This American Teen Received Over $1.3 Million In Scholarships

18-year-old Daya Brown was accepted into nearly 50 colleges with a total of more than $1.3 million in scholarships—here’s how she did it.

Applying for undergraduate studies can be a nerve-racking experience for many teens. From taking exams to creating compelling entrance essays, the process involves a lot of hardwork and patience. What’s more, despite all the effort one puts into their applications, there’s no guarantee that their dream schools will accept them—especially if they have competitive programs. 

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However, Daya Brown—a senior high school student from Atlanta, Georgia—has proven that with a good work ethic, proper time management, initiative, and creativity, it’s more than possible to achieve big goals. 

The Westlake High School senior received a slew of acceptance letters from 54 colleges and universities. Among them was Virginia State University, Ohio University, Louisiana State University, University of Maryland, and the esteemed Duke University (which placed 25th in 2023’s World University Rankings). 

Westlake High School senior, Daya Brown
18-year-old Westlake High School senior, Daya Brown/Photo via Instagram @becauseofthem

Brown also received a total of $1.3 million in scholarship money, which was great news for the teen as she told Good Morning America: “It really wasn’t about the number of schools I applied to, it was really about making sure that I had options for my parents to really sit back and relax. Student loans are something that I do not want. So this is kind of a gift, both to myself and to them.” 

As to which university Brown will be attending, the young girl has accepted the offer from Duke University, which was one of her top choices among the list of schools she applied to. This decision was further cemented after she took a tour of the school’s campus in Durham, North Carolina. 

Spring at Duke University
Duke University’s campus during the spring/Photo via Instagram @dukeathletics

“It just immediately felt right. I was welcomed by other Black students who had dreams that were as vivid as my dreams,” she shared with The Washington Post. “The entire time I was there, I didn’t have to ask myself, ‘Where do I fit in?’”

Spring at Duke University
Another shot of Duke University’s campus/Photo via Instagram @dukeathletics

Working Her Way to Success

Brown’s impressive achievement was earned through proper time management and good work ethic—things that her hard working mother (Farrah Brown, a real estate agent) and father (Olujimi Brown, a ministry consultant) instilled in her from an early age. 

In an article by The Washington Post, her mother Farrah shared that she’s “happy and relieved that the extra hours she spent with Daya at the kitchen table helping with homework assignments and offering time management tips have paid off.” 

Brown has always been a model student, with what she described as a “great GPA.” However, she was also aware of how competitive the acceptance rate in many schools were, and therefore determined to do what she could to make her application “stand out.”

Daya Brown
Daya Brown/Photo from VOX ATL’s official website

“I knew that I had to shift the narrative and focus on my personal story. That’s what was key for me, and I think it might be helpful to others, too,” she shared with The Washington Post

So as early as her sophomore year of high school, the teen (who was then 15 years old) was already doing research on different educational institutions and what they had to offer. 

When applying for schools, Brown focused on highlighting her passion for the arts, as well as her accomplishments within these fields of interest. Besides having a knack for poetry and debate, the teen also started her own Atlanta-based production company called Elom & Co., which showcases a variety of creative works from young adults like films, art pieces, music, and of course, literature. 

She also established a podcast called “The Scholar Social,” which is dedicated to providing students of color with a space to discuss topics like race, parental relationships, and religion. On top of that, Brown has contributed poetry and opinion pieces to VOX ATL—a nonprofit that publishes stories by the youth. 

Given her initiative and accomplishments in the fields she loves the most, it’s no surprise that many of the U.S.’s best educational institutions took notice and remembered her. The teen will certainly continue to excel and develop in her creative fields, as she’s planning to pursue a career in production or journalism at her university of choice. 

Helping Other Students Reach Their Dreams

Brown is well aware that she isn’t the first American student to have been accepted to many great universities and colleges—but she’s hoping she can make a change by sharing tips to help teens like her get to where they want to be. 

First among these pieces of advice is to start early. “I was already looking at scholarships [during sophomore year]. In each quarter, I’m writing down a different goal. Colleges have made it so easy. You have virtual visits. Go to those visits, make sure you do your research,” Brown shared with 11 Alive. Back then, the teen dedicated at least three hours a day to college applications for around four months. 

Working table
Photo by Andrew Neel via Unsplash

Second, she suggested that students do plenty of research on schools that offer the top programs for their majors. If possible, she adds that applicants should apply for as many scholarships as they can—even the smaller ones. 

“There are no shortcuts when doing this kind of research, so it’s critical to devote the time and energy to figuring out what’s out there,” she told The Washington Post.

College friends
Photo by Naassom Azevedo via Unsplash

Lastly, the 18-year-old recommends that applicants think about what makes them special and what they can offer as individuals.“Colleges love the uniqueness about applications. Sign up for those internships and go apply for that job. Go to that volunteer experience because they want to see who you are as a person.”

Photo from Elom & Co’s official website.

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