Mason was the university next door, now it’s this freshman’s home

young woman posing outside
University Scholar Sophia Ramirez got to know Mason as a participant in the Early Identification Program. Photo by Ashlen Renner/Strategic Communications

Sophia Ramirez woke up on the first day of March at 6 a.m. and quickly checked her email. She knew the selections for the George Mason University Scholars program had gone out at midnight. Before she could start her day, she needed to know if she had made the cut.

“I didn’t think I got it at first, but then I kept reading and realized I got in,” Ramirez said. “I was going to Mason.”

A 2022 graduate of Manassas Park High School, Ramirez grew up with Mason practically in her backyard. Going to Mason was always a distant goal, but now it was a reality with her inclusion in Mason’s Honors College and as a University Scholar, which means her tuition is paid for.

“There was a lot of excitement,” Ramirez said. “I told my mom and she started crying. And then I waited to tell my teachers in person, and then they started crying.”

Ramirez lives with her parents who are immigrants—her father from El Salvador, and her mother from Honduras. News of her acceptance at Mason traveled far and fast.

“My mom told all her family back home,” said Ramirez. “Any child of an immigrant family knows what I’m talking about. Anything that’s worth celebrating, they tell everyone.”

Ramirez was a part of Mason’s Early Identification Program, which provides access to educational resources for middle and high school students who will be the first in their families to attend a college or university. So when Ramirez first stepped on campus for her first day of classes, she did so with confidence. Mason was a familiar place.

Now Ramirez is a history major with a special interest in U.S. history.

“I was always really good at history and I always found it interesting,” she said. “A lot of people, like my friends, will say history is really boring, but I was always the opposite. You can really see the history tie into today, especially in modern politics.”

Eva Bramesco, associate director of Honors College admissions and director of the University Scholars Program, said Ramirez stands out in the program because of her “ability to convey history narratively” and her passion for “interpreting painful history and ensuring uncomfortable history isn’t written over for the comfort of modern audiences.”

That sensibility coincides with the broader goals of the Honors College and of Mason, which believes in examining full truths no matter how complicated.

“The Honors College emphasizes the value of considering questions and issues from multiple perspectives,” said Richard Stafford, the Honors College’s director of communications. “And it helps students like Sophia learn to collaborate with others who have very different backgrounds, experiences, and training from their own.”

When she isn’t studying, Ramirez works at a community center in Manassas Park and enjoys lifting weights at the gym. She also loves to read, her favorite book being “The Secret History,” a novel by Donna Tartt.

Ramirez said she hopes to eventually attend law school or work in a government agency.

“I feel like I really lucked out with Mason,” she said. “I’m grateful for all the opportunities it has given me.”