After watching her older brother use the Gates Scholarship to earn a bachelor’s degree at the University of Washington and a master’s at Stanford, McNary senior Megan Schneider didn’t need much convincing to apply for the scholarship herself.
And that decision paid off.
The scholarships, from Bill and Melinda Gates, are awarded each year to 300 Pell-eligible, minority, high school seniors across the nation.
Winners receive a full scholarship to the school of their choosing.
Schneider will enroll at UCLA, which she ultimately chose over Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn.
“They have really good academic programs and they are not too far from home,” Schneider said. “The weather is great and I have some family down there.”
In order to receive the scholarship, Schneider, who is one of McNary’s 16 valedictorians, FBLA president and community service chair for the Associated Student Body, not only had to fill out an application but also write four essays about her life goals and struggles of being a minority.
“We didn’t have a lot of time to write them, the phases between the deadline and when you learn you have to write them is a pretty short turnaround, so they were tough,” Schneider said. “It was stressful. That was definitely a more difficult part. I’m not necessarily a big fan of writing. It takes me a while to put together a good essay.”
Schneider had to wait months to find out if she would be one of 600 chosen for the final stage of the scholarship process—in-person interviews.
“After the essays, I felt pretty good about them,” Schneider said. “They were probably some of my better essays but I know there’s some really great writers out there so I wasn’t 100 percent sure I’d be able to make it to the next round but I’m glad I did. It was a long stressful couple of months where you just wait and wait so that wasn’t fun.”
Schneider did her interview at Chemeketa Community College.
“She was really nice and asked some similar questions to the essays and really just wanted to get to know me better,” Schneider said.
Inspired by her teachers at McNary, Schneider plans to major in education at UCLA, but is keeping her options open.
“Mr. (Frank) Hanson and Mr. (Jim) Litchfield, specifically, have really helped me out throughout my high school career,” Schneider said. “I’ve been interested in teaching for a while but UCLA also has a bunch of other really great programs just in case I decide to try something else or explore my options.”