.”

I continued to gym class, hearing my teacher bellow: “PUSH-UPS!!” He blew his whistle. An automated voice from a speaker in the gymnasium counted: “Down-Up-One.” My arms bore a disturbing resemblance to uncooked spaghetti as they quaked underneath me. “Down-Up-Two.” I weighed a mere 140 pounds, yet it felt like I was two tons. “Down-Up-Three.”  My lanky body felt so heavy that I thought I had a better chance at physically pushing the earth down than lifting myself off the floor again. I felt myself crash to the hardwood floor.

I hated my helplessness with the simple task of doing push-ups, but I was too timid to travel onto the unpaved roads of change until one surreal moment:

He lays on his back in the middle of a 4 lane intersection in the dead of night. Someone is yelling, but to the 13 year old, it sounds as if he were underwater. He squints and strains but can’t find the source of the voice. He begins to realize that his eyelids are wide open, yet he is unable to see the world around him. He clutches his face trying to reassure himself that his eyes are still in his head. He identifies the horrific sounds of wet tires slashing over asphalt near his head. He digs his fingertips into coarse pavement and begins to slide his body towards the sidewalk. Each passing second in which he is not flattened by oncoming traffic only amplifies the feeling of trepidation he holds in his stomach. His nails grind and crack as he crawls along, devoid of two of his five senses. He clenches onto the small protrusions in the asphalt feeling his fingertips tear; his palms fill with blood. Sheer terror fuels him to continue forward. The voice straps him into a stretcher. He tries to speak back and finds that in this frightening moment of his life, he no longer possesses the ability to pronounce words. His body convulses despite his will. He cannot see, hear, speak, or move. He feels trapped. As the ambulance shudders beneath him he wonders why he has been lead so close to death yet given a second chance at life. He never saw the pickup truck that hit him. He only recalls feeling his body twirling in the air and falling like a ragdoll.

Two years later, the ragdoll stands at 230lbs in front of 30 peers with eyes fixated on him waiting for his direction as football captain. ln those two years, his contentment grows in falling in love with new things: weightlifting, science and his favorite—poetry.  

The shred of lined notebook paper in his hand read: “white, empty, fold, fire, grasshopper, sour.” Dr. Moore announces to the class: “You have a list of seemingly random words. Make a sestina using them.”  He hears sighs of frustration around the classroom while he holds the paper to the light as if he were a store clerk checking if a dollar bill is real. His gaze remains stuck on the piece of paper above him. He wonders if his classmates have taken note of his goofy posture. The 15 minute class exercise grows into his love for poetry. He begins to furiously write a sestina as the art form becomes his catharsis.

Poetry produced that fulfillment I sought as a freshman lying facedown in the gym.

Joshua Alexander Mattingly, a 2017 graduate of Stuyvesant High School, will be a freshman at Fordham University in September

Essay of the Week: A Confirmation Dilemma: Judas or Not?

Essay of the Week: A Confirmation Dilemma: Judas or Not?

By Jack Hogan

Knees locked, I stood before the altar, jolted by the words of my Confirmation teacher:

“If you do not share the beliefs of the Catholic Church or have mixed thoughts about completing your Confirmation, please talk to me or one of the Fathers here immediately.”

Her high-pitched, polite, yet stern decree sent me into a moment of panic. Or was it cold feet?  At 12, I knew that, despite the crucifix around my neck, I was an agnostic. So was I also dishonest like Judas, the ex-disciple, for participating in this confirmation?

As a Hogan, I was fighting an internal battle between my sense of family and myself. I was soon ready to approach the teacher after practice when, as if on cue, my parents arrived with proud grins. I could not do it.

Not only would my parents be crestfallen, but I would disappoint my grandparents and other extended family who were travelling to New York for the ceremony that was a specific rite of passage in my family. After all, I was a Hogan– the first of my generation to face confirmation.

I grew up in religion classes -twice a week after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I never complained. Noah’s Ark and Christ’s resurrection were more than just stories, they were once reality, the utmost truth I believed. However, as I grew intellectually in history and science, I discovered more fiction than truth in those stories; Jesus resurrecting Lazarus after he’d been dead; Jesus walking on water, or Jonah surviving inside the stomach of a fish.

However beyond that fiction lives lessons that are relevant to my life today and staples of my morality. Ultimately, my decision to be confirmed reflects the importance of family in my life and the influence of the church on my sense of right and wrong.  Whether there be truth to many of the tales in the bible, such as walking on water, raising the dead, or turning blood to wine: the lessons underlying these tales give me the courage to take the high road in a moral dilemma.

