I Got Two Full Rides: Here’s How I Did It


Gina Trotta

A photo as I signed my contract to commit to Eastern.

Christina Trotta, Features Editor

   When I was a kid, my aunt always told me that I was going to get a full ride. At that time, I didn’t know what college was, let alone a full ride. But it sounded like a really good gift that I would easily get.

   What I would come to learn is the exact opposite.

   I received a full ride scholarship to both Central Michigan University and Eastern Michigan University. I’ve been asked by many students how I did it, and here’s my advice.

My best friend Kayley and I spend countless hours together studying for various tests.
  • Work for it

   This answer is the obvious answer, but it is the true answer: hard work. Your efforts need to begin early, or as soon as possible. I think this can include anything from working extremely hard on a big project, to doing a few homework questions to get the credit. It might be easier to skip homework tonight and take the bad grade, but an extra few points in the gradebook can act as a cushion for you in the future. Hard work can be the difference between a good test grade, and a great test grade. 

   Additionally, teachers reward students who do well in their classes by giving the top grades extra credit or giving hard workers the extra boost at the end of the semester when you are just shy of the next higher grade. Overall, the best piece of advice I can give to you is to give 110% effort to absolutely everything you do, because it does pay off.

My AP Statistics class from junior year.
  • Take hard classes

   This is another obvious response, however, I often feel that students can approach it incorrectly. Many students believe that taking an extremely rigorous course load and having 4 APs and 2 MST classes is the key to success. I disagree with this approach. I think that taking classes that overexert you is a bad idea. Throughout high school, my friends and I have all seen the results of choosing the most difficult but impressive classes possible, and it never ends up well. Students who take on numerous difficult classes end up drowning in the weight of all the work, and have to sacrifice some grades for others. 

   I would recommend asking numerous students about your prospective classes. By getting a wide variety of opinions, you can really get a feel for what you will have to endure for the next nine months. Try and find classes that are a good fit for you, your interests, and will also push you to be your best.


My friends and I at a Student Council Regional event in Frankenmuth.
  • Take every opportunity you can

   This is one of the biggest pieces of advice I can give. Extracurriculars are very important in the college admissions process. So many students feel like they haven’t done “enough” by senior year, and wish they would have done more. I recommend that you really try and branch out and find every activity you can. These can include:

  • Clubs within your school
  • A sports camp over the summer
  • A science camp
  • A community service opportunity at your local library
  • A field trip with your club (Key Club, Thespians, Student Council)
  • Various Student Council events
  • A mission trip with your church
  • Studying abroad
  • An afterschool job
  • An internship/job shadowing experience
  • An art class
  • A physical activity group (dance, marathons, hiking, rock climbing, etc) 
  • A book club
  • And so many more!

   Colleges love to see students participate in activities that are unique to them. However, I’m not saying that you need to have the most unique extracurriculars ever. Colleges would be interested in being a part of the local YMCA youth sports group. Your extracurriculars are vital to your applications because they show who you are, outside of your transcript. Taking part in many math and science programs can reveal your passion for STEM. Being in extracurriculars shows that you are able to balance school on top of other responsibilities, which is a good thing. They also make you look social. 

A photo of LCN Student Council at a Student Leadership Summer camp!

   Look for leadership positions within these groups (ex: chair of the Student Senate, President of your book club, co-captain of the basketball team, etc.), because colleges want to see your passion for being a part of something. I wouldn’t recommend being a part of too many clubs, otherwise, you’ll spread yourself too thin. Which leads me into my next point, which is…

As a part of Student Council Executive Board, I helped lead the Mr. Crusader event last year.
  • Join a club/activity/sport you love and stick with it

   Countless students join numerous clubs during high school solely for the purpose of putting it on their college applications. From someone who is leading a big school-wide club, I would strongly advise against doing this. Clubs do not want people who aren’t committed to them, and why join a club you are going to dread going to every month? Pick something that you are actually interested in, and not just for the honor cord. If you play a sport, pick something you really love and give it your all. 

   I have joined and dropped clubs for these exact reasons. In 10th grade, I became obsessed with being a part of every club at school, and I couldn’t even drive myself to the meetings! At the end of the year, I took inventory of every club I was in, and decided which ones I should drop for the next year. This worked out well for me, and I was able to put more time into clubs I actually enjoyed. Additionally, I was able to take bigger leadership roles in these clubs, since I had more time to devote to them.


My friend Allie and I volunteering at a skin cancer screening with the American Academy of Dermatology in 2018.
  • Do community service above 40 hours

   Community service is an area where you can really stand out as a student and show that you make a difference. Since there are countless service hour opportunities, you can really demonstrate your passions with these hours.

