On an eight-hour bus ride from Farmville to Charleston, South Carolina, in late September, Paige Robertson’s soccer teammates were up to the usual: joking, listening to music, binge-watching Netflix shows. But Robertson was in her own zone, focused entirely on writing and re-writing what she called one of the most important essays of her college career.
That essay: the Rhodes Scholarship personal statement that is the centerpiece of the famously formidable application for a two-year fellowship to the University of Oxford in England.
When she’d returned from the game, a gripping overtime tie against one of the Big South’s premier teams in which she logged solid minutes in midfield, she’d immediately resumed her work, vying for what is arguably the most prestigious award a college student can receive.
There are a lot of professors, coaches and friends who have not only supported me throughout four years at Longwood, but who have challenged me to be a better student, athlete and person.Paige Robertson ’19 Tweet This
Robertson—a criminal justice major with 3.97 GPA and a passion for working to help overcome the opioid epidemic—is a 2018 nominee for Rhodes Scholarship. She’s only the second Longwood student ever nominated, following in the footsteps of Kate Colley ’18 a year ago.
Robertson and her teammates kick off the Big South Tournament this weekend with a game Friday against South Carolina-Upstate, aiming to do at least as well as last year’s trip to the championship game. Regardless of whether she advances next month to the stage of regional finalist interviews, she says the experience of aiming high and putting her best foot forward for the prestigious award has been worthwhile.
“At first it was an intimidating process,” she said. “But as I began to really dive into the essay, the words just came together in a way I’m really proud of. There are a lot of professors, coaches and friends who have not only supported me throughout four years at Longwood, but who have challenged me to be a better student, athlete and person. I wouldn’t have been able to apply for this scholarship without them.”
She’s a citizen leader who wants to devote her life to solving problems in both her community and the nation, and has a great future ahead of her.Longwood Chief of Staff Justin Pope Tweet This
The Rhodes Scholarship funds two years of graduate study at Oxford, the oldest English-speaking university in the world. Students who receive the scholarship join an elite and accomplished group of men and women that includes notable scientists, authors, academicians and political leaders. Criteria include outstanding academic achievement, character and demonstrated leadership potential. Just 32 are chosen from the United States each year.
Longwood Chief of Staff Justin Pope, an Oxford graduate who has been advising Robertson, said Longwood is increasing its number of applicants for prestigious postgraduate scholarships like the Rhodes, developing a pipeline that will identify high-achieving candidates early in their time at Longwood and work with them throughout their four years of college.
Rhodes applicants must develop a compelling personal statement and supplement details of their coursework by gathering up to eight recommendation letters from professors, coaches and university administrators.
“Paige is the kind of student who makes it a joy to work with young people,” said Pope. “She’s at the top of her class academically, a leader on the field and a focused student who knows where she wants to be professionally. She’s a citizen leader who wants to devote her life to solving problems in both her community and the nation, and has a great future ahead of her.”
Robertson is applying for two graduate programs at Oxford: a one-year in-depth study of international criminal justice and a research program in public health. The two programs would combine to give her a nuanced understanding of the intersection of law enforcement and society.
“Like it does with many people, the opioid epidemic hits home with me,” said Robertson. “These struggles are often very personal, and loved ones are left powerless to help. Over the years, I have developed a deep desire to help solve this problem that affects so many families around the world.”
In pursuit of that goal, Robertson applied for and was selected for a highly competitive internship at the Drug Enforcement Administration this summer, where she worked with top-level officials and agents involved in widespread investigations. It was there that she says her passion was fully ignited, which showed up in her work.
“Paige was one of the finest students I have ever worked with,” said Brian Townsend, supervisory special agent and unit chief of the Specialized Training Unit at the DEA, who wrote a recommendation letter to the Rhodes Scholarship committee on her behalf. “She is an extraordinarily hard worker, astute problem-solver and genuine delight to be around. Throughout her internship, she was a sponge, learning everything she could and asking the kind of questions you wouldn’t typically expect from a student.”
That type of work ethic is also apparent on the field, where Robertson is a key contributor to a top Big South squad that has been one of Longwood’s strongest programs in the Big South during her career. The midfielder logged a career game on Aug. 19 against Richmond, scoring two goals in Longwood’s 4-0 win over the Spiders.
“Paige is the type of student-athlete a coach dreams about,” said longtime Lancer head coach Todd Dyer ’93. “She holds herself and her teammates to a high standard in the classroom, pushing them to go beyond what they think they are capable of. It’s the same on the field: She keeps her teammates going when the energy is low and has an uncanny knack for de-stressing them when things get tense. She’s a special person who I know will represent Longwood well.”