I grew up in a low-income household. Without a college education, or a firm grasp of English, my parents struggled to find work that would allow them to pay the bills and buy groceries. On the day I submitted my application I knew that even if I was accepted, my family and I could not afford the cost. At the time, I wasn’t aware of Stanford’s exceptional financial aid programs. Looking back, I’m so glad I didn’t let that stop me from applying. If I could give just one piece of advice to those unsure of whether or not they’d be able to pay for a Stanford education, take the time to familiarize yourself with the financial aid programs before making the decision not to apply because of cost.
For an entire week, I waited with a pit in my stomach for my financial aid package to arrive. When it came, I called my mom and dad to the kitchen because I wanted them by my side when I opened it. I’ll never forget the intensity of the anticipation. It’s a cliché, but true: The next steps in the course of my life depended on what was inside that envelope. With a deep breath and one more glance for reassurance from both of my parents, I pulled out the stack of papers. My hands quivered and my heart raced and then I saw it, the words I had been dreaming of: “Zero parent contribution. Zero student contribution.” A full scholarship.
Tears welled up in my eyes instantly. I dropped the papers and felt the embrace of my mother on one side and my father on the other. Joy and relief overcame us and poured out of us as we danced in a circle and sobbed. In that moment, life for my family completely changed.
If it weren’t for the generous financial support I received at a time when my dreams were big but my resources low, my life would likely look quite a bit different today. Stanford not only gave me hope, it gave me the incredible gift to be able to dream bigger and then turn those dreams into reality. I want to give back to Stanford to help do the same for other low-income, first-generation college students with big dreams. It’s because of what I’ve been given that it’s important for me to give back – to my family, to the school, and through a career with impact.