Vilic earns full ride to Washington University

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Leyla Vilic

Melisa Vilic (12) sitting amongst her many acceptance letters. She will be going to WashU on a full ride scholarship.

The college admissions process is stressful and tedious under normal circumstances, and even worse when seniors are expected to apply during a pandemic. 

New restrictions, limits on students’ applications, and the inability to meet with people in person are all drawbacks that have affected the impending doom of applying to college and making a decision. Students all over have been forced to adapt to ever constant change.

Melisa Vilic, however, has taken these challenges in stride and used it to her advantage. 

“Even though the pandemic forced us to change the routines we had gotten used to, there were also some good things that I, and other students, benefitted from,” Vilic (12) says.

Recently accepted to Washington University in St. Louis on a full ride scholarship, Vilic feels like the pandemic “offered some positive changes.” With COVID-19 affecting the standardized tests that were a requirement for admissions, almost all colleges went either test-optional or test-blind.

“Standardized tests put kids in a box, and admissions officers sorted through applicants based on the scores they received,” said Vilic. “The pandemic forced colleges to look past one test and into students’ essays and GPA, which benefited a lot of people.”

Vilic, a student in the Early College Academy and involved in a number of extracurriculars, received $65,000 from the Enterprise Holdings scholarship. This program supports talented students who show excellence in academics, leadership, and community service. Andrew C. Taylor, executive chairman of Enterprise Holdings, is a Washington University graduate and trustee who invests in students who demonstrate financial need. 

“I was one out of 20 students in my entering class that was fortunate enough to receive the scholarship from the Taylor family,” said Vilic. “They are making my journey at Wash. U. possible.”

Along with the Enterprise Holdings, Vilic received the WashU Pledge scholarship. The WashU Pledge is a way for doors to open for underprivileged yet capable students. It allows students that attend Washington University to go to college for free so that they can focus on their studies and their careers, instead of worrying about how they will afford attending a high-rated university.

“I chose WashU not just because of their impressive rating and education. I decided to commit to WashU because they cared about their students and are willing to go above and beyond to provide for us. It really feels like home,” said Vilic.

My parents are Bosnian war refugees, and their life story has inspired me to do my best and strive for success. Their hard life influenced my decision to work hard in school and to be a good role model for my sisters.”

— Melisa Vilic

Vilic had already been accepted to 17 other schools before she made the life-changing decision of committing to her dream school. The senior said she decided to “shoot for the stars” when she applied. Coming from a middle class immigrant family, Vilic will be the first out of her family to attend a university in the US. 

“When that acceptance letter came, it was such a huge deal for not only me, but my family,” said Vilic. “My parents are Bosnian war refugees, and their life story has inspired me to do my best and strive for success. Their hard life influenced my decision to work hard in school and to be a good role model for my sisters.”

Vilic was always hardworking and focused on rising to her potential. She began working at 15, and most of the time would maintain 2 jobs. Along with working, she was dedicated to her schoolwork in order to achieve her goal. Even though WashU was her top school, Vilic was worried about how her family would manage to pay the high price tag of the university at an estimated cost of $80,000 per year.

“Washington University is one of the best rated colleges in the US,” said Vilic. “Obviously, it was a very stressful time while I was waiting for my decision. It’s really hard to get in, but I didn’t want to be scared of what might happen. I went for it because I wanted to, and the outcome was definitely a dream come true.” 

Washington University in St. Louis is the 15th best rated college in the US according to Niche, and has an acceptance rate of 14%. Even though Vilic was a qualified candidate, it was still very stressful for the OHS senior because all WashU applicants are highly qualified.  

“Colleges always say they want someone unique, and for applicants to be themselves. Everyone’s their own person, but we all want to shoot for perfection because that’s what we think we are expected to be,” said Vilic.

The student gained more confidence in her abilities and who she is from the college admissions process. Her advice to other students who will apply for college is to take your time. The admissions process is a chance for students to examine themselves, and they need time and multiple opinions to make their applications as best they can. Vilic thinks that students should pour their heart out in their admissions essay, and to write it based on who they are.

I decided to commit to WashU because they cared about their students and are willing to go above and beyond to provide for us. It really feels like home.”

— Melisa Vilic

Vilic’s own essay focused on how others’ judgments of her made her more determined to be successful, and how she grew from the experience. She showed colleges that she can adapt to tough situations, and that she’s committed to be the best person and student she can. 

“So many people write their essays like they write research papers for classes, monotone and flat,” said Vilic. “The admission essay is a way for schools to look at who you are and why they should give you the opportunity to be a part of their community. It should be heartfelt and show them who you are based on personal experiences.”

Vilic will be graduating with both a high school diploma and an Associate’s degree from being a part of the Early College Academy at St. Louis Community College this year. As she begins her journey at WashU’s College of Arts and Sciences, Vilic plans on majoring in Chemistry on a pre-med track and minoring in both Mathematics and Spanish. 

“I’m looking forward to meeting new classmates and applying for a dorm,” said Vilic. “I can’t wait to start studying my passions and making a life for myself as an adult.”