Cleo Spear (Class of 2014) shares her study journey through the university system in the US, sharing advice to help anyone thinking about the possibility.
My story post-OFGS is still very much in full motion but having had so many unexpected and amazing opportunities, I will begin with how I ended up in the US. During my final school semester, a college in Pennsylvania, USA, recruited me to play soccer. At the same time, I also planned to attend University in Newcastle and had to make the decision between staying in Australia and taking the chance on a University in the United States. The University’s Women’s Soccer Coach had reached out to me to see if I would like to become a member of their team and play at the collegiate level Division II. In the states, the level of play is from amateur to professional and is categorised by Division I, II and III. Division I is the highest level you can play while at the collegiate level after that, you turn professional. I was fortunate to have earned both an academic and athletic scholarships and decided to accept the offer to study abroad at The Lincoln University. Interestingly for me, sport was always just a hobby; something that I enjoy and I did not pursue this pathway in the hope of becoming a professional athlete but it did became a pathway for me to study internationally.
Photo: Aspects of Lincoln University
Fun Fact: Lincoln University was the first degree-granting historically black university in America (HBCU). Built in 1854 during a time when racial tensions were extremely high and America was divided between slave state and non-slave state. The campus was actually one of the stops for the Underground Railroad (a secret network to transport slaves into free states and safe houses). The university itself is located in rural Pennsylvania amongst a small Amish population. It was quite odd when I was at six a.m. practice on the field and an Amish buggy would be clip clopping by!
My first year at Lincoln was definitely a culture shock. I also found myself homesick. However, once I started to adapt and make some good friends, I ended up having a fantastic college experience. I now miss college! The friends I made during my time at Lincoln I now consider my family for life. It just took time. I grew in confidence within my environment and at the same time felt like I was being adopted into another family.
Photo: Cleo on the field and her Soccer team
I completed a double degree in Anthropology and Sociology, graduating with Honors. I was a member of the Women’s Soccer team for all four years and as a team, we had the chance to travel to different states to play matches. I also became a member of the Track and Field Team and Women’s Cross Country team where I competed in two sports during the same semester. It is rare for this to occur as it is extremely time-consuming and the athletic department must approve student-athletes that chose to take on the extra workload at a DII level. If I was not away traveling for a meet or game you could find me at practice, in class or at my job as a Resident Advisor. After my sophomore year, I became more involved and joined multiple organizations. By my senior year, I was the Vice President of the Environmental Sustainability Club, the Vice President of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. Being a member on the board of these organizations allowed me to attend all-expenses-paid conferences in places such as Atlanta, D.C, Virginia and Orlando.
Photo: Cleo on graduation day. Lincoln University is a Liberal Arts College so although I did have my main areas of concentration, I also had the opportunity to take courses outside of my faculty. I also was on track to graduate a year early however decided that I did not want to leave and wanted to complete a few more classes such as African Comparative Politics and Ceramics! Post-graduation I bounced around some places on the east coast from Baltimore to Philedpehia, New Jersey and ended up in New York. I applied for multiple jobs, went to rounds of interviews and then after about a month, I received a job offer for a recruitment company located in Manhattan. Living in Brooklyn, I am now enjoying my new job in a new city!
My advice for anyone who is interested in attending an American College; for starters, you will need to take the SATs. They do not recognize the HSC. Although, some HSC classes do classify as Advance Placement (AP) and accepted as college credits. For me during school, I took Advanced English, Biology and Mathematics, which all became college credits allowing me to skip basic 101 freshman courses! For the SAT’s you have to take them in Australia and certain schools offer the SAT exam usually on a Saturday morning. I sat the test twice once at Queenwood and then at Macquarie University (you can take it as many times as you please, statistically for most the second time will be your highest score). It is about 4 hours long and you have one ten minute break. I prepped for the SAT’s by attending SAT preparation courses in the city for four weeks. I also used the study guide book that included practice tests as it was very different from what I had learned at Oxford Falls Grammar, not so much the material but the approach to taking the exam itself. Moreover, if you wish to play a sport, you have DIII, DII, and DI levels. You can reach out to coaches by finding their email on the college or universities website or sign up for an agency. I was fortunate enough to be selected by a scouting recruit company that promoted me to the US, but you can definitely get yourself recruited just as easily. They will ask you for video footage and SAT scores.
Well that is my journey to date! If you have any questions at all feel free to reach out to me via our community network here. I will get in contact with you as soon as I can.