   If you are interested in teaching, maybe try tutoring often at your school. If you are interested in something medical, volunteer for a hospital, clinic, etc. If you like science, see if you can help with the Science Olympiad team at your middle school. Ask your community service office coordinator how you can get involved in a certain field, or just in general. Community service is something that colleges like to see, and you can never really have too much!


My friend Izzy and I in AP Calculus.
  • Study for the SAT – but it isn’t a make or break

   There is a lot of controversy surrounding the SAT and its role in the college admissions process. Although it is a big part of applications, I personally do not think it is able to accurately represent a student’s intelligence or abilities. (You can read plenty of other articles that detail both sides of this debate)

   Even though I do not like it, colleges do look at it. However, when I started applying, I thought you needed a 1600 to even be noticed by any colleges. This actually isn’t the case. I found that many colleges gave me a top merit scholarship without a perfect score. Unless you are looking into attending an Ivy League school, SAT scores won’t ruin your chances of getting into a school. 

My advice for the SAT:

  • Do your own research. A score that works for you and your needs may be different than others. There’s a lot to know about the SAT, so I would research all about the test.
  • Many students find that taking the test multiple times helps to improve their score. I took the SAT three times (December of junior year, October of senior year, and December of senior year). In the end, I was able to increase my original score by 50 points.
  • Look up how the test works and take a few practice exams. 
  • Pay attention in class when your English or math teacher states that those problems are SAT-type problems. 
  • After taking a practice or real SAT exam, review what you got wrong and practice those types of problems. 
  • I found Khan Academy helpful for practicing sections I scored low on previously. 
  • I also recommend that you actually try on the PSAT tests, because they are good practice for the future. If you perform well on the 11th grade PSAT/NMSQT test, you can earn some big scholarships that way as well. 

   There are countless SAT review sources on the internet, so I think the first step is reaching out and getting started. 

A photo of my Calculus homework from this year.
  • Practice writing good essays

   Scholarships are not completely dependent on your grades. More often than not, a scholarship application will require you to write an essay. For large scholarship programs, like a full tuition or full ride scholarship, it is pretty certain that you will need to write a few essays. Across the board, the essay topics are pretty similar, however, some scholarships may have you write about a specific topic that relates to their program.

Some essay topics I had to write about included:

  • Diversity and international experiences
  • Overcoming challenges and obstacles
  • A book that impacted me
  • A learning experience beyond the classroom
  • A time when you served as a leader
  • Your most fulfilling community service activity
  • A personal essay
  • If you could meet any famous person, who would it be and why?
  • How would this specific college/program benefit you?

   Over the span of August-January of senior year, I wrote countless essays. I applied to more programs than I could remember, and I would forget what I even applied to at each school. If you are planning on applying to a lot of scholarships, I recommend:

  • Pay attention in English class and have a good writing foundation
  • Have someone edit your writing for you. Find someone who is a good editor and is willing to read over lots of essays for you.
  • Stay organized and keep every essay you ever write. Even if it is a two sentence response, KEEP IT. You will probably answer that same question again!
  • REUSE YOUR ESSAYS! This is what saved me. I constantly reused and reworked old essays for new topics and themes. In the above list of topic ideas, you can probably see how the topics “Overcoming challenges and obstacles” and “A learning experience beyond the classroom” could possibly be about the same subject. Don’t waste your time and write completely new essays when you might already have plenty of good ones. 


  • Know your own limits

   The college admissions process is what you make of it. I would advise you against taking too many difficult AP courses, or participating in too many clubs. A big lesson I learned in high school was balancing my life. I have learned the hard way about spreading myself too thin and having to sacrifice certain grades or time. I would always try to push yourself, but if it is causing you to have severe stress or anxiety, I would highly advise against it. 

   This process is difficult enough as is, so don’t put any extra stress onto yourself. Everything you apply to should be because you have a genuine interest in it. 

  • Don’t apply to a program just because it’s famous. 
  • Don’t apply to a school just because it has a big name. 
  • Don’t apply to something because all of your friends are. 
  • Don’t apply to something because your parents/teacher/coach thinks you should. 

   These reasons and more will influence you to waste your time applying to things you don’t even have an interest in. If you want to get big scholarships, you need to put in more time into a few scholarships, than a little time in a lot of scholarships.

Also, senior year is supposed to be fun! Obviously, put in the time and effort it takes on your scholarships, but make sure to make time for yourself! This year I have made sure to make time for myself, and you should, too.


This is from my perspective and from my experience as an academics-focused student. There are many ways to earn scholarships, and these are just if you are serious about getting big scholarships; these tips are important, but also maybe get professional advice as well. Take everything with a grain of salt… I’m not an admissions counselor.

Class of 2021! (Niko Zuckero)