The student news site of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology


The student news site of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology


The student news site of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology


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Two Jefferson seniors named Coca-Cola Scholars

Image courtesy of Coca Cola Scholars Foundation
Running for over 34 years, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation has awarded a total of $73,800,000 in scholarships to students around the nation. “It was pretty cool [to receive the scholarship.],” senior Brian Zhou said. “It’s a great honor to be one of the few from TJ.”

The Coca-Cola Scholars Program Scholarship, funded under the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, is a $20,000 scholarship awarded to 150 high school seniors each year. These students are recognized for their capacity to lead and serve, as well as their commitment to making a significant impact on their schools and communities. 

Less than 1% of applicants from an initial pool of 103,800 applicants from all around the country were named Coca-Cola Scholars this year. At Jefferson, seniors Brian Zhou and Naisha Patel were selected to receive the prestigious award.

“It felt surreal [to win the scholarship] because of how low the acceptance rate is, and how popular the scholarship is,” said Patel. “I didn’t really expect to [be chosen,] so I was really relieved but also really happy.”

The application process began with a screening process in early October where applicants were asked to list their extracurricular activities as well as various awards and achievements they received throughout high school. After the initial screening process, 1,500 semi-finalists were chosen to advance to the next round. 

“If what you initially have on [the first round of the application] is interesting, or has made a large enough impact on the world, then you’re advancing to the semifinalist stage, which is where you become more personable,” said Patel. “You start writing essays and answering more questions that get the reviewers to look at you as a person.”

At the finalist stage, applicants had to complete 20-minute interviews with four to five interviewers reviewing their applications. Once the interviews were completed, the final 150 scholars were chosen.

As stated on their website, the Coca-Cola Scholarship is awarded to students who “exemplify superior leadership, service, and academics,” while being “change agents, positively affecting others in their communities.”

“The two main things [the scholarship looks for in a student] are a passion to change something and a passion for service,” said Patel. “[For example] people who want to pass legislation, or people who are trying to actively change something in society that they’re passionate about.”

Zhou emphasizes the importance of numbers listed within your application, and how they can convey the impact your service has made. 

“The largest thing that matters within the application is the impact that you’ve made,” said Zhou. “They want you to list as many numbers as possible. So whether that’s how many people have read your work, or how many people you’ve impacted with financial support, [the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation] cares a lot about the numeric numbers associated with the work you do.”

Patel describes her personal achievements with community service and change-making that helped boost her application. 

“A really cool thing that I did was working for the government under a security clearance and doing that meant that I was able to help the government in a way that a lot of people can’t,” said Patel. “I also do a lot of things with nonprofits like bringing classrooms their first books. Those are [all] service projects that I’m proud of.”

Despite the fierce competition for the scholarship, Patel recommends all future seniors apply, as you never know what the outcome is going to be. 

“I’m sure many people think [they can’t receive the scholarship] because of imposter syndrome and things like that,” said Patel. “[But] if I can get it, you also can, so you should definitely apply.”

Although the scholarship was a great honor to receive, Zhou mentions the value of doing what you love in high school, and not doing something for the sake of a reward or scholarship. 

“Scholarships like [Coca-Coca] are never an indicator of your own validity or success,” said Zhou. “Do what you love in high school, even if it’s not what everyone else is doing. You do it because you love it and not for the sake of just doing it.”

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