Norwin senior awarded full tuition scholarship to Thiel College

Maleah Phetsomphou, Writer

Less than 1.5% of students enrolled in college receive a full-ride, one where their entire tuition is paid for.  As the price of tertiary education rises, the race for a cut on tuition becomes tighter and tighter each year. Those who win the golden ticket are truly lucky.

Norwin’s own, Bret Vilage, was awarded a full scholarship of $140,000 to his dream school, Thiel College.

For the past four years, Vilage has indulged himself in the variety extracurricular activities at the high school. He is a four year varsity tennis player, member of the Theatre Company, and much more.

Jan. 18 was an ordinary day for Vilage—so it seemed.

“I went to my classes as if it was a normal day,” said Vilage. “My last class of the day is show choir.”

Then, Vilage saw something unusual.

“At the beginning of class, Dr. Choby walked in. I thought, ‘oh it’s his birthday he probably wants us to sing to him’,” Vilage laughed. “But then I saw something stranger enter the room, my parents.”

Along with Vilage’s parents and sister came Thiel College Admissions Counselor, Alice DeBonis.

“Once I saw Alice, I was overcome with emotions.”

Vilage knew exactly what was going on.

”It was a special moment for me. I knew I had won a scholarship.”

Thiel has always been a top pick for Vilage. It was Thiel’s tennis program that predominantly drew him in.

“On top of their impressive tennis program, Thiel has my desired major, Biochemistry. Overall, Thiel College fit what I wanted in a school.”

Once Vilage decided he was set on Thiel, he began to search for scholarship opportunities.

“There was certain criteria to win a full scholarship,” Vilage stated. “For example, a minimum Grade Point Average was part of eligibility.”

Like nearly every other college bound student, Vilage did not throw all of his eggs in one basket.

“Yes, Thiel is incredible. However, I had to factor in the tuition before deciding that Thiel was the place to be.”

Vilage took a leap of faith. In November, along with 130 other high school seniors, he entered the Thiel College Scholarship Competition. Unlike some scholarship applications, Thiel took a different approach to awarding scholarships. On Dec. 3, Thiel invited all students who fit the GPA requirement to the campus to complete a set of interviews.

“Initially, I was nervous to apply for the scholarship,” Vilage admitted. “I heard a statistic somewhere that the chance of winning a full scholarship was around 3 percent.”

Still, he persisted. While attending the interview, Vilage was asked a series of questions regarding his life for the past four years.

“The interviewers asked me questions about my participation in extracurricular activities, what I am proud of, how I deal with a stressful situation, etc.”

This provided Vilage with the opportunity to flaunt his dedication to Norwin’s Theatre Company, varsity tennis team, French Club, and National Honor Society. Vilage’s one-on-one interview did not conclude the day.

“Later on, in a group setting, the admissions workers asked us, ‘How does social media impact our lives? The discussion lasted 45 minutes long.”

At the conclusion of the competition, Vilage knew he gave his all.

“I maintained eye contact, smiled at all times, and stayed confident. I believe that if anyone does this, they definitely have a chance at achieving a scholarship.”

Vilage gives a few words of advice to future scholarship applicants.

“If you are struggling to afford college or would like to obtain a scholarship— got for it,” said Vilage. “Don’t be afraid to apply. Scholarships can only help you, not hurt you.”