The argument has oscillated over the years between “you can’t have it all” and “you can have it all,” but the final decision lies in what exactly it is you want and why you want it. For generations of students, the idea of doing it all has become a checklist of experiences for the college application. In doing it all, many don’t stop to experience any one part. Emma Zimmermann, however, is entering college this year with an exhaustive list of activities and experiences under her belt, all of which she pursued with intention, purpose, and heart.
Emma’s all includes an IB Diploma from Bryan High School, Top 6% ranking, Drum Major, two advanced foreign language pathways, and a slew of camps, internships, and organizations. Each time a new experience came available, Emma pounced. “It’s important to have a full schedule,” she says. Ultimately, Emma doesn’t want to sit around. While she doesn’t find it necessarily important to be busy, she does have a strong inclination to pursue various experiences in order to grow.
Upon entering high school, Emma found herself stressing about the pathway to college. Having a parent educated in Germany, she felt she needed to establish more knowledgeable resources, and early. As a sophomore, her father encouraged her to join Avant Garde - College Prep Services (AGP) as a consultation client. Mr. Zimmermann knew his daughter had big plans, but neither of them knew how to create the actionable steps required for her to achieve them. According to Mr. Zimmermann, “Avant-Garde may have helped me more than Emma, as she was able to talk to someone who speaks the high school-to-college language and knows their stuff. I’m no dummy but just the IB orientation at Bryan High was over my head.” Robb Jenson pushed her beyond her initial goals by helping her discover the dream within that dream.
By the following summer, Emma was attending Pre-Law Camp at SFA, the first step in establishing her specific goals within a pursuit of law. Returning home as a junior, she worked to create experiences marketable for a pre-law student, including contacting the Debate Club leaders, and planning her summer internships for the upcoming break. Interning with Shane Phelps gave her insight into the world of criminal defense, and Robb helped her explore immigration law as a self-directed study. Emma credits these experiences with assuring herself that law is the right fit for her. Now, it was just a matter of deciding on an undergraduate home and major.
From the beginning of her college prep work, Emma felt strongly about attending UT-Austin, and as a top 6% graduate, her admission was no question. Still, she wanted to prove that she belonged there, that she had a story to tell, goals to pursue, and that she wanted to do so at UT specifically. The essay process was her time to shine. Emma sat with Robb, virtually, to begin brainstorming, and developed the idea of using her favorite marching show piece, Armenian Dances, as an extended metaphor through which to discuss transition, growth, leadership, and all things high school experience.
While the essay came quickly, Emma says she felt rather overwhelmed when it came to navigating all of the required short essay responses and scholarship essays. Thanks to Robb’s guidance, she was able to draft a handful of essays that could be tweaked, molded, and revised to fit a variety of needs. “Without Robb,” she says, “I would have started from scratch every time, instead of learning how to revise my existing pieces to fit new prompts.” Her favorite piece was for the Communication Honors Program, in which she discussed the novel 1984 as an example of ways in which communication can be either helpful or abused.
Part of the college application process is deciding on a major that fits your ultimate goals, while also being a good fit to your academic needs and preferences. After much discussion and reflection, Emma decided to pursue Communication as her pre-law degree, stating, “Communications allows for ample opportunity outside of law, but still acts as good preparation for law school.” She also believes Communication will provide her a broader foundation upon which to build, just in case her dreams evolve over time, or new career paths develop in the legal field.
By applying early (in September), Emma was able to finalize her acceptance in October, begin applying for the selective Moody College of Communication Honors Program, and accept that offer by January. This made for an early spring focused on scholarship essays (for which she was awarded over $30,000 in scholarship assistance), instead of stressing over acceptance. This fall, Emma will be marching with the Showband of the South, UT’s band, while balancing classes, and continuing volunteer work. While she jumped onto the literal “band” wagon on a whim, she believes the college experience will be more joyous with her favorite activity to focus on.
Emma’s success, focus, and grit are no surprise to anyone who knows her. According to her father, “Emma was able to navigate to high school graduation with an IB certificate with little to no help from us. She sets goals and is determined to reach them.” Lisa Prejean, Chair of Bryan High’s IB Department, shared this with us, and it is too good to not include every single word:
“As an inquirer, Emma was genuinely interested in the research question for her Extended Essay: To what extent did German immigrants influence politics in Central Texas from 1845 to 1865? She was tenacious in her pursuit of information, combing through journals, books, and letters and personally interviewing local experts on the topic.
Emma also exhibits an open-minded outlook. During class, Emma contributed immeasurably to the quality of classroom dialogue. Often, Emma suggested a thoughtful and mature critique of a work and effectively communicated her analysis to her peers. She also acknowledged and respected the perspectives of her classmates, creating a strong sense of rapport and trust.
As a leader, Emma radiated her caring and passionate nature. Emma served as an integral member of the BHS Band as the drum major, which taught her invaluable lessons about leadership and principles. She utilized those skills to mentor and challenge her classmates to achieve their goals with integrity and honesty.”
Emma, it was a joy working with you over the last few years. We are proud of you, and are beyond excited to see you develop at UT-Austin.