Independent TribuneFeatures For teen, March Madness plays out on the Web

For teen, March Madness plays out on the Web

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By Ben McNeely
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For Victoria Smith, finding scholarship and college information is difficult.

Tori, 17, is homeschooled and does not have access to, or the experience of, a guidance counselor at a public or private school.

For her, the Internet has been vital to getting information about colleges and how to pay for it.

“I’m on my own with this,” she said. “I was looking everywhere.”

She found FastWeb, a Web site that helps students search for college admissions and scholarships. 

“You fill out a profile — you give a ton of information — and schools can recruit you from there. Since I don’t have a guidance counselor, it was a good fit for me,” she said.

Tori also enrolled in an online scholarship contest at Zingo.com — whose tagline reads “I am more than a test score.” 

The contest is set up like an NCAA Tournament bracket, where teens are pitted against each other in one-on-one voting contests.

Tori got into the contest as one contestant of the “Cinderella Six” by setting up a Facebook group to promote herself.

Sixty-four contestants, just like the 64 teams in the men’s basketball tournament, will participate and will be winnowed down based on the number of votes they receive. The winner receives a $20,000 scholarship.

While this will get Tori’s face, name and story out there, it’s been difficult for her to do the research: She pretty much teaches herself with a curriculum program called the American School. She studies, takes tests, then has to do the research.

“She’s had to do a lot of work on her own,” mother Tammy Smith said. “She’s used the Web. She’s gone to the library. I’m not very versed in it, so she’s had to do a lot on her own.”

But, Tammy said, Tori is very motivated and creative.

“This is our first foray into homeschooling, so it’s a learning process,” Tammy said. “But I’m proud of her. She’s had a lot of fun doing this.”

• Contact reporter Ben McNeely: 704-789-9131.


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