LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Competition and higher standards have made admission into the nation's top colleges and universities more difficult for today's youth, which makes the accomplishment of this year's graduating class at Out-of-Door Academy all the more remarkable.
All 56 members of the Class of 2012 have been accepted into college and have earned a combined $7 million in scholarships, which equates to $132,000 per recipient during four years or roughly $33,000 per school year.
The scholarship money earned set a school record and shattered the previous record, established last year, by $2 million.
"It's pretty unique," said Joe Runge, Out-of-Door's college counselor.
Some of the institutions the students will be attending in the fall includeAmherst College, Columbia University, Emery University, Rhode Island School of Design, Colgate University, University of Southern
California and Wake Forest. The class owns a collective grade point average of 3.26 and 98 percent of the class was accepted into at least one college or university with a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, which is viewed as the highest academic honor society in the country.
Students at ODA begin college counseling in the sixth grade.
"I've been here 14 years and I have never felt more prepared to take the next step in my life," said Nicolai Israileff, the third sibling in his family to graduate from ODA and who will study business at Stetson University.
"I was committed since the seventh grade," said Morgan Williams, who will study chemistry at Columbia. "I knew I had to make goals for myself and learn the process so that I would be a good candidate for the schools I wanted to attend."
Thirty percent of the students have been admitted to an honors program, which, according to Runge, would require a student being placed in the top percentile of the incoming class, 94 percent have received unsolicited scholarships and 61 percent will be attending a private university.
Interestingly, 70 percent of the students will be attending school out of state. Runge, who has been a college counselor for more than 21 years, said more colleges are accepting applications from students in fast-growing states like Florida to increase their popularity.
"Standards are much higher," he said.
"Over the past 20 years, because of higher accessto four-year and two-yearcolleges, the competition to get into the top 200 schools has been incredibly fierce. Ninety-percent of people that got into college 20 to 25 years ago would not gain admission to those same colleges today, including Ivy League."
Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-741-0411, ext. 7049. Twitter: @_1NickWilliams