Liam Santry- To “Admission Accomplished” and Beyond!
Liam Santry- To “Admission Accomplished” and Beyond!
Liam Santry, former Navy Air Traffic Controller and S2S Applicant achieved “Admission Accomplished” to Swarthmore College! He has since returned to S2S as an Undergrad Ambassador to pay it forward to future veteran applicants alike!
What do you study and what do you want to do with that degree when you graduate?
Until the second semester of my sophomore year, I was positive that I wanted to study philosophy or economics. I took several courses in each and did well, but a syntax class that I took on a whim made me realize I was much more interested in the structure of language. I changed my major to linguistics two weeks later and haven’t looked back. Linguistics is fun because it applies analytic methods from math and other social sciences to solve cool puzzles in language. In the past year, I’ve studied Japanese, the mystery of stranded quantifiers, and Icelandic phonology. Sounds cool, right?
It’s good to have some idea of what you want to do with your degree, but don’t let that keep you from taking all sorts of interesting classes. I’ve always known I wanted to be an attorney, so the process I had for selecting a major had more to do with satisfying my intellectual curiosity than any practical consideration. However, studying linguistics rests on one’s ability to produce clear and logically sound arguments, so I do feel prepared for law school. Practical experiences like my internship with my local state attorney or work with S2S help me translate the skills I developed in my studies and military service into meaningful work. I’m thinking about doing something policy or public service related after law school, but let’s take it one step at a time.
What kind of life experiences are most useful for someone starting out in this field?
Lawyers work in a wide variety of settings, but if you’re set on a particular practice area, it could be useful to get work experience in that field or take classes related to it. If you’re interested in immigration law, get involved in a non-profit that provides pro-bono legal services to immigrants. If you want to do M&A law, consider taking a job at a big bank. On the other hand, the legal community truly values military service, so a lack of experience in a given field is rarely disqualifying.
What is the best professional advice you have ever gotten?
Always make an effort to find value in the experiences of others. Once you’ve been around the block, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you have all the answers — but junior colleagues often have valuable insight into the problems you’re working on. Consistent constructive feedback is crucial in a supervisor-subordinate relationship. Remember that it works both ways!
If you would, please share a brief story about a low time during your educational journey when you had to dig deep to keep going.
The first paper that I turned in when I got to Swat was so poor that my professor refused to give it a grade. Instead, he gave me an office hours appointment for the following week. When I got there, he handed me back my paper, but this time his comments totaled an entire page longer than what I originally submitted. I began to understand the mechanisms behind his criticism, and my writing gradually improved. If you get into any of the Vetlink or S2S affiliated institutions, you’re bound to have a similar experience.
Professors (particularly at LACs) are deeply invested in the success of their students and will find you the help you need if they can’t provide it themselves. If you find professors too intimidating, reach out to a classmate who you think understands the material.
If you could apply to college all over again, but based on the wisdom you have now, what advice would you give yourself?
Create an application that implicitly answers who you are and why your experiences would add value to that college. If you can convey your thoughts compellingly and truthfully, colleges will recognize that and reward you for it. Also, all that introspection might help you figure out which college suits you best.
What advice do you have for ambitious veterans that want to maximize their educational benefits?
Keep in mind that sticker prices are rarely indicative of what most students can expect to pay. It’s a terribly kept secret that a lot of top colleges have generous financial aid programs. They feel that if they admit you, your finances should not preclude you from attending. For example, Swarthmore doesn’t charge me anything for tuition, so I don’t need to touch my education benefits unless I want to use my housing allowance. If you plan on going to grad school, consider saving your GIB for programs where financial aid is more scarce.
How supportive has the veterans community at Swarthmore been?
I’m actually the only veteran at Swarthmore at the moment, but I still receive enormous academic and moral support from the college. The students and professors I interact with are genuinely curious to learn more about my background and they value my opinion in the classroom. A college that partners with Vetlink is sending a strong statement that they want to create a community of people like you.