Check out this account of former FirstPoint USA Field Hockey client Amanda Bennison’s journey through the Sports Scholarship program to the USA, as told by her Mum, Sue!
“It was a chance meeting with an old school friend that led us to FirstpointUSA. She told me how her son had been accepted onto their Soccer programme and was studying in the USA, having gained a sports scholarship.
As we had a keen athlete in our family, this was of particular interest to us, especially as Amanda was heading towards “decision time”, as she entered into 6th Form at her school in Cheshire.
She was exploring the facilities of the many Universities here in the UK looking for a suitable course, the main criteria being “something to do with sport” !
Amanda had also proved herself to be quite academic, gaining 8 GCSE and 3 A Level’s These results would stand her in good stead for the forthcoming American SATS. (These are exams that all USA students have to pass in order to prove that their academic level is high enough for entry into College or University. They concentrate mainly on Maths and English and are conducted in several locations in the UK.)
Amanda was always active – in fact she started running at the age of only 7 months and made her first appearance in the local newspaper due to this unusual fact. From then on there was literally no stopping her! She played county level netball, tennis, badminton and cross country running (but surprisingly wasn’t very good at swimming)! However, her true passion was Field Hockey which meant that every weekend, and at least two nights per week, she could be found on the hockey pitch representing Stockport Grammar School or Alderley Edge Hockey Club.
After returning home from seeing my friend and having scrawled the name “FirstpointUSA” on a napkin I looked them up on line.
I was impressed by the FirstpointUSA website and asked Amanda if she had any interest in playing and indeed living in the USA for four years. Her interest was evident from the excited look on her face and that’s when the ball really started to roll !!
We contacted FirstpointUSA the very next day and after a telephone conversation were offered a “face-to-face” interview near to our home in Manchester.
The FirstpointUSA staff were very professional and helpful. They gave us an enormous amount of information regarding the process which potential candidates would have to follow to gain a sports scholarship and become a student athlete in the USA.
There was a detailed presentation on a laptop, showing us the origin of the company and its success stories. They also pointed out that there are sometimes pitfalls along the way, but we were assured of a full back up and the benefit of their ten years experience to guide us through. All we needed now was for Amanda to be selected as one of the 400 out of the 10,000 applicants to be accepted onto their athlete programme!
All this would be at the fixed price as stated with no extra hidden costs. FirstpointUSA certainly stuck to that promise throughout !
It’s fair to say that we left that meeting bursting with enthusiasm and when FirstpointUSA phoned to confirm that Amanda had been successful at interview, we were all overjoyed.
Amanda was now taking her first steps towards the USA !
This didn’t happen overnight however. The process is very in depth; the SATS exams, providing details and certificates of past history both in sport and academic awards, the application, travelling to the American Embassy in London, the various registrations and the official visit to the Universities – Not forgetting several video footage sessions which were carefully constructed by the specialists at FirstpointUSA during live matches. These are used to promote the athlete on-line to the various Colleges and Universities. In fact it took many months but every step of the way we had a FirstpointUSA specialist at the end of a phone or easily contactable via e-mail.
We certainly couldn’t have navigated the complex registration process and sourced a suitable University easily ourselves and we were so relieved to have the help of a variety of the FirstpointUSA departments whenever we needed them.
We even made a trip to their Glasgow office, where we received a warm and friendly welcome in very modern surroundings.
A personal representative by the name of Nicola Pitticas was introduced to us, She is a former student athlete in Field Hockey, who had just returned from her studies in the USA. This was invaluable to us as she had all the answers to our many questions! Even when we didn’t have any questions, Nicola regularly contacted us to see how things were going – this gave us a real feeling of confidence in what was to be the biggest adventure of Amanda’s life!
As the months went by, more boxes were ticked and more video footage sessions edited, until finally FirstpointUSA informed us that Amanda was “live” on their system which would reach hundreds of Coaches and Universities across the USA!
It wasn’t long before the interest started. At first we were amazed at getting a personal call to our home from a Field Hockey Coach in America and then….they came thick and fast.
At one point Amanda had thirteen different Coaches contacting her, asking her questions and competing for her talent!
