"Winning this scholarship as a high school senior was monumental for me. Applying to college is a difficult time for all seniors, and unfortunately the difficulty does not go away after colleges accept you. Beyond the ecstasy of getting into the colleges you want to attend is the hard reality of whether you can afford to. For many students, college decisions is a difficult choice between the schools that gave you the most financial aid or the schools where you see yourself being the happiest. As the eldest of three, I was faced with this same difficult decision: either I could go to the school that gave me full financial aid, or I could go to the school I had been dreaming about since I was 10 years old. Winning the Junior Achievement Essay scholarship made this decision much easier for me and my family.
Thanks to Junior Achievement, and the generosity of Mr. David Rubenstein, I was not only able to attend my dream college, but I was able to do so without any additional financial burden on my part. With the Junior Achievement scholarship award, I was able to finish my first year at Columbia University without having to do work-study. This luxury allowed me to dedicate all of my time to my studies and to my extracurricular activities, as well as just being a college student and exploring New York City.
Yet the Junior Achievement Essay Competition did not just help me financially. After completing my freshman year of college, I’ve realized that writing that essay influenced nearly every aspect of my college experience. While it was extremely fun to write, my rap battle was also my first extensive research paper. Writing those 1,500 words prepared me for the grind of 10 page papers my college professors now regularly expect. But even more importantly, the essay competition helped me develop a love for research.
The openness of the essay format allowed me to combine historical research with creative writing, helping me learn to turn cold hard facts into a story. Now papers about government or war history that were previously tedious for me to write have become exciting new battles in their own way. Writing the Junior Achievement essay sparked a passion in me for historical writing and applying our history to the modern world. Connecting George Washington to Dr. Dre, I learned how to relate old societal problems to current ones, a skill which I continue to employ as an online writer for the Columbia Undergraduate Law Review, where I exclusively write articles about legal history and its relevance today.
Overall, the Junior Achievement experience was my first taste of the real world. That night of the Awards Ceremony was my preview of what life is like beyond high school. Talking to adults with years of experience and stories, trying to eat elegantly in front of a famous philanthropist, and meeting extremely talented peers my own age. Since entering college, it has become apparent to me that these surreal experiences quickly become a part of real life. And speaking to Mr. David Rubenstein and everyone else I met that night, I realized that the world is so much bigger than the high school bubble I was used to. Beyond the grades and the clubs and the friend cliques and the SAT scores is a world with so many chances and so many ways for you to make a difference."
-Summer Oh, 2016 Winner
"Winning the JA Essay Competition helped me in a number of ways; some obvious, and some less so. First and foremost winning the competition gave me confidence in my self and a sense of validation that "hey, I CAN compete with others and think creatively about a challenging topic I otherwise never would have considered." Applying to the JA essay competition required me to go out on a limb and try something that I frankly thought would be a waste of time and that I had no chance at succeeding in, and after completing that essay I was willing to take other chances. Winning the essay also gave me the opportunity to meet Mr. Rubenstein and hear his incredible story which offered some much needed inspiration going into my first year of college. Finally, the generous financial prize continues to provide me support in my time at school.
I cannot thank everyone at JA enough for the opportunities they provided me. Meeting Mr. Rubenstein and the other attendees at the JA Essay Competition award ceremony was an incredible privilege and something that should not be overlooked when discussing the privileges and impacts of being a JA winner. I cannot emphasize enough how I truly view that essay as something of a turning point in terms of my confidence in myself. To this day, whenever I consider trying something seemingly ridiculous or difficult, my parents will say 'Didn't you say that about the Dr. Dre-George Washington JA essay? Go for it.' Since then, I have gone for it."
-Mazzen Shalaby, 2016 Winner
"Winning the JA Essay Competition has given me new confidence, direction, and resources to pursue my collegiate and personal goals. Aside from being a great thing to put on a resume, this essay contest forced me to think deeply about the importance of writing to my career. I am pursuing a major in biology, but now I'm also considering a minor in English or creative writing, so that I can better communicate the scientific achievements of my career to others.
The competition has opened up tons of new opportunities and potential paths for me, both in the prize money, and in the writing and argumentation skills that it fostered. I'm really glad that I learned about this contest; the essay prompt was more fun than 90% of the other papers I've done, and the payoff was better than all of them."
-John Merlo-Coyne, 2016 Winner
"Winning the JA Essay Competition allowed me to prioritize focusing on my coursework and studies instead of having to split my time and work extra jobs. I was able to start off the school year and my undergraduate career on a high note and with positive thinking. It also was another great writing piece to reference in future written assignments.
Additionally, as a student in the School of Education, one of my preliminary assignments is to go into local elementary schools and teach JA created/designed lessons. I was placed in a 2nd grade and taught about community. Participating in the JA essay competition allowed me a foundation for this field experience. I'm so grateful for the time and consideration of JA and thankful that I was picked as one of the winners."
