The impact of the Flinn Scholarship

September 30, 2016

By Matt Ellsworth

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 second-year Flinn Scholar Mia Armstrong, who attended high school at BASIS Flagstaff, had to say.

mia-armstrongHi everyone,

It’s crazy to think about the enormous impact hitting a submit button on an online application two years ago has made in my life.

I’m only in my sophomore year of college, but already the Flinn Scholars Program has allowed me to both travel across the world and connect with opportunities that exist in my own desert backyard, all the while introducing me to some of the most passionate, dynamic, and caring people I know.

I remember my senior year of high school well. I felt like I was simultaneously drowning in application deadlines and suffocating myself with self-doubt. To be honest, I was afraid — afraid of failure and afraid of the future.

I’ve stood in your shoes. I know that applications are stressful, time-consuming, and scary. I know it’s hard to condense your life, your passions, and your aspirations into a few essays. But today, as I stand in my own shoes, I also know that completing the Flinn application might be the most worthwhile thing I’ve ever done. And so I plead with you: Don’t let whatever self-doubt you may have prevent you from seeking out the opportunities you deserve.

Of course, self-doubt doesn’t go away with submitting an application or enrollment in a particular college. For me, the senior year of high school became a journey of self-discovery that was guided in part by the questions that emerged through the Flinn application process—the essays, the interviews, the university visits. The application process forced me to ask who I was and who I wanted to become. This self-discovery, and the self-doubt that drove it, has persisted throughout my time as a college student.

I came into college thinking I would major in global studies and economics. While I’ve stuck with global studies, I never declared economics. Briefly, I pursued an additional transborder studies major. Now I’m focusing on journalism. College has forced me to discover and rediscover my passions, something made possible by the flexibility and resources of attending a large public university and shaped by the guidance and support I’ve received from the Flinn Scholars Program and the wonderful and diverse Flinn Scholar alumni network.

Since this time last year, I’ve rediscovered how much I really do love writing, and so I started writing for my university’s student-run newspaper. I’ve gotten involved with prison education programming through the university, and I have also been conducting research with a professor from the School of Politics and Global Studies. Most importantly, I had the opportunity to visit China on a three-week seminar trip with the other Scholars from my class. This trip was eye-opening, and I learned so much while getting to travel through Beijing and the Chinese countryside with 20 of my best friends.

All of these opportunities were made possible by the Flinn Scholars Program. So it may sound cheesy, but hitting that application submit button really did change my life.

In a letter I wrote last year, I told applicants that they would look back on this process—regardless of its eventual outcome—with appreciation for what it taught them about themselves. I still believe this to be true. I also believe that each one of you has so much to offer, and I hope you can take the time to believe in yourself as well.

I know this is a stressful time. But I hope each of you will remember that you’ve worked hard to build yourself into the passionate, dynamic, and hardworking person that you are today. You owe it to yourself to apply for the Flinn Scholarship.

Stay strong and good luck!

Mia Armstrong
Class of 2015