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Achieving your dreams requires flexibility, tenacity

Published: Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, December 4, 2013 23:12

It was sometime in December of 2012 when I finally gave up.

Just a year before, I had moved for the very first time to St. Paul, Minn., to attend the university that gave me the most money, an all-girls school called St. Catherine University.

St. Paul was a beautiful place. It wasn’t nearly as cold as I thought it would be, but way cloudier.

I made amazing friends there, and we would sing show tunes while walking down the street.

But reality had finally hit me in the face: I couldn’t afford St. Catherine University.

I then had to spend who knows how long at McHenry County College just plugging away at general education courses.

There was no such thing as a “dream school” when my family and I were so broke, we were having trouble paying tuition for MCC at about $1,000 a semester.

So now that St. Catherine University is over, now what? Well, now comes the search.

What other school should I go to? How on earth do I even start?
I knew one thing for certain: I wasn’t going to let MCC be the end of my academic career.

Besides, I have dreams of being a professor. I can’t get that at a community college.

That was my motivating force, but I still didn’t have a clue where to start.

Focused on the start of the spring 2013 semester at MCC, I didn’t start my search until February. I applied to a couple of state schools and got some scholarship money, but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to pay for these schools.

Little did I know, I was participating in two huge things that would soon change my life: the Undergraduate Research Scholar Program (URSP) and the honors society Phi Theta Kappa.

I decided to do the URSP on a whim, to be honest.

I didn’t have any English classes for the Spring 2013 semester, so I decided that doing some independent research in English would keep me involved in the subject I love.

I knew this was a rare opportunity, but I didn’t really appreciate the value of this program until later.

I also joined Phi Theta Kappa just because I wanted to.

I have always had a lot of trouble finding jobs in McHenry County, and doing volunteer work for Phi Theta Kappa would hopefully make me look attractive to employers.

Though this never happened, the volunteering made feel like I was doing at least some kind of work, though I never got paid for it. There were perks of joining the fraternity that I wasn’t really aware of until I attended one of the mandatory meetings held every month.

I learned about the Phi Theta Kappa website “CollegeFish.org” where there’s a huge, national listing of schools and all their scholarships offered to transfer students.

I applied to roughly 20 universities until I got accepted to ETSU.

I had earned full tuition for two semesters at ETSU because my previous research experience with the URSP made me desirable for the school’s Midway Honors Program.

It was unbelievable! I felt so relieved and joyful and I printed off my acceptance form right away and mailed it that day. Never give up on your dreams.

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