More than 90 percent of UT Martin students receive financial aid through scholarships, grants, and loans. Courtney Edmonds of Starkville, Miss. pursued a financial aid opportunity that has proved to be invaluable to her education. Courtney is the recipient of the Bill Gates Millennium Scholarship, which pays for her cost of attendance from her undergraduate studies through her graduate work.
The grant is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is a scholarship program that strives to "promote academic excellence and to provide an opportunity for outstanding minority students with significant financial need to reach their highest potential." As a Bill Gates Millennium Scholar, Courtney can continue her college education at little to no cost.
While in high school, Courtney worked hard on her grades and was actively involved in her community to prepare herself for college and to make herself more marketable when applying for scholarships. Of her high school experience, Courtney said, "I played basketball, volleyball, was in the Key Club and National Honors Society." She also said she participated in Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) and volunteered as a candy striper and with the Salvation Army. To meet the scholarship's requirements, she said, "You have to have a 3.5 GPA. I had a 3.96 GPA coming out of high school." She was also required to get recommendations and nominations and write eight essays to be considered for the Bill Gates Scholarship. She said, "It was a lot of work to get it, but it was worth it!" All of her hard work paid off in 2007 during her senior year of high school when she was awarded the Bill Gates Millennium Scholarship.
After high school, Courtney attended Mississippi State University as a pre-med, biology major. After spending two years at Mississippi State, Courtney decided to begin looking into other universities because she not was satisfied with the large university. She said, "I was in an algebra class with nearly 300 students at once." Her mother suggested that Courtney consider UT Martin because of its smaller class sizes and UT System affiliation and reputation.
With most of her credits transferring easily to UT Martin, she settled into the new location without knowing any of her new peers. Courtney advises transfer students to, "Try and get to know people by joining different clubs and participating in different activities. Getting to know people makes the transition a lot easier." Courtney joined ASK (Apostolic Students Konnected) and Psychology Club after transferring to UT Martin. It was not long before Courtney was settling in at UT Martin and getting to know her classmates and friends from her organizations.
Shortly after transferring to UT Martin, Courtney changed her major to psychology. She took an interest in her psychology coursework, specifically enjoying her courses with Dr. Michelle Merwin, professor of psychology. Courtney said she benefited most from her service-learning courses, where she was required to participate in community service from the Institute of Civic Engagement (ICE) list of organizations. She enjoyed working with We Care and UT Martin Recycles!
Though she obtained a degree in psychology on December 10, 2011, Courtney has very different plans for her future. "I'd like to go to school to study computer science." She has an interest in one day becoming a programmer. Because of her scholarship, Courtney is able to explore her passions because her scholarship allows her to continue her education at almost no cost. Her advice for students seeking scholarships that will help them pay for college and support their dreams and aspirations are "Don't procrastinate! Try to enjoy the college experience, get involved, and get to know your professors and peers. Be proactive." Courtney is a great example of how hard work and focus can lead to countless possibilities and opportunities.