Royal Oak, Michigan
Gates Millennium Scholarship, 2010
I'd always heard about the ever-so-prestigious Gates Millennium scholarship, awarded to only 1,000 seniors nationwide. The 30-page application has been the answer to thousands of dreams for years, with a full tuition, funded study abroad, and even funding for graduate school, I knew only the best of the best would be lucky enough to receive such a blessing. When my senior year arrived and my scholarship journey began, Gates Millennium was the first on my mind. However, as I was looking through past winners, with ACT scores around 35 and straight 5s on AP exams, discouragement came about oh-so-quickly.
It was early November when I printed the application. I planned to do it then and there, on the day I had it in my hands, but after reading so many stories of past scholars and such impressive profiles, my plan to complete it became dimmer and dimmer. I decided that I just didn't have a chance, so why bother?
But I picked it up again in m id-December and finished the first 10 pages, which only included information regarding personal data, parents' names, school, city etc. I stopped again when I came to the pages that required grades, scores, and community service. Now, don't get me wrong, my profile wasn't bad, but it just wasn't stellar, in my opinion, and I just didn't think there was a point to set myself up for failure. So I left the application on my desk until January 10, 2010 -- keeping in mind that the postmark deadline was January 11 and I still had 22 pages, including 7 essays, to finish. I debated as I laid in bed that night as to whether I was going to go through with it. I didn't want to face failure, but I realized that just giving up before getting started was failure in itself.
So I got up early on that Sunday morning, and worked on it until the early hours of the following school day, I actually fell asleep with the pen still in my hand and one last incomplete essay. I was exhausted the next morning, but forced myself to finish that last essay on the way to school. I ended up marked as tardy that day, but I was finally done with the entire GMS application and it was on its way to be postmarked. I'd finished the application that other applicants had worked on for months in 2 days. I knew it was probably awful, but I felt good because I completed it and I'd never have to look back on life regretting that I never finished. I could walk away and never have to hear about that scholarship again, but I was ok with that.
But then, an unexpected e-mail came in March telling me that I was a finalist. This was a nice surprise, but, to be honest, I felt like I was being teased. It was great that I'd made it that far, but I still didn't think I could ever be a winner. There were a few extra steps needed, so I did them ... why not? For the second time, I sent in my information expecting to never hear from GMS again – and, for the second time, I was ok with that.
In the meantime, I'd become a big fan of a number of blogs, and one day I found a stream concerning the Gates Millennium Scholarship. I read stories of students that had been counting down since day one, and how much they were counting on that award. I never joined in but I followed it almost daily. I began to feel bad that I hadn't taken the same time as these other students and almost hoped I didn't win. I wanted it just as badly and needed it just as badly, but it just didn't seem to be fair.
Then, on Tuesday, April 20, I received a huge white envelope in the mail that said "Gates Millennium Scholars" at the top. My first thought was, honestly, questioning as to why the rejection letter had to be a whole packet. I opened it quickly and one word caught my eye.
"Congratulations," it said.
I immediately looked at the address on the envelope, making sure it wasn't a mistake. When I saw it was correct, I looked for my name (a correct address not being confirmation enough for me), and found a huge congratulatory certificate that said my name in big bold letters. I ran in to tell my mom and we immediately broke down into tears and just cried and jumped up and down together for several minutes. I was allowed to go to the school of my dreams ... and I started August 11, 2010.
The Gates Millennium Scholars program prepares leaders, and requires these leaders to be productive in giving back to their community and passing back the blessings that they have received. In addition to attending school, I will be attending conferences twice a year, where I will meet with other young scholars enthusiastic about making a brighter future.