Gates Millenium, Financial Aid, Tatyana Ali: A Trifecta
I am blessed to be a Gates Millennium Scholarship recipient. The program, established in 1999, was initially funded by a $1 billion grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and aims to provide educational opportunities for students of color by assisting them to meet their cost of attendance at whatever school they choose to attend (shoutout to Bill Gates, who lived in the same upperclassmen house that I currently live in. CURRIER!). The application, like college applications, is really daunting and annoying. After writing and editing the required 8 essay questions, I sent in my application and crossed my fingers, hoping for the best (same with my college applications actually). I found out about my Harvard acceptance a little before being notified about the Gates Millennium Scholarship. Reading “Congratulations!” in the Harvard Admissions Office email is one of the best moments of my life - but that’s for another blog post ;)
When I received acceptance packages in mid-April, I was surprised by how much Harvard gave in financial aid to cover the cost of attendance! Harvard gave me the best financial aid package from all schools and I was even more surprised to see that it was cheaper for me to go all the way to Cambridge and attend Harvard than it was for me to stay in Texas and go to any schools in-state. Leaving Houston, or even Texas, was a big deal to me and my mom. Because of my family situation, I would have only left Texas if it genuinely benefitted me and my family.
A couple of weeks later, in April of my senior year, I found out that I was selected to be a Gates Millennium Scholar as well. So much good news in one month! My mom was more excited about the Gates Millennium Scholarship than my Harvard acceptance because the Gates Scholarship guaranteed to meet my cost of attendance at any school. So, theoretically I could have stayed home in Texas and gone to school without worrying about covering my college tuition, BUT I visited Harvard and fell in love with my future classmates and the school (our Visitas, the admitted student weekend, for the class of 2017 was actually cancelled so I came the following week). It didn’t take much to sell my mom on Harvard. In fact, my grandma, who lives in Kenya, was extremely proud and started telling her friends that I was going to Harvard before I made a decision. I couldn’t make my grandma look bad, so ultimately I decided to choose Harvard. But in all seriousness, it was a difficult decision. I talked to a lot of people, did research on the schools, did a lot of thinking, and made my final decision. I haven’t looked back since!
The Gates Millennium Scholarship is fantastic, but because Harvard provides such amazing financial aid, I essentially haven’t needed it. But, it’s still been a great chance to network with other great students. First semester of my freshman year we had a conference in Virginia for all recipients that went to school on the east coast. There we all got to network and listen to alumni and other great speakers, but the highlight of the weekend was the keynote address by Tatyana Ali, who graduated from Harvard in 2002 and wanted to take a picture with all of the students from Harvard! The Gates Millenium Program has been a great blessing to me and my family, but perhaps even more so has been Harvard and its extremely generous financial aid program. I’ve heard this phrase a lot and I think it’s true: getting in should be the hard part, paying for Harvard is the easy part.
Comment with any questions about financial aid!