Luckily we could report back to Nicola, at FirstpointUSA, who gave us all the advice we needed with regards to handling these interested parties. We quickly eliminated those Universities that were not playing at the level Amanda was aiming for and drew up a short list.
Eventually it came down to two and they were both so interested in meeting Amanda, from her personal profile, as presented on Firstpoint USA’s system that the Universities agreed to split the travelling costs and Amanda was given the “go-ahead” to book flights to fly out and meet the Coaches and teams!
This was a 5-day full on trip that left Amanda exhausted, not only from the travel but from the information, interviews and assessments she had to attend as they “summed her up”. Both Universities were extremely hospitable and both were eager for Amanda to join them the following semester!
It was a difficult choice, especially as the generous scholarship offers were way above our expectations.
Amanda felt more comfortable with Indiana University, the Coaches and the team, whom she had spent a couple of days with and she decided that this was the University which she wished to attend from August 2011 !
It all felt like a dream, until the day we waved goodbye to our only daughter as she headed off to the USA with two very large suitcases and a beaming smile on her face!
Naturally we were full of mixed emotions , so proud but not really knowing what she was letting herself in for – going to live in another country alone and with a different culture and climate!
The first few weeks were “up and down” as Amanda came to terms with leaving all of her friends and family behind, but she knew that this was her “ golden opportunity” and she gradually became more “at home” with her new environment.
Nicola from Firstpoint USA continued to send e-mails and texts just to check how things were going for Amanda and us !
By this time we felt that Nicola was more of a family friend than a FirstpointUSA representative and she reassured us that all of Amanda’s feelings mirrored her own, when she had first started as a student athlete.
Amanda reported back that it was “tough going” and that the team trained “24/7”, but gradually she got into the new routine and her messages home became much more positive within a few weeks of the Fall semester.
The Athletes are treated well at the University with special diets, physiotherapy sessions, enormous amounts of kit and plane & bus journeys in comfort when they have to travel to other States.
The team spirit is second to none and the Coaches are like surrogate “Mom’s” ! Of course there is a considerable amount of academic work to fit iton the teams’ busy days but once again we have found that the lecturers are extremely supportive – especially to their overseas students!
Amanda quickly started to make good friends and has already been invited to several of her team members homes across the USA.
The first semester (Fall) was definitely a “settling in period”and it was comforting to know that when Amanda flew back to the UK for Christmas she announced that she was missing Indiana University and all of her friends and was looking forward to flying back to see them all! We were so happy to know that our daughter was returning to a place where she felt accepted and comfortable, with the added backup of “parental guidance” both on and off the pitch. Her Head Coach had sent regular e-mail updates as to Amanda’s progress and expected targets for her team players., She reported that Amanda was now showing the determination and motivation of a true “Hoosiers Field Hockey Player and embracing life at Indiana University”!
Amanda’s latest message, during the current Spring term – and I quote “Loving it, love this semester, so much more comfortable now, the hard work brings us together”!
We regularly follow “The Indiana Hoosiers” on their website and sometimes watch Amanda playing via computer link during the televised matches – this certainly makes us feel proud!
We often get messages updating us on the latest games and telling us all about the private chartered aircraft which flew the team to a match or the excellent level of physiotherapy received for a pulled muscle”!
Having spent her first year living in the “dorms” as a Freshman, Amanda is currently organising her accommodation for Fall 2012. She will be moving into a shared house with some of her athlete friends, which is an exciting prospect for any group of University students!
We know that Amanda is “Living the dream” and that she could not be happier – just what every parent likes to hear !
If you have a son or daughter who wants to follow in Amanda’s footsteps we would highly recommend FirstpointUSA as a starting point to an enriching life changing experience as a Student Athlete in the USA!
We wish FirstpointUSA continued success for the future.”
We would love to thank Sue Bennison for this interesting insight into the emotions involved for the parent who is supporting their child in a Sports Scholarship to the USA.
We are glad to hear that Amanda is doing so well at Indiana University (and enjoying the experience so much!). FirstPoint USA would love to wish her well for the rest of her time there.
Are you ready for the next step?
Study and Play in the USA – register online today to find out more about a Field Hockey Scholarship with FirstPoint USA.