Meet the Chicago Senior With $1.6 Million in College Scholarships

I have been thinking about college since my elementary school days at Frazier Prep, a charter school on Chicago’s West Side, where every classroom is named after a college.

Even before my senior year of high school, I was exposed to a lot of college resources, like AIM High and the University of Chicago’s Collegiate Scholars Program. Through these programs I met great mentors and had the chance to learn from University of Chicago faculty in both humanities and STEM disciplines. Last summer, I participated in Northwestern University’s InFocus College Program, a two-week seminar on legal interpretation and communication. I studied the basics of legal practice and law interpretation. I was the only kid from Chicago. In class, it was amazing to see their perspectives and how they were totally different from mine,whether we were discussing politics, race or sports. As I started senior year, I had three questions guiding me through this entire process:
  • Am I going to have fun?
  • Am I going to learn?
  • Am I going to be financially stable?
My high school, Urban Prep, guarantees that every senior will graduate, accepted and ready to attend a four-year college or university.
To get us there, our counselors require seniors to apply to a minimum of 11 schools, chosen based on ACT scores, GPA and fit. I didn’t want to be forced into a college because I had no other choice. So I applied to many more than the 11 required: 39 schools in all. I wasn’t doing this just to prove my worth with a wall of acceptance letters. At the end of the day, I wanted to have options. After exhausting the number of schools on the Common Application, I applied to other schools, including my dream choices. After a long wait, the acceptances starting rolling in. Then it became time to consider scholarship packages. I don't have a super-rich family, but my mom can support me financially. Still, I didn’t want her using her money when I could set myself up to get all the money I needed from colleges. University of Southern California was extremely expensive, and I knew if I wasn’t granted a full-ride, I couldn’t become a Trojan. So, when an acceptance came across the table and it didn’t include a scholarship, it had to get tossed away. In the end, I had to decide between Georgetown and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. While they both gave me a full-ride scholarship, University of Illinois gave me an extra $20,000 for room and board. I had to ask myself, did I want to go to Georgetown because it's Georgetown or do I want to financially set? In the end, I decided that Georgetown’s reputation and a chance to try a new environment was too good to turn down. As a high school freshman, I would return to my teachers at Frazier Prep to get help with assignments I didn't understand. Now, I'm excited to be able to go back and share my college experience with students who are sitting where I once sat.
Mike Orie