Since my First Communion, I found that major milestones of life, like confirmations, did not challenge my sense of right and wrong as much as simple, everyday experiences. My first summer job presented moments that carried me back to the lessons from the church with a test of courage that would follow me through both my years working at a private tennis court.

During my first week, a man briskly walked over to the desk, asking “Could I hop onto one of your empty courts?”  Because he was a non-member and hadn’t called the office in advance to book a court, rules required me to turn him away from the facility. Yet every court was available. Not only was he disappointed, but the company operating the courts also loses money when the courts are empty.

My coworkers, for the most part, avoided contesting this rule with my boss.  However, I’ve been lobbying against it for two years now, even though my boss’ position on the topic hasn’t changed in the slightest. I can’t divorce my persistence about this from my courage and sense of right and wrong cultivated by my religious background.

I continue to lobby, not for Christ, but because of my own sense of morality nurtured by Catholicism. The Church’s statement at the conclusion of the confirmation ceremony still ring in my soul: “…the Spirit of wisdom and understanding and courage, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence…”

Those words inspired me to wear the cross given to me a decade ago at my first communion.  I have recently turned that cross in. My mother gave me her father’s lifelong talisman; his cross. I wear it not for Christ; I wear it to represent the moral compass I’ve taken from my grandfather and my family.

Jack Hogan, a graduate of the Collegiate School, was accepted Early Decision to Bucknell.

Essay of the Week: Football’s Unexpected Lesson

Essay of the Week: Football’s Unexpected Lesson

By Brian F Bond


My quarterback’s command became a magnet for butterflies in my stomach. I barely moved. It was my first time taking a hard tackle playing ‘Peewee.’  I was floored. But then my teammate pulled me up, patted me on the back, and I took a deep breath to regain my bearings. After a minute, I was raring to go again. The metaphor for life was obvious. It was one of the first of many life lessons from football.

Since I was 9, the sport became a defining part of my character, evolving into more than just a game for me. Football was the source of my drive, focus and posed the biggest test ever to my ethics and morality.

By 8th grade, football was the centerpiece of my reputation. The next step for someone in my position was to enroll at a private boys school known throughout the country as a premier football institution. I attended a friday night game on an official recruitment visit. I stood on the field with all the players, decked out in great gear, in a fan-packed stadium. It was like an SEC college game. I could already see myself in a year: lights on, people cheering and chanting. The allure was breathtaking.

Those Friday night lights flickered the next week on my tour at the school. I spent ‘a day in the life’ of a student-athlete with a freshman football player. In my guide’s history class, the teacher’s first move was to issue the detention slips. Then, he announced and passed out a pop quiz. The room simmered with tension, even animosity.

I watched awkwardly from my desk, which felt more and more like an island, as my guide struggled, often just fidgeting, staring at the blank page. Poor guy got caught off guard, I thought. But my empathy ended soon as he sat up, straining his neck to look at others’ papers for answers. He blatantly tapped the person sitting in front of him on the back multiple times signaling for answers as if they were audibles. Some demurred. Others slid their tests over towards him. A few whispered answers to him within my earshot.

“C, A, B” uttered one guy. They were not the only cheaters.

The teacher emerged down the aisle. He arrived at my guide’s desk.

“Prepared for this quiz? Because you definitely weren’t for the last ones. Not going to fail again are you?”

He chuckled knowingly, as if he knew what was going down.

This experience went against everything I learned about life. It actually contradicted the honor and values I acquired through years of playing football. Suddenly my academic life at  Montclair Kimberley Academy, where I never witnessed anything like this, looked more appealing. Lunch will be better, I thought.

At a table with a mixture of students, the football players — tall and muscular guys–stood out. They sat, turned, spoke, and even ate with chips on their shoulders. They were rude, treating others as outsiders at the table. I had watched these guys play with an expertise years beyond their actual ages. But this conduct showed me that maturity hadn’t extended to life’s playbook.

I walked away from the promise of brighter Friday night lights and discovered I was more than just a good football player. Remaining at MKA opened my possibilities to put more time into my other passions like playing the saxophone and to discover new interests like student government. All my dreams centered on the football field when standing on the sidelines with the players at the boys school. In that moment, I could not see myself in a campaign to become student body president. Yet three years later, I ran and won. Returning to MKA for high school created my path of versatility.

From that first “hike!” –I have transferred lessons from the sport to everyday life on and off the field.   

Brian F Bond, a graduate of Montclair Kimberley Academy, will be a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business in the fall.