Scholarship programs, unique resources attract star students

Shravya Jasti with students from a high school in Vijayawada, India, during a public speaking and creative writing summer camp in 2016 organized by her own nonprofit, Speak for the Future. Photo courtesy Shravya Jasti.

Shravya Jasti, an incoming freshman from New Jersey, spent her high school senior year doing research on water contamination, which led her to state and national science fairs. Jasti has also done biomedical research at Stanford University and University of Pennsylvania, and, among other things, founded her own nonprofit speech and creative writing camp for students in rural India.

Speaking over the phone, however, Jasti comes off so down-to-earth that one might never suspect how many accomplishments she has already tucked under her belt.

Jasti is one of the more than 2,000 freshmen who will become newly minted Hurricanes this fall, and among them are other scholars, athletes, artists and global citizens.

According to the Office of Admission, the average ACT scores and GPAs have increased in the 2016-2017 applicant pool compared to previous year’s pool. The size of the entering Early Decision group, students for whom the University of Miami was their first choice, has doubled this year.

For Jasti, UM was not initially at the top of her college prospects. But meeting with faculty, current students and receiving the full-tuition Singer Scholarship helped her reimagine a clear future at UM.

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Shravya Jasti with students from a high school in Vijayawada, India, during a public speaking and creative writing summer camp in 2016 organized by her own nonprofit, Speak for the Future. Photo courtesy Shravya Jasti.

“The sticking point was when I met with the current Foote Fellows and Singer Scholars. They were studying their passions and combining them,” Jasti said. “One of the Singer Scholars was a Computer Science major and also pursuing art at the same time. He wouldn’t have been able to do that if he had gone to another school.”

Jasti will be entering as a neuroscience major and said she hopes to pursue medicine as a neurologist or neurosurgeon.

For students like Jasti and Derricka Neysmith, programs at UM like the Foote Fellowship provide more flexibility to pursue other interests.

Neysmith is a first-generation college student from the Cayman Islands. She was recognized for earning the highest AS level score in Travel and Tourism in the world, part of the testing system used by the United Kingdom and territories. At the same time, she played soccer for the Cayman Islands in association football, playing as a starter in the CONCACAF (The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) girls championship.

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Derricka Neysmith, right, blocks an opponent at a beach soccer tournament in August 2016. Neysmith, a first-generation college student, played for the Cayman Islands in the continental championships, CONCACAF. Photo courtesy Derricka Neysmith.

Neysmith, who plans to earn a BBA in accounting as a Global Business Scholar, chose UM because of its business school’s reputation and its proximity to home. However, she anticipates Miami will be an adjustment.

“I have been sipping coconut water and snorkeling on my 22-mile island for all my life, so moving to the U.S. will be a drastic change,” Neysmith said.

Freshman neuroscience major Jason Barraza said diversity made UM stand out. Barraza has not only done neuroscience research at Northwestern University but has also studied Chinese language and culture.

“I became interested in attending UM when I visited for a scholarship weekend and saw how many different people were here,” Barraza said.

Barraza went to China on a cultural exchange program funded by the Department of State. Barraza said he looks forward to studying abroad during his time at UM in Asia or Europe.

Incoming journalism major Abigail Adeleke, who is minoring in Chinese herself, also embodies the global scope of the UM campus. Like Barraza, Adeleke originally hails from Chicago. She also holds a dual citizenship with the United Kingdom as a British Nigerian-American.

Adeleke first became interested in UM’s photojournalism degree and was ultimately drawn in by the offer of a full-tuition Hammond Scholarship.

“Once that news was released, I knew that this was where I wanted to spend my next four years,” Adeleke said.

Many students say they were drawn in by Miami’s unique facilities and resources.

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Peter Aronson, who has been pursuing his interest in marine biology for years, said that spending a summer at RSMAS as a high school student solidified his interest in UM. Photo courtesy Peter Aronson.

The Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS), situated on picturesque Virginia Key, attracts aspiring marine biologists from around the country like Peter Aronson, from Blacksburg, Virginia. Aronson said doing a Summer Scholar’s Program at RSMAS convinced him he wanted to earn his degree at Miami. He spent a semester at The Island School, a boarding school in the Bahamas, and conducted marine biology research at The College of William and Mary in high school.

“One of the main reasons I applied to UM was because the shark research and conservation internship is something unique to the school; no other university has an opportunity like that for undergraduates.”

Aronson hopes to be on the shark team at RSMAS, and his dream is to pursue a Ph.D. at the James Cook University in Australia.

Marley Harris-Deans, a singer-songwriter from Las Vegas who has opened for Bon Jovi on tour, chose to attend the Frost School of Music because of the Musicianship, Artistry Development, and Entrepreneurship (MADE) major. Harris-Deans said she liked that the curriculum provided “a well-rounded education that enables you to pursue many different avenues in the music industry.”

Transfer freshman Noah Skurtu, who is joining the 2018 musical theater class after spending a year at Tennessee, said Miami was one of his top choices in Bachelor of Fine Arts programs based on the faculty and the location.

“I knew Miami was the right place for me,” Skurtu said.” Great city, great musical theater program, and a great opportunity for me to become the artist I want to be.”