Mia’s advice for applicants

September 29, 2015

By Matt Ellsworth

Mia Retreat

Each year, Flinn Scholars write letters of encouragement to the hundreds of students who start applications for the Flinn Scholarship, sharing with them reflections on their own application experience and what they’ve encountered in college. Here’s what first-year Flinn Scholar Mia Armstrong, who attended high school at BASIS Flagstaff, had to say.

I still remember the first piece of mail I ever got from Flinn—a glossy brochure featuring four Scholars and their long lists of impressive accomplishments. I read the brochure with a sense of awe: what these students were doing was amazing, and what Flinn had given them was incredible.

I felt this ache in my stomach; I wouldn’t even be eligible to apply for the Scholarship for three more years, but I already wanted it so badly. At the same time, the whole prospect of applying for the Flinn scared me because it had potential for failure written all over it. I convinced myself there was no way they would choose me. I wasn’t remarkable; I was normal.

But, because I wanted it so badly, I decided to apply for the heck of it. I told myself I would regret not applying and having to wonder if I could’ve succeeded more than I would ever regret applying and failing.

As I’m sure you’ve all discovered, senior year is kind of terrifying. There’s an endless stream of essay editing, application submitting, and interview prepping. The only thing anyone ever asks about is which colleges you’re applying to. There’s a lot on the line—parents, teachers, and friends keep talking about this vague, anxiety-inducing concept of your future.

In many ways, the traditional college-application process is very depersonalizing and demoralizing. You’re asked to write about your life, your feelings, and your aspirations in tiny essays, and you’re judged by someone reading a piece of paper who may not even know how to pronounce your name.

For me, the Flinn was the opposite of the traditional college application process. Of course, it was still very nerve-wracking, but I felt like the Flinn was different because they truly cared about who I was as a person. They wanted to sit down and talk to me. They wanted me to be who I was, not who I thought they wanted me to be. They didn’t ask me so much about what I’d done; instead they asked me about what I thought. They asked me about what I would do if only given the chance.

I know you’re probably anxious for advice, the tricks for cracking the Flinn code. But the only thing I know to say is what I already have: The people reading your application and interviewing you are doing it because they want to know who you are, and who you want to become. I’m cringing while writing this because it’s so horrifically cliché, but it’s also so indisputably true: Be yourself. Tell your story.

I hope that many of you are successful with your application. But the truth is, not all of you will be. This only means that the universe has other plans for you. I know it’s hard to accept, but if you try to come to terms with that now, the next few weeks before the application deadline, and the next couple of months while you wait for a reply will get a lot easier.

Wherever you end up and however you end up there, I promise you that college is an exhausting and exhilarating experience. I’m now a freshman at Barrett, the Honors College at ASU, majoring in global studies, and my plan is to add a major in transborder studies in the upcoming semester. I’m on the club triathlon team at ASU, an intern at Mayor Mitchell’s office, a student in ASU’s Next Generation Service Corps, and I’m taking a beginning Chinese class through an institute on campus (to prepare for the Flinn China trip!). These opportunities are just a few examples of the types of things you can do at ASU, NAU, or UA.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is this: Believe in yourself. Don’t be afraid to take risks. And although it may be hard to imagine now, a year from today you’ll look back at this whole process—like I am now—and be thankful for it, no matter the outcome, because it will have taught you something about yourself. So, if you can, try to enjoy the ride.

Love and Luck,
Mia Armstrong
Class of 2015