-Isabella Boland, 2013 Winner
"With entering into a competitive process for a coveted outcome, there is always a voice nagging you with the cold truth of your chances of coming out victorious. While I had been successful in gaining acceptance to competitive entrance magnet middle and high schools, I had been generally been wary of high-dollar competitions - they felt like impossible to win.
But seeing an older student at RM who rode the same bus as me win JA's competition, I felt like I possibly had a shot. I had never been amazing at English - as much as I loved to read, my essays never scored amazingly well - but JA's essay competition was about entrepreneurship, a topic I had read a great deal about through tomes of Bloomberg Businessweek and Inc magazines. Also, I had previously come across the story of David Rubenstein, the sponsor of the competition, and was charmed by the near serendipity of a White House staffer-turned-private equity revolutionary. With all the stars seemingly aligned, I took the gamble. And I won.
Ever since, I've shunted aside that nagging voice inside, successfully taking on challenges that at the outset offered grim odds from competitions like Young Mind Awards to scholarship applications to a personal goal of signing up 10 of my friends for Discover's It credit card so I could use the referral bonuses to fund my dream drone and somehow signing up over 20. Micheal Jordan had it right. You miss all the shots you don't take. It just took me this competition to really understand that."
-Zubair Khan, 2013 Winner
"Honestly I am so thankful to Mr. Rubenstein for offering this scholarship because it is one of the reasons that I can afford to attend UC Berkeley. Out of state tuition at the UCs is more or less comparable to private universities, and I have to pay travel costs back and forth between the coasts as well. This scholarship has allowed me, at least for my first couple of semesters, not to work a job on top of all my academic studies.
As a result I did very well in my first semester of college, and have been able to spend the free time that I would otherwise have spent working, building key relationship with the faculty at Berkeley. As a result, next week I am starting research with one of my professors. The Junior Achievement Scholarship was not the only reason that I could afford to study and then do so well at UC Berkeley, but it has definitely made my transition to college much easier."
-Katie Thomas-Canfield, 2012 Winner
"Probably the most obvious way the scholarship affected my academic career was financially. It's helpful in paying for tuition, supplies, and other things necessary when you go away for college. However, in my eyes this the smallest of the impacts on my academic career.
Before even winning the scholarship, the essay competition provides you with a chance to think. It provides you with the opportunity to think about a question that wouldn't have crossed your mind otherwise. My question was very much government, public life, and economics oriented. I didn't take economics or government classes in high school, but this question alone sparked an interest. I found economics and its relationship to the world both socially and financially to be fascinating. Winning the competition is almost validation that maybe I am good at this sort of thing. I had originally intended to study engineering and mathematics while in college, but now, partially due to this question, I intend to major in economics and business.
The actual act of winning does something for you. Regardless of the competition, winning instills confidence. Winning the scholarship provided me with the confidence that I could write well, and that maybe this sort of thinking was what I should be doing in the future. I would argue this was the most important to me. I felt more confident in my writing, and more confident in my future. A $10,000 scholarship does far more important things than give you $10,000."
-Matt Ashley, 2011 Winner
"I would like to thank David Rubenstein for his generous Junior Achievement Grand Prize scholarship award. It came as a pleasant surprise in 2011 and is still a great encouragement to me as I finish my first semester at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Looking back at my high school years, I realize that the Junior Achievement essay competition was a major spark for my interest in business. I became very interested in finance, and hope to explore the field for the next four years and beyond. This winter I will be interning at Stone Harbor Investment Partners, where I hope to learn more about the finance industry. This recognition continues to further my determination to pursue my education and business goals.
This award is also a great inspiration to me. When I have the ability to do so, I will certainly think back to this sweet moment and donate what I can to help other students."
-Fiona Lam, 2011 Winner
"The Junior Achievement scholarship has been an invaluable resource for me this year as I began my undergraduate education at Yale. Tangibly, of course, the scholarship has ensured that I can easily handle expenses for textbooks, technology essentials, train tickets to go home over vacation, and all of the other aspects of attending college. Less tangibly, the scholarship funds gave me much needed peace of mind.
I graduated from Yale in 2017 Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude. Those honors were possible because I always felt that I had a solid academic footing. I always had time to study, write, and revise. Time to go to office hours and time to just think. The Junior Achievement award allowed me to worry less about my finances and concentrate on the papers, tests, assignments, and projects that formed the basis of my academic career."
-Azeezat Adeleke, 2010 Winner
"Winning the $10,000 scholarship has entirely defined my undergraduate career thus far. Because I won the scholarship, I felt financially secure enough to pursue opportunities that I otherwise wouldn't have been able to pursue. The summer after my first year at the University of Virginia, I took a great, but relatively low-paying research position in the Department of Astronomy, studying galaxy evolution. Being able to start scientific research early is critical to long-term success in science.
