It’s almost embarrassing to tell this story because when you are given so much, it’s embarrassing in a way. But. I know that many of you have expressed interest in how Weston’s college fund is coming along, and I also think there is something here that can be helpful to other people.
We have been about the business of leaving no stone unturned, applying for grants and scholarships, but for us, the most important thing that happened was that Weston took the PSAT in his junior year of high school, which is the start of becoming involved in the National Merit Scholarship Program. Taking the PSAT is voluntary and not all students choose to do it. The test is administered at high schools, for students who choose to take it, during the normal school day.
In West Virginia, any student with a 3.0 or above is eligible for the Promise scholarship, which will pay all tuition and fees at any state university (and up to a certain amount at private in-state universities). That’s the foundation, and Weston will have that, but of course there are many other costs involved in college, including housing, food, books, supplies, and other assorted expenses that add up to more than the tuition and fees. In the course of his participation in the National Merit Scholarship Program, he has now become a National Merit Finalist. This program has not completely run its course yet, so I don’t have any news to share about that scholarship right now, but in the meantime we have been busy about knocking down every other door, applying for grants and local scholarships, making him write essays for this and that scholarship. The high school recently nominated him for the Robert C. Byrd Scholarship, and told him he was going to be the “Senior Spotlight” in the yearbook this year. (We love the high school!)
He has applied and been accepted to WVU (West Virginia University). They have offered him a $10,000 scholarship, based on his SAT scores, his high school record, and at the time his semi-finalist status in the National Merit Scholarship Program. Between that and grants and the maybe maybe of other scholarships we are waiting to hear on, I patched together a scenario in which he could certainly have his first year paid for and maybe maybe close enough on the rest. Room left to worry.
This week, I got a letter in the mail from WVU. I didn’t even open it right away. I have been expecting to get information on student orientation, so I thought that was what it was. When I opened it, I could not believe my eyes. I laughed and cried and couldn’t even put a sentence together for a few minutes. They were notified that he was a finalist in the National Merit Scholarship Program and they had changed their minds about the $10,000 scholarship.
Now they are giving him $30,000.
I had so much trouble getting past the first paragraph that it took a while for me to understand the rest of the letter, which I had to read about ten times to get that there was MORE. They are also giving him a $3500 stipend to be used during his junior or senior year to study abroad for a semester.
I can’t even begin to express how overwhelming it was to read this letter. As soon as I could speak, I found Weston, who was playing on his computer. I spent so much time telling him how fabulous and awesome he is that he had to put a pillow over his head to stop me.
As I said, we don’t even know the end result of the National Merit Scholarship Program itself, but just being part of the program has opened so many scholarship doors for Weston that it almost doesn’t matter. Between the West Virginia Promise scholarship and the WVU scholarship, Weston is now already on a full scholarship ride. If you have a student in high school, be sure they take the PSAT in their junior year. It is the start of more opportunities than you might realize. (We didn’t know.) Find out more about the National Merit Scholarship Program here.
P.S. In case anyone is wondering what we would do if Weston should receive an excess of grants and scholarships, it is going to be put away in an account for him to go to graduate school, when scholarships are not so readily available.
P.P.S. I am possibly most excited that he will have the opportunity to study abroad a semester, anywhere he chooses. I can’t even BELIEVE THAT!!!