In my ambition to get to college I completed 37 scholarship applications and 20+ college applications. In the end, I chose to go to Dartmouth with 7 local grants and the Bill Gates Millennium scholarship. By the time I got on campus for fall orientation, I was hungry for success. I researched the whole summer prior to orientation on college success stories and lugged 15 binders worth of research to campus. Yes it sounds like I was a maniac but you have to understand my state of mind at the time. No one in my family went to college and as the first to have the opportunity, I was determined to make the most of it and make my family proud. Add on top of that the fact that I was about to attend an Ivy League university and you can understand my paranoia in trying to be prepared.
How I planned 4 Years of Crazy Experiences
So I did what I knew best, plan out my undergraduate years as best I could and took on opportunities that got me a step closer to my end goal-a memorable 4 years.
- Each year I researched any opportunities available. Whether I had an interest in it or not didn’t matter. The point was to make sure I knew everything I could take on for that year. From the list I read through the requirements, the benefits of the experience etc. So by the end of my research I found 40+ programs, competitions and initiatives for freshmen. All programs were either closed off to Dartmouth students or found on Google. For example, I found inroads and SEO as external opportunities to pursue vs. the Council on Student Organization position as a Dartmouth specific opportunity. I complete this research profile for each class year through to senior year and I kept all of the information on printed charts so I can add more to it over time through my experiences as a college student.
- Next, I read through all of the program requirements and selected 3-5 programs that suited me best and applied to all of them with my best foot forward. What that did here was guarantee an amazing term no matter what .Out of the 5 applications for sure one of them will come through. Anyone looking at my resume or college experience each term can tell that I made the most of college and I guaranteed that reality by applying to diverse opportunities each term.
- Next, I did what I always do- research the hell out of the program I got accepted to and make sure I knew previous participants so I could make the most of it. And for the applications that resulted in a “no”, well I sent a thank you letter and a request for feedback. I always stayed in touch with the decision makers of my reject piles because some of them became great opportunities later on.
By the time it was all said in done, with $300k I traveled to 22 countries, worked 11 jobs, completed 20+ programs and was an active member of 8 campus groups. My study abroad experiences included programs with Semester at Sea, Universidad de las Pueblas, Mexico, University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Amy Biehl Foundation Fellowship of South Africa. My job experiences included being an admissions receptionist, Tuck Business School researcher, GreenCorps Alumi donation caller, COSO intern, Commencement & Reunion Head Supervisor, Alumni Reunion bartender, Rockefeller intern, Textbook buyback coordinator and much more.
So what’s my take away on all this- go for multiple opportunities and constantly search for new ones that might suit your interest. In the end you will look back on your college experience and say- it was an investment well spent.