The opportunity to pursue scientific research during that summer--due in large part to the support I received from Mr. Rubenstein--has opened up so many doors for me in the years since. I have gone on astronomical observing runs at world-class telescopes, attended professional astronomy conferences, and won further research grant support from various sources. All of these experiences have strengthened my resolve to get a PhD in the sciences."
-Catherine Zucker, 2010 Winner
"I'm grateful for the $10,000 scholarship not only for having won it, but also for being introduced to the world of business. Before this competition, I had very little exposure to business, except the basic, even skeletal theoretical models taught in AP Microeconomics. But in the process of doing research for the essay competition, I made a habit of reading the Business section of the newspaper. Businesses weren't simply equating marginal cost to price; they responded creatively and decisively to new opportunities and challenges, or they didn't and paid the price. It was then that I became hooked.
As a result, the Junior Achievement Essay Competition gave me a new direction going into college. As the captain of my high school Mock Trial team, I had envisioned myself as a lawyer, but entering the business world became an increasingly appealing option, so I joined the consulting and investment groups at Yale in my freshmen year in addition to Mock Trial. I'll spare the boring details, but learning about business and finance in particular has been a central part of my life throughout college. I'm currently the Portfolio Manager of Yale's Student Investment Group, which adopts a fundamental, value-oriented strategy in managing its $450,000 in assets. My duties also include leading training sessions teach incoming members to interpreting financial statements. Moreover, I'm doing research about the leverage cycle with John Geanakoplos, a Finance Professor at Yale, and over the upcoming summer I will intern for Weiss Asset Management, a hedge fund in Boston.
More importantly, meeting Mr. Rubenstein helped give me perspective. Being a successful wasn't only determined by one's net worth, but also (I would like to think more so) by what one gives back to the community. In the face of the backlash against "Wall Street", this knowledge has sharpened my resolve in building a career in business and finance and hopefully being able to someday sponsor scholarships and contribute to other worthwhile causes.
I want to convey how strong of an impact that the Junior Achievement Essay Competition has had on me. It helped pave my way to college and sparked a genuine interest in business that's shaped my life these last couple of years."
-Jingran Wang, 2010 Winner
"Winning the JA Essay Competition gave me the flexibility to attend an out of state university, which not only allowed me to pursue a wider range of interests, but also exposed me to a whole other world of personalities, backgrounds, and possibilities.
In college, I quickly discovered that I wanted to have a more hands-on approach to the study of business, and I transferred to Wharton to pursue an undergraduate business degree. My first job out of school was as an investment banking analyst in the Financial Sponsors Group at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. I treated those 2 years as another form of business school in which I looked at case study after case study of different business models and problems. This helped me further hone my interests to focus on technology and private equity.
In July, I am starting as a private equity associate at the very firm that David Rubenstein co-founded, The Carlyle Group. I am grateful for his contributions to society, in more ways than one, and hope this scholarship continues to remove financial burden for students to pursue their academics interests without compromise.
Not only did the JA Essay Competition scholarship substantially ease the financial burden that comes with a private university, winning the award gave my 16-year-old self additional confidence to go out in the world and seek out what I wanted. It taught me that opportunity is out there and I just needed to work for it. Today, I take great pride in my accomplishments and hope to contribute to Carlyle what David Rubenstein had once contributed to me through this program. Life really does come full circle."
-Stacey Zhou, 2010 Winner
"Having the support of the Junior Achievement scholarship has made an enormous difference to my education. Right now I’m a philosophy major and computer science minor, and I’m now planning to go to graduate school in philosophy and keep pursuing philosophy for the rest of my life. This is the kind of decision that wouldn’t have been possible without a scholarship - the $10,000 award from Junior Achievement removed my worries about paying off debts at the end of college, thereby making it possible for me to try out new subjects and take the kinds of risks that would have otherwise been unimaginable.
Not only is philosophy something I personally love, it’s a subject that I strongly believe is important to society. We live in a moment in history that is being shaped by revolutions in computer science and technology, and since the traditional task of philosophy is to reflect upon the significance of new bodies of knowledge, there’s a lot of useful and urgent work for philosophers to do. The Junior Achievement scholarship had made it possible for me to try to do some of this work myself — I currently work at the intersection of computer science and philosophy, and try to tackle questions about the relationship between technological developments and human meaning.
Philosophy can be a risky path, but the support of a scholarship has given me the capacity to take my first steps in a direction that I think is both socially useful and intrinsically worthwhile. I’m extremely grateful to Junior Achievement for making this option into a reality for me."
