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Smith's advice for prospective students: ‘Be who you are’

Barry McNamara
01/28/2020
MONMOUTH, Ill. – Chalk up another outstanding match for Monmouth College by former admission counselor Peter Pitts.

One of the last students recruited to Monmouth by Pitts, who retired last spring after 27 years of service to the College, was Paige Smith ’23 of Oswego, Ill. Pitts worked with Smith to attend Monmouth’s 2019 Fellows and Scholars Day, which resulted in Smith being one of two students to receive a William J. and Beverly Goldsborough Scholarship, Monmouth College’s most prestigious and selective academic award.

Smith and her father made the trip to campus and arrived earlier than the scheduled time. That allowed Smith a little longer to gather her first impression.

“My dad and I just walked around a campus for a bit,” she said. “I remember how quiet and clean things were.”

Soon, interactions with Monmouth faculty began as part of the scholarship interviews. Smith used a philosophy consistent with her personality.

“I didn’t come in with a lot of expectations,” she said. “It was just talking to people. I just decided to let it happen how it happens. That’s how I tend to be.”

That’s the key piece of advice that Smith has for this year’s group of prospective students coming to campus Feb. 1 for 2020 Fellows and Scholars Day.

“Just be who you are,” she said. “You don’t have to put so much pressure on it. Don’t change yourself in trying to get things.”

It does help to have interesting experiences to bring up in the interviews, and some of Smith’s came from leadership opportunities at Oswego High School, where she was involved in BIONIC (Believe It Or Not I Care) and its offshoot organization, TALK, and was president of True Colors, a gay-straight alliance.

“BIONIC and TALK are all about establishing deeper connections with people,” said Smith. “One of the icebreaker-type things we do is play ‘If You Really Knew Me.’ It starts with something more superficial, like ‘If you really knew me, you’d know that I have seven dogs,’ but then it gets deeper and deeper. The more people know about each other, the less likely they are to be disrespectful of them. It’s all about promoting kindness.”

At Monmouth, Smith decided not get involved in many cocurricular activities beyond academics, at least initially, opting to “get a feel for college, to get acclimated.” However, through her scholarship interview, she was selected to be a Stockdale Fellow. Student members participate in a comprehensive four-year leadership development program.

A biology major on a pre-med track, Smith said her academic schedule contains “lots of science,” but she is also exposed to other academic disciplines through Monmouth’s Honors Program. The first Honors course she took was a study of madness, led by modern languages, literatures and cultures professor Keith Schaefer.

“That was probably my favorite class,” she said. “On the first day, I knew I was looking to drop a class, and I figured it might be that one, but after I sat through one day of class, I said, ‘I’m staying in this one for sure.’ It wasn’t lecture-driven. It was more of a discussion, kind of an organized chaos. It really pushed everything we thought we knew.”

Smith appreciates that type of learning, as she knew a year ago at this time that she was “looking for a smaller school. I was scared of the idea of being lost in a class. I really like that individual attention with the teachers.”