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Ethan, a Dell Scholars student, studies on his college campus

Dell Scholars: Giving students the best shot to reach graduation day

Todd Penner

Ethan was a junior at Sam Houston State University, just weeks away from the end of fall semester, when he was dropped from all his courses.

After Ethan received his scholarship funds from Dell Scholars at the beginning of the term, he had an unexpected personal expense that was going to affect his ability to pay in full for the semester. With finals looming, he worked with the financial aid office to extend the tuition deadline, buying time to pull the funds together and focus on school. He turned his attention to months of late-night study sessions, exams, and term papers. Unfortunately, it was the perfect storm for Ethan. He missed the tuition deadline and he was in danger of not being able to return to college.

The car breaks down unexpectedly. The family back home is struggling to make rent. No one is available to cover that shift during final exams. For college students from low-income backgrounds, a seemingly small setback can topple the financial and personal circumstances that made it possible to pursue a degree. For Ethan, one missed payment could have changed everything.

Here’s what happened instead.

Through Dell Scholars, Ethan found the guidance and support he needed to get back to class. He learned to navigate on-campus resources, from financial aid to advising, developing relationships with deans and administrators at Sam Houston State. After a huge blow to his confidence, he found encouragement from advisors who were also first-generation college students and who persevered despite the challenges — a reminder that he isn’t in this alone, and that the journey ahead is worth it.

Dell Scholars provides financial, academic, and social-emotional support to help disadvantaged students succeed in college. Watch this video to meet Ethan and learn more about how Dell Scholars helped him find a solution to his financial situation, regain his confidence, and get back on track towards graduation.

Transcript

Ethan: My family was originally from the Philippines, and they came here about 20 years ago. And the first thing they did was find a nice place to live, but also someplace affordable. And most affordable places weren’t the safest places, the most regulated places. Growing up in that environment, there was probably 14 of us living in an apartment complex. And just seeing my family just motivated me to give back to them. And I saw that the opportunity to give back was college and getting a degree. With my degree, I want to pursue veterinary medicine, and hopefully down the road I want to have my own clinic and opened up my own shop.

Last fall, I felt like I was doing very well in my courses, but near the last payment plan of section, I couldn’t pull it off and I couldn’t pay it. So they dropped all my courses, and it was during finals week, so it was really devastating. It really took a toll on my confidence, and I felt like this is just going to throw me off the tracks. I just didn’t want to talk to anybody. I didn’t want to deal with school. But the Dell Scholars, they reached out to me. They just called me out on it and said, “We know how it’s like, and we understand where your confidence may be. But you need to know that this journey is not just for you, it’s for your family, and we’re here with you. Even after you graduate, we’re here with you.” They gave me the emotional support, the financial support and the urgency and confidence to keep going and keep moving on.

Being a Dell Scholar, it’s much more than a scholarship. It’s much more than the money. They reach out to you and they want to see how you’re doing in life, and not just school, but every aspect of what you’re going through. When I graduate with that degree, I feel like it’s not just going to touch my life, but everyone around me too. I feel really motivated, and I feel blessed to be pursuing things not a lot of people can say they can pursue.