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West Jordan Journal

Itineris outstanding graduate: Scholarship success

Jun 28, 2021 10:58AM ● By Jet Burnham

Tillie Powell received $155,350 in scholarships. (Photo courtesy of Tillie Powell.)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Tillie Powell graduated from Itineris Early College High School with a 4.0 GPA and 41 college credits and is headed to the University of Utah with her tuition and expenses paid for by five scholarships, valuing $155,350.

Powell applied for a total of 15 scholarships, starting late in her sophomore year. She had a lot of support and encouragement from her parents and from the faculty at IECHS; students are required to apply for eight scholarships during their senior year.

IECHS Director of Students Jeff Bossard said because all students apply for scholarships, a high percentage of them receive them. Half of last year’s class of 110 seniors received scholarship offers, totaling $3.6 million. By mid-May of this year, 61 of the 109 seniors had reported scholarships totaling a combined value of over $3.1 million.

“I think it's just become so commonplace at my school, that is not out of the norm when kids apply and win scholarships,” Powell said. “It's just an expectation rather than something extra.”

Most of the scholarships Powell applied for were academically based but she also sought scholarships that played to her other strengths. During her four years in high school, she was involved in student government, National Honors Society, worked as a science lab tech at the school and volunteered at a local hospital. 

“A lot of my extracurriculars were things that I was interested in,” she said. “But I also knew, in the back of my head, that I needed to get engaged in order to become a competitive applicant.”

IECHS academic counselor Laura Porter said there are scholarships available for students with a variety of interests and skills-- there’s a scholarship for creating a suit or a prom dress out of duct tape and for writing an essay about how you would survive a zombie apocalypse.

Porter said Powell is a self-motivated student who took the initiative to look for many scholarships on her own.

“She takes ownership over her education and she's got the power to change her future and to go after the things she wants,” Porter said. “She's got that academic knowledge, and the maturity and confidence to move forward.”

Powell tried for scholarships even when she knew her odds were low. She was surprised when she was awarded two competitive and prestigious scholarships, the Daniels Fund Scholarship, which only 10% of applicants received, and the Quest Bridge National College Match Scholarship, which awarded 6,885 scholarships from among 18,500 applicants.

While some scholarships only required her to send in her test scores and transcripts, others took much more time and effort. For the Daniels Scholarship, Powell wrote four essays and a resume and completed an extensive questionnaire and interview process.

The Quest Bridge National College match program was her most time-consuming; she wrote two major essays and eight short answer essays. Ultimately, she didn’t match with her top school choices through the program but it did cover the application fees for all 16 schools she applied to, which amounted to more than $1,000.

Most applications asked for personal statements, which was a skill Powell said she had to develop.

“I feel like it's hard to write about yourself,” she said. “That's something that I had to get over in applying for scholarships and for college. I had to learn how to frame myself in a way that felt authentic.”

Sometimes the writing prompts were just odd.

“I had to write about my arch-nemesis, real or imagined, which I thought was kind of a weird prompt,” Powell said.

Some of the scholarships she received were for financially deserving students, which Powell does not identify as.

“Honestly, I had a very privileged upbringing where I don't feel like I'm low income,” she said. “But when you look at the huge expenses for college, I think lots of students that maybe don't think they qualify, would qualify.”

Powell has advice for students who want to be competitive scholarship applicants: Start preparing early to earn good grades, test scores and to be involved in your school and community. Don’t overlook local scholarships, which are less competitive than nationwide scholarships.