A Kent-Meridian High School senior determined that her best chance to find the right college with enough financial support would be to apply to about 30 schools and for more than 50 academic scholarships.
Now the college offers and scholarship awards are starting to roll in as Ha aspires to be a computer scientist and visual artist. Ha plans to pick a school by mid-April.
“I want to keep my options open,” Ha said during a phone interview Monday about finding the right college.
“I want to choose a school that’s a good academic and social fit.”
Ha, who carries a 3.87 GPA, applied to about 30 schools and is still waiting to hear back from some of the colleges about their financial aid packages. She wants somewhere that will offer financial aid for four or even five years, if she decides to pursue a master’s in computer science.
The scholarships from private foundations will help pay for her schooling.
“The more you apply, you have a better chance to earn more scholarships,” said Ha, who was born in Tacoma but moved to Kent in the seventh grade and attended Mill Creek Middle School.
Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma (PLU) recently named Ha a President’s Scholar and awarded her a $33,000 per year President’s Scholarship — with the opportunity to compete for more.
Ha was one of 103 students selected for the top academic and leadership scholarship offered by PLU, according to a Jan. 29 press release from the college. Over 500 incoming first-year students who met the high eligibility standards applied. President’s Scholars are selected based on academic achievement, service and leadership as well as the potential to effect positive change and leadership in both the academic and co-curricular life of PLU.
“I was really surprised, but it was very cool,” Ha said about her scholarship selection. “It seemed kind of comprehensive.”
This year’s President’s Scholarship recipients scored on average a 1306 SAT test score, 30 ACT test score, and have a 3.98 GPA, according to the release.
Ha participated last week on the PLU campus to compete for the next level of PLU Presidential Scholarships — one of 10 $38,000 per year Harstad Founder’s Scholarships or one of five full-tuition Regents’ Scholarships. It will cost an estimated $61,410 per year to attend PLU in 2020-2021, including $45,440 for tuition and $11,150 for room and meals, according to the university’s website.
Cooke Foundation semifinalist
The Virginia-based Jack Kent Cooke Foundation announced Jan. 31 that Ha is one of 477 high school seniors selected as semifinalists for the prestigious Cooke College Scholarship Program. This highly selective scholarship provides high-achieving students with financial need up to $40,000 annually for four years of college, to enable them to attend a top college or university.
The semifinalists were chosen from a pool of over 5,300 applicants, according to the foundation’s website. Approximately 60 semifinalists will be selected to receive the scholarship. The 2020 Cooke College Scholarship recipients will be announced in April.
“These semifinalists represent some of the most passionate, driven, and hard-working students across the country,” said Executive Director Seppy Basili. “It is an honor to recognize these semifinalists for their persistence and achievements.”
Ha was one of five students chosen as semifinalists from Washington state. The other students were from Kelso, Garfield, Mount Baker and Ellensburg high schools. Students applied from all 50 states, as well as Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico — representing 402 schools.
Cooke, who died in 1997, owned media companies and sports teams, including the Washington Redskins, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Kings.
Ha also is a finalist for a Point Foundation Scholarship. The foundation, with offices in Los Angeles and New York, considers many factors when assessing scholarship applicants, including academic performance, leadership skills, financial need, personal goals and the applicant’s involvement in the LGBTQ community.
In November, Ha was one of six students to receive a $5,000 college scholarship from Toys for Kids Foundation, started by Seattle Mariners broadcaster Rick Rizzs and former Seattle Mariner center fielder Dave Henderson. Henderson died of a heart attack at age 57 in 2015 and was represented at the ceremony by his wife Nancy Henderson.
Each applicant had to answer an essay question of “How does continuing your education make you smile everyday?”
She is a state finalist for the Elks National Foundation Scholarship.
At Kent-Meridian, Ha’s activities and societies include International Baccalaureate Program, choir, DECA Marketing Club, Interact Club Volunteer, Mock Trial, Model United Nations, Japanese Club and Key Club Volunteer.
“I have taken some off of my list because the financial aid packages were not so great and I was able to figure out which colleges may not be good fits,” Ha said about her 30 college applications.
Her current list includes in-state colleges UW Seattle, UW Bothell, Western Washington University, Eastern Washington University, Washington State University, Seattle Pacific University, Pacific Lutheran University, Gonzaga University and Whitworth University. The out-of-state schools she is considering include University of California – San Diego, UCLA, University of California – Santa Cruz, University of California – Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon University, Georgia Tech, Tufts University, Amherst College, Duke University, Northwestern University, Grinnell College and Emory University.
Ha also developed a website that lists many of the numerous scholarships available to high school students.
“I did that so that I can help my friends and peers find and apply for scholarships,” she said. “Before I made it, I sent scholarship information to different group chats and people separately, but I figured out it would be easier and more convenient if it was all on one place so my emails or texts would not become buried.”
Ha said it has taken a lot of help to apply to so many schools and for so many scholarships.
“I would like to recognize the help I’ve received from my teachers, Hey Mentor mentor (Seattle-based nonprofit) and friends because they were a big part of helping me with applying to college, revising essays and finding scholarship information,” Ha said.