TJ Collins ’23 was named a National Cyber Scholar by the National Cyber Scholarship Foundation. Over 30,000 students from all around the U.S. and its territories participated in the competition this year. Only 4,521 advanced to the semifinals, and 2,325 were named finalists. Of that group of finalists 1,152 were named National Cyber Scholars. Below is an interview with TJ about his experience in the competition:
How did you learn about the National Cyber Scholarship Foundation?
I learned about The National Cyber Scholarship Foundation from a news article promoting a winner from the previous year. This article spoke of a high school student who won this very same scholarship and what he did to obtain it. This program was made for students who could demonstrate their skills in the field of cybersecurity. Knowing that this is an area of great interest to me, I decided to take on the challenge.
Can you talk about how the competition works and what it entails?
This program consisted of a series of online cybersecurity-related challenges. When correctly solved, points would be awarded to the participants. At the end, point totals were tallied and the winners were determined. The complexity of these challenges varied greatly in difficulty. For instance, in one challenge, you would be combing a website's source code for concealed text, while in another, you would be using cutting-edge Linux tools that are used by real cybersecurity professionals to uncover hidden data. By the end of this program, I was able to accrue enough points to qualify myself, and eventually win, this scholarship.
What was your favorite part of the experience?
There were many things that I enjoyed about this program. The challenge of competing against upwards of 40,000+ students from all around the United States and its territories was something I was very much looking forward to. I was also intrigued by how the program was tailored toward students of various cybersecurity knowledge levels. I saw this as an opportunity to learn and challenge myself. The competition did not disappoint. The challenges constantly changed and introduced different aspects of cybersecurity. It was a great challenge and a wonderful learning experience.
What did participation in this competition mean to you?
This program really meant a lot to me. For many years, I have always had a great interest in the field of cybersecurity. I always found myself tinkering around with various networking tools, learning how items on both the internet and intranet could be exploited. The Cyber Scholarship Foundation gave me a chance to demonstrate my passion for cybersecurity, as well as obtain a better grasp of the intricacies of the field. In the end, obtaining the honor of being named a National Cyber Scholar was the icing on the cake. Even though I have already had personal experience in cybersecurity, the most fulfilling thing to me about this program was how much I was able to learn from it.