By Blessed Sheriff
You’ve tried not to worry about it for months, but now you can no longer avoid the reality. The letter is in the mail, ten feet away from your front door. Imagine opening that letter, scrolling quickly through the page until you find that one sacred word… Congratulations. You can’t believe it. You just got into the college of your dreams. Before you know it you’re daydreaming about the friends you’ll make, the inspiring professors you’ll meet, and the amazing things you’ll be able to do there. But wait. There’s one last thing to check. Financial aid. Shifting through the mass of your acceptance materials you manage to find your financial aid award. In a matter of seconds, all of the joy you felt is now replaced with anxiety as you suddenly realize that it’s not enough. The question arises, How are you going to pay for school?
For millions of students, financial aid is a key factor in deciding which college to enroll in. Unfortunately, for many students this means giving up their dream college in lieu of a more affordable option. However, there is a unique student scholarship for 1,000 high school seniors every year, delivering a full ride to college so students can focus on their education rather than their financial needs.
The Gates Millennium Scholars program is a “last dollar” award for students. This means that whatever the college doesn’t cover in tuition and other expenses included in your cost of attendance, Gates Millennium will cover. This coveted student scholarship is renewable for all four years of undergraduate studies and can be applied to a variety of graduate programs as well. But being a Gates Scholar is about more than the money. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Gates Millennium Scholars program aims to create “Leaders for America’s Future.” They provide information about how to be successful in college, a peer mentoring program to develop scholars socially and academically, academic empowerment services, and an all-expense paid leadership conference wherein scholars can network with their Gates Millennium Scholar peers, alumni, and mentors.
This year I was admitted to the college of my dreams, and even though I was awarded a substantial scholarship, I still had concerns about how I would be able to afford to pay my unmet costs. However, in April, I was awarded the Gates Millennium Scholarship! No words can describe how motivating it is to be able to go to college and not worry about going into debt. I never imagined that I could put my financial concerns behind me coming from a large family with a very modest income. Thanks to this innovative student scholarship -recipients can focus solely on their academics and achievements, by breaking down the financial barriers which prevent students from reaching their full potential.
Gates Millennium Scholars come from all around the world and attend over 1,000 colleges in the U.S. Former recipients include John Legend, musician and philanthropist; Brian Barton, Major league baseball player; Gary Locke, U.S. Ambassador to China; Phillip Anthony-Rodriguez, actor and humanitarian; Kevin Glover, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian; Richard Lui, Anchor of NBC’s Early Today and MSNBC, and Rosie Rios, 43rd Treasurer of the United States.
As you can see, Gates Millennium Scholars are making a difference in their world today, and truly becoming the “Leaders for America’s Future.” I couldn’t be a more grateful recipient of this student scholarship, and I look forward to taking advantage of the vast wealth of opportunities that have now been opened to me.
You can serve as a nominator for a promising student and help them become a Gates Millennium Scholar. Applications for the 2015-2016 school year are available starting August 1, 2015.
Blessed Sheriff is a former intern for the NEA Foundation and senior at Richard Montgomery high school in Rockville, MD. She will be attending Brown University in the fall of 2015.