Years ago, Rebecca Fate’s vision of her future never included college.
Neither of her parents earned college degrees, and growing up in a single-parent household meant there was little to no extra money to send her to school, she said. But when her fifth-grade teacher opened Fate’s eyes to her potential, her vision of the future drastically changed.
At 21, Fate is now an alumna of the University of Central Florida’s Burnett Honors College. She graduated May 6 with bachelor’s degrees in political science and legal studies, honors in the major, a 4.0 GPA and a near perfect score on the Law School Admission Test under her belt. Out of 180 possible points, Fate earned 178 and a seat at one of the country’s most prestigious law schools, Harvard, where she sent her “dream application,” she said.
“I knew since Rebecca was in my criminal law class in spring 2014 that she was extremely gifted and that she would do very, very well on the LSAT,” said James Beckman, UCF professor of legal studies and Fate’s Honors in the Major thesis chair. “However, I must admit, when she told me that she scored nearly perfect, I was slightly taken aback. Not because I did not expect an extremely high score from her, but simply because I have never known a single student, of the over 1,000 students I’ve taught, who has scored in the top 0.15 percent.”
Fate credits her success in education to her elementary school teacher who saw something special in her while giving her individualized curriculum. Fate, her mom and older sister a month into her fifth-grade classes moved from Oregon to the Tampa Bay area. When Fate’s new teacher took her aside to help her get caught up to the rest of the class, the teacher noticed the young student already knew the material and more.
“She encouraged me to do more because she felt I was ahead of the curriculum already,” Fate said. “It was a difficult transition moving to Florida, and school gave me something to focus on. The attention she gave me really helped.”
Fate’s teacher encouraged her and her mom to consider a magnet school for sixth grade. Although hesitant at first – considering it was a two-hour bus ride one way to the school – Fate ultimately attended. That was the beginning of her college-bound path. She would continue on to a high school where there was an International Baccalaureate program filled with students whose expectations were to go to college. Being immersed into that atmosphere, where resources were in plenty to help students apply to college, gave Fate the vision she needed to continue her education.
“It wasn’t until the IB program and its expectations that I starting thinking about college,” she said. “College was never pushed on me. It just wasn’t offered up as the obvious path.”
Fate applied to a handful of universities – University of Florida, Florida State University, Vanderbilt University and ones back in Oregon – but UCF’s offer of a full-ride National Merit Scholarship sealed the deal.
“UCF just gave me the feeling that I was wanted here,” she said. “If I hadn’t gotten a scholarship, it would’ve been really difficult for me to come to college.”
Fate joined pre-law fraternity Phi Alpha Delta, became a tutor at UCF’s Student Academic Resource Center, and worked for the honors college as a student assistant and peer ambassador.
Now, Fate aspires to continue in higher education as a professor of law.
“I like the university atmosphere and learning,” Fate said. “I just never want to leave.”
For students taking the LSAT, Fate suggests diligently studying in the months leading up to the test and taking the LSAT practice tests. She bought LSAT preparation books to figure out which parts she struggled with, and studied daily.
“I am confident that she will do extremely well at Harvard and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if she ends up at the top of her class at Harvard Law,” said Beckman. “It has been my great privilege to have interacted with Rebecca at UCF.”