The oldest institution in New York State, whose graduates include three United States presidents and nine Supreme Court justices, Columbia accepts about 7 percent of applicants.
Edwards didn’t like anything about regular high school as a student at Oscar Smith. “I was going through the motions, memorizing for tests, but I wasn’t really challenged. And I talked a lot in class.”
Instead, Edwards, 22, finished high school at home and went on to work at a local Wendy’s. “After two years, I really needed a change,” she said. “I came to TCC because I had no idea how I’d do, or even what to study. Once I got there, everything changed.”
After selecting TCC’s Liberal Arts transfer degree, Edwards never looked back. “I found out what it was like to think for myself, to form opinions, and not just memorize for tests. I learned how to learn,” she said.
Edwards also enjoyed the interaction with classmates and discussing real-world topics. Among her favorite professors: Rebecca Summers (women’s studies), Rick Alley (English) and David Brandt (math).
While at TCC, Edwards joined the Women’s Center’s Women Inspiring Self-Empowerment (W.I.S.E.) leadership program. “W.I.S.E. was a definite highlight. I developed leadership skills, learned to work with groups and gained confidence in my ability to make decisions,” she said. “And working with career women gave me insights into life and work after college,” she said.
Through W.I.S.E. Edwards participated in the National Conference for Women Student Leaders at the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland. She was also mentored by Laura Soulsby, associate director of intercultural learning, during her final semester at the college.
Raised by a single mom, Edwards knows what it’s like to struggle. “I watched my mom work hard, and we never had a lot of money,” she said. “But that didn’t stop us from giving back. We volunteered at church and at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters.”
While at TCC, Edwards participated in community service through TCC Cares and was a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year colleges. She received an $11,000 Phi Theta Kappa scholarship to apply to tuition at Columbia.
Edwards’ interest in the Ivy League was sparked when she was young, and again when she read a TCC graduate’s story about his transfer to Cornell University. “I had the grades and after hearing that story, I thought maybe I could do that too,” she said.
Edwards opened the acceptance letter from Columbia while her mother was out of town. “I told her on the phone, and we both started crying pretty hard. After that, we told everyone we know.”
Edwards said TCC’s liberal arts program is a great way to explore different topics. “I’m well-rounded, because I took classes I may not have otherwise, everything from Sociology to Survey of Western Civilization to Women’s Studies.”
Edwards completed her transfer degree this summer and just started classes at Columbia this month. She plans to major in English and Women’s Studies.
“My time at TCC really changed the course of my life,” she said. “I don’t know what I’d be doing if I hadn’t found my focus and direction. I really didn’t like the path I was on, and now I’m super excited.”
To learn how you can support a TCC scholar, contact the TCC Educational Foundation at 757-822-1080 or firstname.lastname@example.org.