It's "Why Dartmouth?" Time - Part 1 (Background)
*note: This will be the first post of a two-part iteration of my "Why Dartmouth?" or what I would like to call, "My Story." This post will reflect on my childhood and upbringing, my quest for knowledge, and my journey prior to applying to Dartmouth. Thank you for reading!
To give you perspective on my academic journey, I must give you a brief rundown of my past. I grew up in in the rural south, in a forgotten little town of Hornersville, Missouri with about 600 people. To paint a picture, it's a town where everyone knows everyone and everything about one another, a place where the sandy soil blows in the winter and is tamed by the rains in the spring. A place where farmers make a living and dream of their children playing professional baseball or basketball. A place where church forms the cornerstone of the community. A place where the country dirt roads would take you around and around to nowhere. But, for me, it was a place I called home.
I lived in Hornersville for 18 years of my life. Some of this time was with my mother and father, but the majority was spent with my grandmother. I have some good memories of my parents, mostly in the younger years of my childhood. Sometimes I think back to these good times, but they are always clouded by the painful memories of substance abuse and incompetency. I didn't understand when I was young, and nor do I claim to fully understand now. However, I've come to realize evil sometimes grips people's lives and they find ways to shield themselves from it, and substances are an easy way to do that.
So, I found myself living with my nana since I was a kid just starting middle school (I was probably nine or ten). Like most, we lived down a dirt road with fields surrounding each side of the house and trees outlining three sides of our property. It was like a little oasis. An ugly, humble little oasis, but it was ours. In middle school, I fit the bill of every other kid in the town; I played basketball, went to the lone convenience store after school to buy snacks before the game, rode around town on my bike, and went to the local river at sunset. Day in and day out. However, I began noticing something different about my persona in middle school. I was fascinated by what I learned in classes. While my friends were busy trying to figure out who they were going to sit by at the junior varsity basketball match, I was asking myself, "What causes people to get sick? Why does the sun rise and set each day? What causes the weather we have each day?" These questions got more complex over time, and this fascination with knowledge was something that proved to be powerful in my life.
Transitioning to high school was quite the time in my life. My family situation worsened with my parents, and my nana was diagnosed with colon cancer, which has a. survival rate of around three to four years. This was four years ago. I gained a reputation of being the "smart guy" in high school, and I lived up to it. I saw academics and learning as my thing, I was good at it, and I was going to excel no matter what came in my path. Luckily, I had a couple of great friends in high school that pushed me to be even better. I'm still grateful for them to this day. After a bout of high school relationships, golf matches, proms, elections, and more than a few rides down to the river, I found myself in the college search process.
I knew nothing. I had no idea where to start, where to look, who I should talk to or what I should expect. I took my standardized tests, worked my butt off and got a good score. How was I supposed to put my academics and life story together to get into a "good" college? What was a good college? I didn't know. You may recall that 2021 was year full of Covid, but I grew up in the conservative U.S., so nothing seemed much different. However, in the late fall of 2021, I decided to complete the semester virtually. I wanted to spend more time with my nana and my brother and sister before college. I did just that. I found a lot of time on my hands. I figured out what the Common Application was and applied to local state colleges and got in. I was ecstatic! I had navigated this process and figured it out myself. After a while, I started understanding how financial aid worked, and what it meant to have an EFC of 0 on the FAFSA and, after a certain point, I researched colleges who promised "meeting 100% of financial need"……