Nicole senior photo
As a young student at Millbury Memorial High School in Massachusetts, Nicole Schroeder began to plan for her life after graduation – she envisioned herself going away to college to pursue a career as a teacher. Like so many of her peers, Nicole realized that finding financial assistance to help fund her college education was a crucial step to realizing her dream.

Nicole had been working at McDonald’s for about a year when she saw a poster on the wall of her restaurant’s break room advertising the McDonald's National Employee Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships to high school seniors and college students employed at a McDonald’s restaurant based on academic achievement, community service, extracurricular activities and recommendation letters. Knowing she should apply to any scholarships for which she was eligible, Nicole sought guidance from her manager and submitted an application. This year, 51 employees received a $2,500 scholarship and three of these recipients – including Nicole – were named “McScholar of the Year” for their region, earning them an additional $5,000 scholarship.  

Nicole’s first-hand experience with the scholarship application process taught her a valuable lesson – you have to take the good with the bad.

“It’s amazing when you are accepted as a scholarship winner, but there are also many you will lose. I was honored to receive the ‘McScholar of the Year’ scholarship but I didn’t receive many of the scholarships I applied for through my high school,” said Nicole. “There simply aren’t enough spots to give every deserving person a scholarship. “

According to Nicole, winning the McDonald’s scholarship will not only help her pay her college tuition but also enable her to focus on preparing for her future rather than the interest rates on her student loans.

“[This scholarship] opens up a lot of opportunities to participate in student research and spend time abroad taking history classes in Europe,” said Nicole. “I feel like these experiences will give me a lot of stories that I can use to relate to my future students and get them interested in history.”

In a few months, Nicole will begin her freshman year at Colgate University in Hamilton, NY where she plans to study History and Education. When she was initially applying to colleges, however, Nicole thought there was little chance she would actually be able to attend the prestigious Northeastern liberal arts institution.

“There is absolutely no way my family could have afforded the $54,000 it costs to attend Colgate. However, you never know what grants or scholarships you may receive,” said Nicole. “I was absolutely flabbergasted to find out that my reach school was in fact a serious possibility and cheaper for me than a state school.”

If Nicole could give any advice to high school juniors and seniors, it would be to apply to a few reach schools and to take advantage of as many different scholarship opportunities as possible – even though the process can be stressful and time-consuming.

“When you mail off or hit ‘send’ on the last scholarship you apply to you’ll think you haven’t felt any greater relief ever in your life,” said Nicole. “However, when the acceptance letters come in, you’ll know it was worth it.”