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There was a big envelope sitting on the dining room table. I got home from school and saw the word Buffett on the return label. I could not believe it. My mom rushed upstairs with tears in her eyes and asked, “Did you get it?”

“I got it.”

We hugged with joy, it is one of my most treasured memories.

The Susan Thompson Buffett scholarship was one of the greatest gifts I received. This scholarship had a personal impact on my life. It challenged my worldview, gave me the strength to tackle my own fears, taught me to show up authentically, and gave me some of the best friendships I could ask for.

The application was not easy, but applying for any scholarship is hard work. I want to share my story of how I almost abandoned my Buffett Scholarship application and the important life lessons learned when I finished it.

UNL or Bust

I wanted to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) since I was seven. It was the only school I considered because deep in my heart, I knew it was the place for me.

Side note- Always look around at other colleges and universities. It’s important to consider your options and I highly recommend you apply to several schools.

I took all the right steps to pursue my UNL dreams…until I met my match with the ACT standardized test. I was defeated by a lower ACT score (I took it three times and my score got progressively lower) and assumed my score equaled my intelligence. My ACT score led to an attitude change, as noticed by my guidance counselor, Mrs. Klone.

Character Matters

One morning, Mrs. Klone and I had a check-in. Because my ACT was low, I believed I was not capable of attending UNL. I said I was going to stop working on my Buffett scholarship application. Mrs. Klone shared advice that forever changed my life.

“You have intelligence, but you have even more character, and character will take you to many places in the world.”

To this day, she was right. Character does matter. Character is giving back to your community, leading with compassion, and making the world around you a kinder place. These are qualities scholarship committees want to see from their applicants.

Scholarships: Big & Small

The Buffett Scholarship was not the only scholarship I applied for. I applied for 15-20 smaller scholarships and received a quarter of them. Ranging from $300-$1,000, those scholarships were another means of financial support for my college experience.

We definitely want the bigger scholarships. The more money we get, the less it costs to attend college. However, do not skip out on the small-dollar scholarships. Behind every scholarship was a person or group saying they believed in my potential and wanted to invest in my success.

I’m grateful for every scholarship I received.

Be Part of a Community

When students attend UNL and receive the Susan Thompson Buffett scholarship, they are given the opportunity to be in a learning community. From the moment I began my journey with this program, I had a built-in support system with the tools for success.

I was assigned a peer mentor, took classes with my fellow scholars, attended sponsored social events (with tons of free food!) and financial literacy programs, and built connections throughout campus. I met friends and role models who still play an active role in my life. I found my place and later was fortunate enough to serve as a peer mentor for young scholars.

Finding a community is an important part of your college experience. Yes, attending school is to provide an education to pursue a certain career, but it can also give you a better sense of self, help you meet peers with similar interests, and expand your worldview.

Day by Day, Bit by Bit

The UNL Buffett Director advised me to take things “Day by day, bit by bit.” This has been an important lesson I have used often in my life. Remember this during your college planning process. It can seem overwhelming. You may want to give up because it feels like a waste of time. I get it.

Day by day, bit by bit. Break down the process. Take small steps toward your big dreams. It will be hard work. There will be setbacks. Those setbacks do not define you.

If you can do your best and share your real self, that is all you can ask for. Your character will take you to many places in the world.

You just never know when you will receive the big envelope…

By Alex Jurgens