The Scots College Old Boys' Union

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Luca Ace-Nasteski ('21) & Will Fowler ('22) at Harvard

Leading the Way the USA

The opportunity to study overseas is one that only a few graduates take up but one that many adults wish they had enjoyed.

Some Old Boys have navigated the application process and used their athletics talents to secure a place at some of the best universities in the United States.

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Thomas Yassmin ('17) playing for the University of Utah Football team

Academics First. Sport Second.

The Scots community, and the Australian sports fraternity, have heard about the great success of Thomas Yassmin (’17) who is in his final year at The University of Utah, studying a Masters in Statistics (after completing a double degree in Applied Mathematics and Quantitative Analysis) whilst playing tight end in the University’s top-tier American Football team. At a recent Senior School Assembly, Thomas shared his practical wisdom. He wanted to play professional football while earning a degree, “After school, academics was the lead, but I wanted to think about the long game. I’m proud of my academic results at Scots. Going to college in America allowed me to do both.”

Former Head Prefect, Nathan Zylstra (’18), had a similar desire. He combined strong school academic results with his Rugby Union talents as a 1st XV hooker to be recruited by the University of California Berkeley Rugby program.

“I wanted to combine a world-class education while playing rugby at a Division 1 level with the oldest and most successful university rugby team in the United States,” he said. While Nathan has just graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Environmental Economics and Policy) degree, Luca Ace-Nasteski (’21) and Will Fowler (’22) have just started their first (freshman) years at Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts.

Will loved the idea of studying at a world-renowned university like Harvard, but he “didn’t have much of an idea” about what to study in Australia. “I didn’t want to end up doing something I didn’t really enjoy,” he said. American universities with their undergraduate liberal arts education (doing a broad selection of subjects for your first two years before deciding on a major to concentrate on for your final two years) really appealed to Will.

Then, after he broke six Australian records on the rowing machine in early 2022, The Ivy League universities came knocking. Famous universities, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton and Yale, all offered him spots in their rowing squads. Will chose the Harvard Crimson.

When Luca Ace-Nasteski (’21) decided to give professional basketball a ‘real go’ after Scots, but didn’t want it to compromise obtaining a degree, the United States was the obvious choice. Although Will and Luca used their sporting talents to be recruited and guided through the arduous Harvard application process, Luca’s main recommendation to Scots boys looking to apply in the United States was, “start the application process early!”.

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Nathan Zylstra (’18) playing Rugby at the University of California Berkeley

More Than Results on a Page

Until there is greater alignment in the US and UK university admissions processes for Australian high school graduates, the application process will not be a simple one, but the benefits far outweigh the costs.

What can assist your chances, particularly in the United States, lies in your actions away from the classroom. From additional entrance exams to personal essays and a track record of extracurricular activities, leadership and community service, the top universities in the US want to know more about what makes you, you.

Angus Henricks (’20), who is studying at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut with a volleyball scholarship, found the application process challenging. “There were many aspects that were different to the Australian standard. Then you add to that the athletic recruitment and the lengthy communication between the coaches. You need to stay very organised in that regard,” he said.

For Luca and Will at Harvard, much of the admissions emphasis was on more than academic accomplishments alone. On top of an entrance essay, all prospective students interview with a local Harvard alumnus who helps identify an applicant’s strength of character, ability to overcome adversity and other personal qualities.

The Ivy League universities are looking for top minds, top athletes and individuals who are engaged in their community and involved in extracurricular activities (on top of sport), so that successful applicants will become active students on campus and be positive social citizens – alumni representatives – after graduation.

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Angus Henricks (’20), a student at Sacred Heart University, Connecticut, on a volleyball scholarship.

Keeping Track of Time

Varsity program ‘student athletes’ are required to study full time and maintain a minimum standard of academic results to keep their place in the sports program and university. That is on top of training, competing locally and often travelling interstate for regular season games.

“Being a student athlete is a full-time job,” said Nathan. “While at Scots, and particularly in my later years, learning the ability to effectively manage my time was a big part of life at Scots that set me up for success at university. At Berkeley, training, meetings and medical treatment took up about 30 hours every week, whilst also having to perform in the classroom, so time management was key. It was tough.”

“It’s pretty full on,” Luca said. “It’s basically half a day of class and half a day of sport with a few hours to wind down by studying at night and relaxing.”

Although it is a heavy schedule, Will finds being a student athlete provides him with a healthy balance.

“The athlete part of my life is where I am doing something I enjoy and having that competitiveness between teammates and a desire to win. Comparatively, being a full-time student takes me away from thinking about sport 24/7, whilst giving me an opportunity to hear from world-leading professors. A cool fact is that often the book prescribed for class is written by the professor teaching the class.”

Like Will, Thomas finds that his focus in academics and sport must be equal. “Our coaches say, ‘If you’re a good student in the classroom, you’ll be a good student on the field’. I felt like I took those morals from Scots and carried them through to college.”

All our Old Boys have commented that The Scots College’s balance of academics, sport and extracurricular activities has been fantastic preparation for life in the USA.

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Angus Henricks (’20) with his family on the sidelines.

This American Life

Whilst their timetables are intense – sleep-ins are rare – these student athletes will always remember this experience.

“I know it sounds pretty cliché, but just being able to travel and meet all of these different people in the United States has been such a highlight,” Angus said.

Although there is not a lot of difference in the pop culture of Australia and the United States these days, the everyday cultural differences were an interesting learning curve for the boys.

For Angus, driving on the opposite side of the road was an obvious one, but the “bizarre custom of tipping at every available opportunity – that was definitely a surprise.”

Although Nathan was taken aback by the polarising political climate, and how little many Americans know about what happens outside the USA, he was pleasantly surprised by how outgoing and kind the people were.

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