A letter to Flinn Scholarship applicants: Read this while you wait

December 15, 2020

By Matt Ellsworth

Waiting! Waiting is the worst. (My wait was in the fall of 2014, when I applied for the Flinn Scholarship.)

I know that you’re enduring one last month of waiting before learning your Flinn Scholarship status, capping off an unbearable year of waiting—waiting for an email, an acceptance letter, a vaccine, an election, a time when it’s safe to hug your friends and family again. I am so sorry that you have to pass your senior year this way, probably isolated from many of the people you love, stressed about things no 17-year-old should have to be stressed about.

Though waiting can feel unbearable, I hope your wait also involves some hope, some excitement about the things to come.

When you’re on the precipice of a big change—graduating from high school, starting a new job, entering into a relationship, picking up a quarantine hobby—the universe of imaginable possibilities is expansive and beautiful, even if it sometimes makes you nervous.

Flinn Scholar Alum Mia Armstrong, reporting with New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof in Latin America.

For most of high school, the universe of post-graduation possibilities I imagined was governed by one rule: I had to get out of Arizona. I had lived in Flagstaff my whole life, and it felt small to me. Opportunity, I imagined, was elsewhere, somewhere on the East Coast, somewhere with brick buildings covered in vines. When I was in high school, to get out of Arizona was to prove something to yourself, and more importantly, to others.

The process of applying for the Flinn Scholarship opened my eyes. I learned about incredible opportunities at ASU, NAU, and UArizona, and I connected with professors and students from each university that were more excited about their work and eager to involve others than people I met at any of the private universities I visited. I began to reflect on everything I valued about Arizona, which it turns out, was a lot.

I accepted the Flinn Scholarship because I knew it would give me freedom—the freedom to create my own path through college, paved by my unique interests and supported by the Flinn Foundation with financial resources, mentorship, and community.

I know that not all of you will be named Flinn Scholars in the spring. But the good news is that whether you do or not, the fact that you submitted an application tells me that you are passionate, smart, and motivated. Flinn Scholar or not, you have opportunities at each of Arizona’s public universities to participate in world-class research, engage in international education experiences, and find dynamic academic programs—with, for many of you, more financial freedom than you’ll find at any other school you may be considering.

Arizona is an unparalleled place to explore and influence research and policy on topics like the climate crisis, politics, migration, international relations, urban planning, health, art, trade and business, criminal justice, and so many others, and I hope you’ll seriously consider the opportunities here. One of the ideas behind the Flinn Scholarship is to keep creative, bright, driven people in our state, because Arizona needs you.

If you’re anything like me, you may also find that you need Arizona.

Take care, and happy imagining,

Mia Armstrong
Flinn Scholars Class of 2015
Global Studies and Journalism
Arizona State University