$1.3M Scholarship Winner Gives Advice to High School Students

Multi-scholarship winner and current class of 2023 high school student shares the resources students should be using and how you can stand out as a scholarship applicant.

Shawna Newman

March 31, 2023

$1.3M Scholarship Winner Gives Advice to High School Students
Daya created a Fastweb account her junior year of high school.
College acceptance letters have been delivered and financial aid packages have, or will soon be, hitting seniors’ mailboxes. It’s an exciting time for the Class of 2023! But with all of the excitement comes a lot of financial evaluation and big decisions. May 1 is Decision Day for college-bound, high school seniors. While many seniors set to graduate in May are wrapping up their fall college plans, Daya Brown’s experience may top those from the Class of 2023. A current high school senior at Westlake High School in Atlanta, Brown applied to 74 colleges, was accepted to 54 and earned more than $1,000,000 in scholarships. Brown’s exceptional senior-year experience, however, captured the attention of the national media. A big scholarship winner with many college acceptances to consider, Brown had important college decisions to make. We reached out to Brown to get advice for high school students and current seniors making their final college choices right now.
How did you find scholarships? In my junior year in high school, I created a Fastweb account. When I told my high school counselor about my concern about having to pay for college, she directed me to this platform. Fastweb made it easier for all students to apply for independent scholarships because this platform connects with students' aspirational job objectives, college major, and extracurricular activities.
Fastweb Tip: Complete your Fastweb profile with as many details as you can. Doing this will get you the best scholarship matches. A robust profile is a great way to ensure you’re matched to the niche scholarships, which also often have fewer applicants. What were the types of scholarships you won? The awarded scholarship majority came from institutional scholarships, such as merit-based and presidential scholarships. I was also awarded independent scholarships such as, the National Society of High School Scholars, Notorious RBG Women of Tomorrow Scholarship.
Fastweb Tip: The more scholarships you apply for, the better your odds of winning a scholarship. The scholarship you don’t apply for is one you won’t win! Do you plan to apply for more scholarships? I am now a Gates Millennium Scholarship Finalist, and my aim is to continue applying for non-institutional scholarships until the Gates Scholarship decision is made. Fastweb Tip: Consider applying for $500 scholarships, too! The applicant pool for the smaller scholarships is typically smaller, meaning you have higher odds of winning. You mentioned in a GMA article that Duke felt like “home” and this was the determining factor in your final decision to attend that college. Did your Duke financial aid award package also help with your decision? Duke University, being a merit-based scholarship university, offered a considerable award that aided my decision. Duke University not only felt like home, but the incredible support from Duke Alumni and students, as well as the incredible opportunities, aided my decision. Fastweb Tip: If your first-choice college offers you less financial aid, consider appealing the financial aid award package. Many seniors are getting their financial aid packages. What are your tips for evaluating financial aid award packages? My first recommendation for evaluating financial award packages was to examine the scholarship amount. Furthermore, although some schools distinguish between a loan and a grant, others do not. Fastweb Tip: No two financial aid award packages are alike. Be sure you look at each type of financial aid offered and compare these line by line. There are specific questions you can ask when evaluating award packages. Did you have any sources of guidance or resources to help you through your college-bound journey and application process? Throughout my college application process, I was fortunate to have several people who guided me. I was fortunate with excellent people such as Mr. Moore, Westlake High School College and Career Coach, Mr. Lennon, Westlake High School's College Coach, [and] Dr. Owens, [my] High School Counselor. Mr. Adams, the principal of Westlake High School, my mentors, Duke Alumni, and current students at both Duke and Harvard were really helpful. What parts of your college applications do you feel like helped you stand out? The purpose of my college application curation was to always convey a vulnerable narrative of who I am as a person, student, boss, daughter, friend, and the list goes on. As a result, the components of my college application that stood out the most were my essays, recommendation letters, and resume. What are a few applying-to-college tips you could share with soon-to-be high school seniors? Visit your top five [to] 10 institutions. Create a list of schools and scholarships that make sense for your circumstances. Fastweb Tip: Create a college category list for the colleges you’re applying to and include reach schools, target schools, an safety schools. What would you tell your younger, high-school self? No matter how many people tell you that you aren't deserving, you are. Brown will be graduating as a top 25 scholar with International Baccalaureate Honors from Westlake High School where she also serves as the senior class president. She plans to attend Duke University in the fall majoring in visual and media studies with a minor in policy journalism. Her career goal is to work in television and film as a director and or producer. If Daya inspires you, consider creating your free Fastweb profile. Your profile saves you time and makes the scholarship search easy by showing you the scholarships you qualify for. Other scholarship lists that you may find helpful include: 10 Scholarships You Can Apply for Today 23 Scholarships to Apply for in 2023 Top Scholarships for High School Seniors Best Scholarships for High School Juniors College Scholarships for African American Students

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