CLEMSON — As students across the country straighten their caps and inspect their gowns before commencement, many experience that daunting thought: “So, what comes next?”

National Scholars recognized their mentors during the Awards of Distinction Dinner. Bottom (left to right): Tyler Rodgers, Grace Glenn, Killian McDonald, Neha Kumar, Jessica Schnorr, Kristin Fuller, Casey Young, Patrick Gorospe, Ansley Sackett, Zach Girvin, Eric Zuberi, Sarah Waldvogel Top (left to right): Amanda Cooper Fine, Alex Herzog, Jeff Fine, Angela Naimou, Steven Goodson, Thompson Mefford, Delphine Dean, Aubrey Baldwin, Gustavo Loscano, David Boles, Michael Sehorn

It’s a different story for Clemson University’s graduating class of National Scholars – all 12 students have post-graduation plans. These Tigers will span from Clemson to Cleveland with some pursuing secondary degrees while others dive into the workforce.

Clemson’s National Scholars Program is housed in Calhoun Honors College. It is a prestigious, merit-based program that encompasses a diverse group of students who share a curiosity and passion for learning. These students are natural leaders who have a wide range of interests and zeal.

With their exceptional test scores, intriguing experiences and uncommon extracurriculars, these students were sought after by many institutions of higher education, but took their first steps toward a degree as  Tigers.

“Clemson stood out as the most welcoming campus I visited during my college decision process,” said Ansley Sackett, a veterinary sciences major from Greensboro, North Carolina. Sackett is continuing her education at the School of Veterinary Medicine at LSU. “Everyone I met here had only good things to say about the school and genuinely wanted me to experience the same thing,”

“When deciding between universities, Clemson stood out to me because of its strong feeling of community,” agreed Nehar Kumar, a genetics major from Simpsonville.

Another draw, Kumar added, were the abundant opportunities for students to get involved.

Participation in leadership positions and extracurricular activities was a key component of these students’ educational experiences.

Killian McDonald, a political science and women’s leadership double major from Columbia, combined her ardor for political change with her love of Clemson. In spring 2017, McDonald was elected undergraduate student body president, running on the slogan “More to Our Roar.”

McDonald has accepted a position with the Center for Reproductive Rights, continuing her passion for activism.

As they walk across the stage toward their future, the scholars have four years’ worth of memories, life experiences, successes and failures, as well as a steady foundation for whatever endeavor they decide to pounce on next.

“The National Scholars Program and the Clemson Honors College have provided me with some of the best mentors and experiences that I could have asked for in my college career,” said Kumar. “The communities here allowed me to find my niche and surround myself with people who supported and challenged me, aiding my social and academic growth.”

Kumar will be attending the Medical University of South Carolina in the fall.

“If I could go back in time and tell my freshman year self something, it would be, ‘You deserve to be here, and the only motivation and drive you feel should derive from wanting to be the best version of yourself,’” said Kumar.

Casey Young, from St. Leonard, Maryland, decided that Clemson and its resources are an integral part becoming the best version of herself moving forward.

“I love Clemson and don’t feel my time here is done. I also love Clemson’s bioengineering faculty and facilities, so I know the graduate degree I receive will be one of quality,” said Young, who has already begun her master’s degree work in bioengineering as an undergraduate.

Sackett’s five-word description of Clemson manages to sum up the scholars’ diverse experiences: “What a school. Go, Tigers!”

A complete list of the national scholars and their post-graduation plans follows:

Kristin Fuller
Hometown: Daphne, Alabama
Major: Materials Science and Engineering
What’s next: Case Western Reserve University

Zach Girvin
Hometown: Simpsonville
Major: Bioengineering
What’s next: Columbia Medical University

Grace Glenn
Hometown: Mount Pleasant
Major: Computer Science
What’s next: Machine Learning Engineer at Squarespace

Patrick Gorospe
Hometown: Rock Hill
Major: Industrial Engineering
What’s next: Business Technology Analyst at Deloitte

Neha Kumar
Hometown: Simpsonville
Major: Genetics
What’s next: Medical University of South Carolina

Killian McDonald
Hometown: Columbia
Major: Political Science and Women’s Leadership
What’s next: Center for Reproductive Rights

Tyler Rodgers
Hometown: Charleston
Major: Architecture
What’s next: Harvard School of Design

Ansley Sackett
Hometown: Greensboro
Major: Animal and Veterinary Science
What’s next: Louisiana State University

Jessica Schnorr
Hometown: Mount Pleasant
Major: Language and International Health
What’s next: Medical University of South Carolina

Sarah Waldvogel
Hometown: Central
Major: Genetics & Biochemistry
What’s next: Baylor College of Medicine

Casey Young
Hometown: St. Leonard, Maryland
Major: Bioengineering
What’s next: Clemson

Eric Zuberi
Hometown: Prospect, Kentucky
Major: Microbiology and Genetics
What’s next: University of Louisville School of Medicine