How a Scholarship Changed my Life

Scholarships awarded for attending college and universities are not just about the money; they are about the people you meet along the way, the opportunity to learn and grow as an individual, and the confidence to accomplish your dreams. Applying for scholarships is a lot of work that requires countless hours dedicated to telling your life story on paper for strangers to read and evaluate. You might not think you are good or qualified enough. Trust me, you are exactly what the scholarships are looking for.

As a senior in high school I applied for the Gates Millennium Scholarship not knowing the extent to which the scholarship would change my life. The application was LONG and asked many personal questions that readers around the country would be assessing. Here's a tip: put yourself out there, tell these readers about your flaws, your accomplishments, and the life lessons you have grown from. Don’t be afraid to elaborate and describe your stories the way they happened: with personality, heartache, love and joy.

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The day I won the Gates Millennium Scholarship was the day that would change the rest of my life, and I had no idea at the time. I was just getting out of school when my mom called my cell phone. Just like every good Cuban mom, she had opened my mail when she got home from work and found the letter from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that notified us of receiving the scholarship. I was ecstatic, knowing that I would actually be able to attend Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA. Moving all the way across the country was scary and continuing a degree in Biology has been challenging, however it was all made possible because of people outside my family who believed in me. Besides applying to scholarships, you should do things that scare you and get you out of your comfort zone (you’ll grow and learn from those experiences), challenge yourself and work hard (through the tears and the stress you will succeed).

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Working with BLUE Missions for the past five years has taught me a lot about myself and about the world we live in. I have met hundreds of brilliant high school students who have impacted my life in remarkable ways. Because of the work I have done with BLUE, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund awarded me with The Young Leader in Education Award for 2015. As a recipient of this award and The Gates Scholarship I have met some of todays’ most influential Hispanic leaders, entrepreneurs, actors, businessmen and women who are invested in my future.  In leading 10 mission trips for BLUE Missions, I have learned that our generation has what it takes to change this world. As a “leader” on BLUE service trips, I am responsible in the guidance and safety of our volunteers. Each and every volunteer personally changes the lives of every person they encounter; they are the real leaders.  You have what it takes to win scholarships and excel in whatever you set your mind on, as long as you take the time and put yourself out there.

If you are a high school senior interested in applying for The Bill and Melinda Gates Millennium Scholarship and would like some guidance feel free to email me at Natalie.aguirre@pepperdine.edu. If you are a parent, family member, or friend of a high school senior, encourage your child to apply (deadline is January 13th, 2016). The class of 2016 is the last class eligible for this scholarship, however it is not the only scholarship out there. My advice to you is to apply to as many scholarships as you can, have confidence in yourself, make bold decisions and stick to them, challenge yourself in all aspects of your life, spread love, be humble, and live in the moment. Good luck!