-Maya Krishnan, 2009 Winner
"I truly cannot overstate the effect that the essay competition scholarship has had on me. At the time that I received the scholarship, I had been admitted to Columbia University. Columbia is a truly fantastic place, but also has one of the highest costs of attendance. While my parents have always encouraged me to follow my dreams, I knew that going to Columbia would present them with significant expenses. It was an investment far greater than any they had made in their lives.
Winning the essay competition allowed me to contribute to my education in a meaningful manner. While in later years I would also work part-time to defray expenses, the scholarship gave me additional time that first fall semester to just focus on my studies and adjusting to Columbia. That time was especially valuable for me - I took extra classes to push my early requirements out of the way. One of those extra classes exposed me to Political Science, a field I studied and discovered a passion for.
Today, I am a senior at Columbia; I double majored in English and Political Science. I'm planning on studying law, and have been accepted into Harvard, Stanford, Georgetown, NYU, Columbia and Chicago law schools. I find myself in the odd position of being the beneficiary of Mr. Rubenstein's generosity not once, but twice - I have been offered the Rubenstein full tuition scholarship at Chicago Law."
-Mica Moore, 2009 Winner
"The Junior Achievement Essay Competition was an incredibly transformative experience for me. Not only did the scholarship enable my family to be better able to support my tuition at Harvard, but my interaction with all the incredible people at Junior Achievement served as a significant inspiration for my academic and professional aspirations. In particular, I was struck by JA's mission and community focus - so much so that I actually volunteered as a financial analyst and strategist for Junior Achievement's Northern New England branch my sophomore year, assisting the new leadership with plans for growth and expansion and even helping teach the JA in a Day curriculum in a local South Boston elementary school. My time with JANNE was extremely fulfilling, and I hope to continue to give back through JA in the future.
Mr. Rubenstein has proved to be a similar inspiration and role model for me. I remember meeting him at the JA Essay Competition dinner and hearing about his incredible career and experiences. After learning more about Mr. Rubenstein's substantial impact as a business leader and philanthropist, I've sought to strive toward the standard of excellence he communicated to the award winners during his speech at the ceremony. I find his work with the Carlyle Group fascinating and have spent my college summers exploring the intellectually riveting worlds of business and investment. Since coming to college, I have spent summers working for Apollo Global Management and the Blackstone Group (which I will be joining full-time next year). In every setting, I have heard nothing but words of admiration for Mr. Rubenstein. Even now, as I am about to head into the working world and begin my own career, Mr. Rubenstein and Junior Achievement continue to serve as a guiding light for how to build an impactful career and give back to the community that has been so instrumental in helping me become the person I am today."
-Scott Yu, 2009 Winner
"Winning the competition helped me afford Princeton. Without it I would have had to take out more debt. A Princeton education in turn helped me get my current job at Goldman Sachs. Its impact on my academic and professional career is hard to overstate. The competition also stoked my interest in financial markets and local businesses, driving me to minor in Finance at Princeton and further preparing me for my current role at GS."
-Nicolas Lulli, 2008 Winner
"The scholarship enabled me to study abroad in South Korea for three months during the summer after my freshman year in college (2011), which was a transforming experience. Not only was I able to significantly advance my skills in a language that is of both personal (my mother is Korean) and potentially professional (the US government has designated Korean as a "critical" language) importance, but I also gained cultural understanding and international connections.
In addition, that summer experience laid the ground for me to take a year-long leave of absence last year (2012-2013) to return to Korea, where I continued studying the language and also worked in a chemistry laboratory. At Yale, the JA scholarship also reduced the financial pressure to work a certain number of hours in an on-campus job. I do work for the Yale College Writing Center, but thanks to the scholarship, I have been able to focus first and foremost on my studies."
-Elena Perry, 2008 Winner
"I can't stress enough what a difference this award made to me. It contributed to my confidence in applying for similar awards, improved my writing skills, and established a track record of success. Had it not been for the Junior Achievement award, the enormous financial burden of pursuing a career in academics would have prevented me from pursing my passions."
-Jeff Rappaport, 2008 Winner
"Winning the Junior Achievement Essay Competition allowed me to look at colleges without having to take cost into the equation. This allowed me to look at schools that I otherwise wouldn't have considered, including Rice University where I ended up attending. Having the freedom to look at all schools ultimately led me to finding the school that was my perfect fit.
Going into college I knew I wanted to work in the sports industry, and I chose to go to Rice due to its location in the 4th largest city in the nation and the school's strong relationships with the local professional teams. While at school I was able to explore different careers in the sports industry, ultimately leading to my current job in the Business Strategy & Analytics group at the Houston Astros. We won the World Series this past year which was an incredible experience that I will never forget, but I can trace it back to my decision to go to Rice which was largely due to the JA Essay Competition."
-Justin Wolin, 2008 Winner