Financial aid and scholarships: making Grinnell a reality

Oct. 28, 2019 — When she was considering where to attend college, Stephanie Tsang ’20, a chemistry major from Chicago, wanted to study in a new and challenging environment. Grinnell fit this bill perfectly but as a first-generation, low-income student she was not sure it was a viable option.

“I was choosing between my state school, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where my older sister and other friends attended, and Grinnell, a school in Iowa that was a different environment than I was used to,” says Tsang. “I chose Grinnell because I wanted to step outside my own comfort zone, and I knew I’d have plenty of opportunities to do that here.”

Without the grants and generous financial aid that Tsang received, she likely would have been forced to take the safe choice and attend her state school. Instead, she’s not only experienced a new world and exposure to new ideas and ways of thinking in Grinnell, she’s studied abroad in Denmark, conducted independent research, and developed meaningful relationships with peers and professors that have helped form her future.

Stephanie Tsang '20
   Stephanie Tsang ’20

“Grinnell has shaped my life and prepared me for my future by opening my eyes to all the possibilities available in life,” she says. “It has instilled in my mind that a sense of persistence and curiosity is important in every aspect of life. It has taught me to live by this statement: never stop wondering, and never be afraid to challenge existing beliefs and opinions.

“It is only through the philanthropy of others that my Grinnell experience has been possible,” adds Tsang. “Because others have given, I have been able to pursue different opportunities without worrying about finances and the affordability.”

It’s not just the easing of the financial burden of education that has benefited Tsang, but the confidence and support that she’s received from faculty, staff, and peers at Grinnell that have placed her on a successful academic path.

“There are times when I doubt in my abilities to pursue an educational career in STEM,” Tsang says. “Every professor I have interacted with at Grinnell approaches teaching with the most genuine attitude. They want every student to succeed, which fosters a great community for students. So many professors and others at Grinnell have taught me that the road to success is not always apparent the instant we put in effort or hard work. We are all constantly learning and growing as students and individuals, and that is the most important lesson of all.”

As a senior, Tsang, a Questbridge scholar, member of the Chemistry Student Educational Policy Committee, previous cabinet member of Asian and American Association, and former community advisor, plans to even more fully engage with the Grinnell community and find other activities and groups on campus to which she can dedicate her time and talents.

After graduation Tsang plans to attend graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry, become the first member of her family to obtain a doctorate degree, and to pay forward the generosity of others that helped her succeed.

“It’s important for Grinnell alumni to make gifts back to the College to support students like me because it completes a full circle of give and take,” says Tsang. “Students feel the positive impact of these gifts and when it comes to be our time, we are able to ensure the generations of students that come after us are also able to experience as many wonderful things as we did during our undergraduate careers.”

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