For Madeline Lee, the journey to receiving more than $1.2 million in college scholarship money began before she even started high school. The St. Martin High School senior recalls the moment as a young child when she heard the phrase “Scholarships equal free money,” and that simple statement was enough to spark her interest in earning as much of that money as possible.
“Scholarships equal free money! There is no charge to apply for them, so take as many chances as you can,” Lee said. “By writing a 500-word essay, you can apply for hundreds of scholarships. Chances are you’ll win one! You’ll never earn anything unless you have a plan and pursue your goal.” Once in high school, Lee focused on the achievements that tend to net the most scholarship money: Becoming a National Merit Finalist, studying for a high ACT score, and enrolling in Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate courses.
Lee’s hard work has paid off, to the tune of $1,205,404 in scholarship money. Her scholarships include a full ride to Mississippi State University, where she plans to pursue a double major in Communications and Music as an honors student. Along with academic achievements, Lee’s extensive resume of extracurricular activities, particularly involving her love for music, helped her win additional scholarships. Lee is the principal oboe of the St. Martin High symphonic band and a 4-year member of the Mississippi Lions All State Band. She also is the color guard captain for the marching band and a member of the inaugural St. Martin High indoor drumline. Lee is her school’s Beta Club president and a member of Mu Alpha Theta (math honors society).
As a Jackson County FabLab Ambassador, Lee started a Girls in STEM initiative that started small as coding seminars for local Girl Scouts and blossomed into a series of Girls in STEM camps sponsored by Chevron and other companies. Dina Holland, principal of St. Martin High School, praised Lee for understanding that scholarships are a “path to financial freedom” for future college students.
“Madeline’s ambition and drive for knowledge will continue beyond her earning a bachelor’s degree,” Holland said. “She understands that attending college is quite an expensive endeavor and absolutely wants to be independent of financial burdens once she has earned her degrees.”
Lee’s advice to students is to research potential colleges and work toward qualifying for the kinds of scholarships those colleges offer. Also, she says, identify and develop those unique talents and ambitions that would make you an asset to your dream school. “Find something you love and pursue it,” Lee recommends. “Chances are, there is someone out there who will offer you a scholarship for it! Colleges are looking for you to be you, and knowing your passions makes you stand out!”