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A College’s Legacy of Making A Difference

Author’s note: Cyndy McDonald usually represents GuidedPath at the IECA conference each May. Due to William Woods University’s graduation, Cyndy McDonald (or a GuidedPath representative) will not be at the conference. We will be there in spirit! Have a great conference.

A College’s Legacy of Making a Difference

Years ago, as a scared eighteen year old, I was faced with dropping out of college due to a change in the financial aid I was receiving at the University of Colorado Boulder. Something in the law changed, and the amount of financial aid I had was going to be discontinued. I was going to be left on my own to figure out how to fund college. I was at my wit’s end. My only options were to drop out of college, work to earn enough to go back, or find another way to pay for college.

I did not want to drop out of college, because I was afraid I would never get the chance to go back. I wanted to continue my education until I had accomplished my goal: be the first in my family to attend and then graduate from college. My father did not even have a high school education. My mom had a high school diploma. I was on my own to figure out how to afford college. I felt abandoned by my university. How was I going to ever afford to go to college?

Someone told me to check into attending a small, liberal arts, woman’s college, in Missouri. I wondered, “If I can’t afford this public school, how am I going to afford a school that costs three times as much as this?” Yet, I had nothing to lose, so I went out to visit William Woods College, to see what the college offered, and to see if they would even want a student like me.

As I walked around Senior Lake and the “Dome” (McNutt Campus Center) I felt I had found a home. I wanted to attend this school, but how could I afford it? Would the college even want me as a transfer student? I was amazed when I talked to the admissions/financial aid staff, and learned the answer was “YES” to both questions. William Woods did want me as a student, and to my joy and surprise, the college was willing to give me the financial aid I needed to attend. What? I could attend a school that was far more expensive than the public school I was at, and get the financial aid I needed? And smaller class sizes, a more personal educational experience? Why did I not know this before? Why did my counselor at school never share with me how I could look at many options for college? Thus the seeds were sown for my future life’s mission: to educate counselors, parents and students on financial aid.

Fast forward to another generation, to my niece, an upcoming 2015 graduate of William Woods (now University). She has had a similar journey to William Woods. She is a first generation college graduate: her mom has a GED, never completing high school. A few years ago, as a potential transfer student too, she and I visited William Woods. She decided this was her dream, to attend this school. Just as the college embraced me decades before, they embraced my niece, giving her full financial aid to enable her to attend college. She will be graduating from William Woods, with her mother beaming at her side, and proud family in the stands. Thank you William Woods University. You have created a legacy of making a difference in the lives of two generations.

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