RCS Senior Ashley Cross during senior portrait day.

RCS Senior Ashley Cross was recently accepted into the Fall 2021 class at The University of Chicago. Founded in 1890, the University of Chicago is a private research university based in Chicago, Illinois. For 2021, the higher education institution was ranked sixth in the nation as part of the U.S. News & World Report’s 2021 Best National University Rankings.

Ms. Cross is looking to continue her studies in the school’s political science program, while concentrating on a future goal of pursuing a Master’s Degree in International Relations. She’s currently carrying a 4.0 grade point average at RCS.

"Ashley imagined the life that she wanted and combined hard work, focus and a thirst for learning to achieve that goal. Only 7.3% of applicants are accepted into the University of Chicago and the fact that a small town girl who grew up on a farm in Selkirk, New York has been accepted is truly impressive,” said RCS High School Counselor Peter Dwyer. “Ashley wants to study political science and change the world and I believe that she will make her mark. I am confident that there are younger students in our district who can follow in her footsteps, if they set their goals and work hard. Ashley is truly a role model and the RCS community should be proud of her."

To learn more about her story, view her Q&A below and learn what she’ll focus on as a part of the University of Chicago student community:

What was your vision to become a successful applicant for UChicago? Were other colleges/universities involved in your process?

I’ve always worked hard in school, taking every opportunity that RCS offered and having a perfectionist mentality at times. My mom encouraged me to do anything and everything that made me happy, and my father taught me that I should find a school where I can be both academically and financially successful. This led me to push myself harder in school and find a college with academic rigour, generous financial aid, and a close-nit campus culture. I seriously considered a lot of East Coast schools for most of my college search, with Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Georgetown, and Princeton being at the top of my list. These schools were all golden choices in the eyes of many, but I was still waiting for that defining moment where I felt a connection to one single school. I went to a few college tours hosted by neighboring high schools and that is how I learned about the University of Chicago. This college somehow felt right. UChicago was not only perfect academically, but also had $1 milkshakes, a World Record treasure hunt, house games, and polar plunge competitions. I knew that if I got in, I would be amongst some of the most intelligent, adventurous peers of any student population. So, the summer before senior year, I buckled down and spent a ton of time on my essays. Like a ton of other students, I was worried about not having an interesting or heart wrenching story about my life that would guarantee an acceptance. Instead, I focused on some of the most mundane aspects of my life and gave my own spin on it. I wrote about spies and their significance in my life, how a tongue twister on bitter butter could lead to a new recipe, and how my community shaped who I am today. I genuinely think these weird and honest essays made me stand out in such a competitive application pool.

Was your strategy created as a result of your experiences at RCS?

RCS had a larger impact in my application strategy than previously expected. Growing up, I thought that going to a smaller school was a disadvantage because we didn’t have clubs that went to nationals every year or fifteen AP classes to take. But, I think going to RCS actually helped me along the college process and shaped how I viewed the ideal college environment. Our small student population meant that I could be a part of a bunch of different clubs and hold multiple leadership positions without too many overlaps. I was able to have a close connection to my guidance counselor and teachers, who introduced me to programs outside of school that I might like to be a part of and who wrote amazing recommendations for my application. My application was so much more personal because the teacher whose class I worked hard in, was also my drama director or student council advisor. My strategy in applying to a tough school like UChicago was to take this intimate school environment and use it as an asset in my application process.

Moving forward, what direction do you want to take at the University of Chicago? Are there larger plans postcollege?

My main focus for the first couple years of college is to establish myself into campus culture and take advantage of internship opportunities. UChicago has an amazing international internship network, and I’m excited to possibly spend a semester or summer abroad gaining work experience. As of right now, I intend to major in political science to eventually receive a Master’s Degree in International Relations. I also love biology and music, and am excited to pursue both through electives and extracurriculars and possibly take up a minor in either. Who knows, maybe getting a taste of all my passions will lead me down a different path in the future. As of now, I’m excited to use all of my resources at the University of Chicago to one day become a foreign diplomat or United Nations Ambassador.