The One Who (Almost) Got Away

CALS Agroecology student Eliza Hardy

Eliza Hardy’s family is Wolfpack from way back: Her great-great-great grandfather, Perrin Busbee, was NC State’s first football coach from 1892 to 1897. When it came time for college applications, NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences was Eliza’s top choice.

Until her application was first deferred, then put on a waiting list.

“I was really upset — literally all of my friends were going, and I had been looking forward for so long to pursuing our dreams together in college,” Eliza said. “I was like, ‘what did I do differently that I didn’t get in?’”

CALS Agroecology student Eliza Hardy waters plantsShe looked to her high school academic record for answers. Eliza had always been a stellar student and hard worker, passing five Advanced Placement classes in her junior year. But a bad bout with mononucleosis her senior year meant she missed a month of school and had to drop all but one AP class.

There was no way to be certain, but Eliza feared she had lost her only shot at her dream school — and CALS almost missed out on a great student.

Like Eliza, many students’ paths to CALS aren’t the most direct or traditional — and their stories have been inspiring change in Patterson Hall. Administrators are currently revamping the communications sent during the CALS admissions process to better frame all available paths to CALS. And admissions is broadening its view of what makes a great CALS student to include factors like grit and passion for the field.

“This is a very important issue, and we have a lot of smart, dedicated people working on it,” Dean Richard Linton said. “We’re letting students know that if you get that letter saying you haven’t been accepted, don’t forget your dream. There is a way to get here.”

Never Settle

CALS Agroecology student Eliza Hardy stands by a fenceDuring Eliza’s waiting list doldrums at CALS, two other universities accepted her for her strong academic and extracurricular record. Eliza paid her deposit to her second-choice school and prepared to attend in the fall, swallowing her disappointment.

Then, two weeks after graduation, she got the letter: she was accepted into CALS’ new Spring Connections program. She completed her fall semester at her second-choice school, and has been at CALS ever since. Because of the advising and help available through Spring Connections, she was able to ensure that all of her classes were relevant, with credits that transferred fully toward her CALS degree in agroecology.

At the root of Eliza’s drive to get to CALS: grit — and a powerful sense of purpose.

“I want to discover something that changes the way we farm around the world, that’s completely applicable to farmers regardless of income, and to change agriculture for the better,” Eliza said. “That goal is what pushed me: I didn’t want to settle. Food insecurity and discovering sustainable ways to farm are such important issues, and I knew that CALS is a great place to study them.”

There’s More Than One Path to CALS

Find Your Path

This post was originally published in College of Agriculture and Life Sciences News.