This is free tuition: York announces winner of First Year for Free Contest

One small phrase will have a giant impact on Savena Ramnarain’s first year of studies at York University: “This is free tuition.”

Savena was selected the winner of the First Year for Free Contest and will begin undergraduate studies toward a BA in psychology at York this fall. Her name was selected by a random draw that had 12,098 entries. As the contest winner, she will have up to $7,100 in first-year tuition fees covered by the University.

Grace Gravina from Marketing & Creative Services cheers as the surprise is revealed to Savena

Savena was surprised with the news on May 17, when York contest organizers staged an elaborate setup and asked the teen to visit campus to claim a $200 gift card for the York University Bookstore.

Savena and sister, Ravena

Accompanied by her sister Ravena Ramnarain, who is a visual arts and art history student at York and was in on the scheme, Savena learned of her winnings when the York Lions mascot emerged with a sign that said, “This Is Free Tuition” and “You Have Won.”

Caught off guard by the announcement, Savena said she was shocked to learn that she had won “an entire free year.”

“It didn’t seem like it was in my odds,” she said, still reeling from the news. “I can’t believe it happened. It doesn’t feel real.”

She said she won’t have to worry about OSAP and other financial strains, and the gift of free tuition will also allow her the freedom to become more immersed on campus, as opposed to finding part-time work.

York University was Savena’s first and only choice when applying to postsecondary studies. When asked why, she replied, “It seemed like the best option. It felt right.”

The teen applied to three different programs at York and will begin the fall semester enrolled in psychology – a subject she feels passionately about.

“A lot of students in my generation have anxiety and depression,” she said, adding that she hopes to become a clinical psychologist and work with teens and young adults.

The sisters are excited to be at York together. With their age gap, they haven’t been students together since elementary school.

Ravena, 22, will begin her fourth year of studies at York this fall. She was a big influence on her younger sister’s decision to apply to York.

“One thing I told her was the programs here are really diverse,” said Ravena. “That’s why I chose York’s art program.”

“She told me it was great here,” said Savena. “I’m excited to start.”

The contest ran as part of York University’s Open Your Mind brand campaign from Sept. 19, 2016, to March 30, 2017. The contest collected 12,098 entries and was open to incoming first-year students only.