Providence high school reached a milestone when senior Lily Olsen opened an online portal on December 15 and learned she was offered a place in the freshman class at Princeton University. Princeton is one of the eight “Ivy League” colleges and universities known for academic excellence and highly selective admissions. (The Ivies also include Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale.)
The humble 18-year-old was surprised by the note of congratulations from Princeton and read it several times to make sure she had it right. Then she brought her laptop to her mom, Kathy Ireland, to show her. “My mom was really excited,” Lily remembers, “but at the same time, she felt a bit sad about my possibly going so far away from home.” The two went on a long walk to talk and pray about the opportunity. Lily appreciates that “both of my parents are super supportive with the whole process and excited for the opportunities God has blessed me with.” (Her dad is Greg Olsen, M.D.).
Lily has not made a decision regarding Princeton yet. She is taking time to hear from other schools and will visit Princeton again in February.
An avid student, Lily entered Providence as a seventh grader, after attending El Montecito School. She is interested in all subject areas, with a particular passion for the humanities. “I love studying about the world and different social structures and cultures,” she enthuses. “The history of those cultures has implications for social interaction and human rights today.”
Her strong interest in society and culture goes hand-in-hand with Lily’s volunteer work for Hardwired, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom in law and policy worldwide. Lily writes articles for Hardwired’s website, including first-person accounts of Yazidi women who have escaped from ISIS, and writes background papers for hearings in Washington, D.C. on infringements on religious freedom in places such as North Korea and South Sudan.
These experiences have fueled her desire to study political science, international relations, or socio-cultural anthropology. She admires Princeton’s focus on undergraduate education, where “even freshman classes are taught by amazing professors.” She senses the professors there “care about what they teach and are eager to serve others and to improve conditions around the world.”
Studying under educators who care about what they teach is a natural extension of Lily’s Providence experience, in her view. “At Providence, all our classes are rooted in our purpose as children of God. Even when my teachers are not talking specifically about God we are learning about him and his creation through what we are studying.”
“In all my Providence classes, I have prepared for college and for life. I have been pushed academically, morally, and spiritually and feel a strong sense of purpose. I am motivated to go on and learn more. I am prepared to study at a secular institution because I know the purpose of everything I do—wherever I do it—is to glorify God and draw near to him.”
Dr. Scott Lisea, Head of School at Providence, applauds Lily’s achievements: “Lily is really an exceptional young woman. She is the epitome of the kind of student we want to invest in—someone who is passionately developing her mind and her heart for the service of others. It is a significant statement about the kind of person she is that Princeton desires her to study there. She has added to our learning community here, and she will contribute wherever she goes next.”
While Lily Olsen has made Providence history as the first Ivy League acceptance, she is not the first to be admitted to an esteemed college or university. One hundred percent of Providence graduates are accepted to four-year institutions of learning, including UC Berkeley, Notre Dame, Berklee College of Music, Loyola Marymount, USC, Pepperdine, Calvin, Wheaton, Westmont, and dozens more.
“At Providence, our desire is to prepare our students for the rest of their lives—to live good and purposeful lives for the benefit of others,” says Dr. Lisea. “Our goal is to see our students thrive at the next level. We are not surprised when Providence students get into the most competitive colleges and universities. We celebrate with all of our students when they find the right fit for the next season of preparation in their lives.”
To learn more about Providence Upper School, attend an Open House on Sunday, January 29, 1:30-4:00 pm, on the 630 East Canon Perdido Street Campus.