I am an Arndt Family Scholar. A scholarship in which only high school students from the Madison Metropolitan School District can receive. A scholarship that can only be awarded if you go to the University of Wisconsin – Madison. A scholarship that is for students that possess great leadership and are from families that are struggling financially.
I received an acceptance letter from UW-Milwaukee, UW-Whitewater and UW-Madison. It was that time to apply for financial aid and scholarships. I had no idea how the process worked. I didn’t know what financial aid was nor did I know how to look for scholarships.
The only thing my parents could do is tell me to become a doctor or engineer as if I already didn’t know what college was like. Why couldn’t my parents guide me and make my senior year so much easier and transition into college more convenient. And it was because they had no idea what it takes or what it’s like even applying for college or finding funds for it. Even till this day, they got no idea what college is like.
Both my parents never went to a four-year college. My mom has been a childcare provider for over a decade and my dad has been laid off from multiple jobs over the course of my childhood. To this day, I don’t even know what my dad does….(machinery maybe?).
I was so confused on the cost of college. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t even know what the word tuition meant and I was a senior in high school. That is embarrassing if you ask me, but that’s how much I was educated on the college systems. In high school, you get a free education and books so what the heck is the word tuition? By the time I knew it, I turned in my security deposit to reserve my spot at UW-Madison and the dorms (Witte Hall).
Tuition this, room and board that, like who’s going to pay for it? My parents don’t have the money for that. I was scared. If you could see how stressed out I was on finding funds back then, I was a mess. I had to balance a club at my high school, attend weekly meetings downtown, plan events and fundraisers, and look for scholarships?
Jeez, I was so burnt out, I saw my high school counselor every day at lunch asking for help like I was a little kid who wanted to be pushed on the swings because I didn’t know that by kicking my legs back and forth, I would actually swing. I mean, I would sit outside her door just waiting for her to talk to me because I was so scared about my future. I would ask her millions of questions hoping that she could grab me by the hands and show me the way. Keep in mind, I’m taking up her lunch time just so she can help me, like me, like everyday. And that is why I still remember her name up to this day.
My counselor handed me applications for the Chancellor’s and Arndt Family Scholarship. Obviously, I was denied for the Chancellor’s, but on senior night I was called up the stage to receive the Arndt Family Scholarship. Including me, approximately 10 others also received the scholarship. They ranged from Hmong, Hispanics, to African-Americans and even the white students. In all honesty, I was just happy to be on the stage that very moment knowing that my tuition would be paid for relieving my parents of any financial burden.
In order to maintain the scholarship, I had to keep a minimum GPA of 3.0 and throughout my whole freshman year I was so worried that if I did bad, I would lose it.
I didn’t come to UW-Madison as a honor roll student. I was top 100 of my class out of 300, but barely. I did leadership and volunteer work throughout my junior and senior year of high school.
I worked five jobs throughout my undergrad, studied abroad, earned a GPA of 4.0 my spring semester of 2013, and loved being a student worker and ambassador for a program that fosters a home for low-income, first-generation, and minority students.
Having said that, I graduated and now am working full-time with plans to go back to school in the future and if that isn’t enough to tell you that people who are in financial need and may bring a unique story and culture to UW-Madison, then you don’t know what it feels like to be in my shoes or many others.