Individualized Paths, Communal Support

Students at Pinewood are encouraged to inquire, engage, and be aspirational. In finding the right fit, students explore and are accepted to some of the most competitive schools in their fields of interest. Our students win prestigious merit scholarships for their strong academic performance and accolades for their artistic and athletic endeavors. In Pinewood's College Counseling program, each student undertakes an individualized journey with the full support of Pinewood's faculty and administration. 

This week, we're featuring six members of the Class of 2019 as they share – in their own words – what's next for them after graduation.

Deana Kajmakovic
Southern Methodist University

I am beyond humbled and excited to be attending Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, as a Hunt Scholar and double majoring in Marketing and Political Science. I started the college admissions process last September determined to take what I thought was the easy route: I wanted to attend the University of British Columbia, where I was almost guaranteed admission as a Canadian citizen to one of the top business programs in North America and would be close to my family in Vancouver, a city I had spent part of my childhood in. But Mr. Coote kept nagging at me, and I decided to step out of my comfort zone and apply to a couple of other schools that had caught my eye. I was fortunate enough to be offered a spot in the incoming freshman classes at UBC, SMU, and Georgetown University. When that last acceptance letter came in, everyone around me thought my choice was obvious: how could I possibly turn down Georgetown? And for a while, I convinced myself that that was what I wanted, but something always just felt off. I decided to apply for SMU’s Hunt Leadership Scholarship Program, which awards a small group from each incoming freshman class with access to the most valuable resources and connections that SMU has to offer, and traveled to the campus in Dallas for my interview as a finalist. It was there that I met several other future Mustangs who shared the same bright look in their eye when they talked about something they loved that I saw in myself, and I realized that these were people that I could one day call family. When I was awarded the scholarship, I was still hesitant––what about UBC? What about all my plans? What about Georgetown? But when I looked at my options with Mr. Coote––three exceptional schools––one clearly stood out as ready to give me everything I could possibly want or need to succeed: SMU. By demonstrating their unwavering support for my ambitions since day one and showing me how they were a perfect fit for the person I hope to become over the next four years, SMU made what once seemed like an impossible choice easy, and I haven’t looked back since.

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Cecile Smith
University of St Andrews, Scotland

There's a little irony in being born and raised in Silicon Valley, yet traveling as far as possible away to study computer science. But for me, the entire college application process felt a bit dull. They constantly remind us that there are thousands of universities to choose from in the US, but none of them really called my name. It was only when I realized that you can apply to schools internationally that I started to be excited about the process. I wanted to leave the US for a number of reasons, but the biggest was that I want to experience a new world completely, unlike everything I've grown up knowing. My initial inspiration came from an article we read in literature about the difference between British and American children's literature. It talked about things like the mystical aura of woods in Scotland and England, and of the ancient ruins and medieval castles you can find there, and how those were the inspiration to books like "Harry Potter." I've always loved Europe, and I love being in structures that were built long before the US even existed; St Andrews was founded in 1413. The idea of attending university there was much more exciting than anywhere in the US. Choosing computer science was the easier part. Two of my favorite subjects have always been math and art, and programming lets you be creative with your math, especially in areas like game design. 

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Neel Khattri
United States Military Academy - Army West Point

At this moment in time, I see my life heading towards the military and possibly law enforcement afterward; I feel it’s the best way to give back to my community. While volunteering over the summer at the Palo Alto VA Hospital, I was able to make a personal connection with many veterans who inspired me to join. I felt that West Point would help shape me into the best version of myself possible because it is designed to prepare officers while also providing a great education. West Point is a challenge and no easy ride which is why I like it a lot. I feel the greatest things in life come from the hardest work.



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Thomas Ahrens
University of Rochester

I will be studying physics at the University of Rochester next year. I chose UR mostly because of its strong research opportunities. The Physics department is small, but highly regarded, and has produced several Nobel Prize laureates in the past 20 years. Pinewood was very helpful in my college application/decision process. Mr. Coote was extremely helpful because he looked over my essays, responses, and provided advice on pretty much every part of my application, while still allowing my voice to be heard. Many teachers as well, Mr. Amarnath in particular, have given me lots of advice on future classes and opportunities I will have in college.


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Elizabeth Peters
Rochester Institute of Technology

Next year, I will be attending Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York, to study New Media Design. New Media Design is, in essence, design for all new media. The program at RIT is a mix of design for user interfaces, user experience, digital product design, interactive design, human-computer interaction, as well as design thinking. I also plan on minoring in game design and development. I've always loved art and drawing, but I also loved technology, engineering, and computer science. To study exclusively engineering or computer science would leave my creative side unfulfilled, while studying pure art would push me away from my love for tech. New media design and game design at RIT will allow me to explore both my passion for design and my passion for tech!

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Hitsch Daines
Ukraine, Stanford University

After graduation, I’ll be leaving to serve a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Kyiv, Ukraine. For the next two years, I’ll be living in Ukraine and spending all of my time talking to people about my faith and trying to serve the people that I meet there. After I return home, I’ll be attending Stanford University. I’m not sure what I want to study yet, but I am interested in history and economics. 

I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to serve a mission. My religion is the most important thing in my life, and has brought my family and me so much happiness. I wanted to be able to share that with others and help them experience that same joy. In terms of education, I chose Stanford because it’s a great school. I love the academic freedom and flexibility they offer and how students are encouraged to find their own unique interests and passions. I wanted an environment that would push me academically and help me grow as a student and a person, and I felt like Stanford offered that. The campus is an amazing environment because you’re surrounded by tons of inspiring people who want to change the world. 

See where everyone in the Class of 2019 is headed after graduation >>


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