An Atlanta teen’s wish came true when she was accepted to over 50 colleges and universities, earning over $1.3 million in scholarship money, but there was no magic involved – just scheduling and hard work.
“It really wasn't about the number of schools I applied to, it was really about making sure that I had options for my parents to really sit back and relax,” Daya Brown told “Good Morning America.” “Student loans are something that I do not want. So this is kind of a gift, both to myself and to them.”
Brown, a senior at Westlake High School in Atlanta, Georgia, said she tackled the college process by starting small and working gradually, with just a few hours every day dedicated to applying to each school.
“So I started my process in quarantine during my sophomore year,” said Brown. “I started to curate a list of schools that had certain majors or were great in what I wanted to study which was mass communications or film.”
Adding, “So once I had that list, it all came down to doing those extracurricular activities, because I think a lot of the times students don't understand that you have to be more than just a student.”
The 18-year-old said she chose extracurriculars that were aligned with her passions: poetry, the written word and film production. She decided to combine her interests and create her own production company called Elom & Co. Productions, which focuses on emerging creators.
“That was my chance to showcase who I was as a person and who I was as a scholar. I think a lot of people think that if you're smart, you can't be cool,” she said. “So I found a way to showcase brilliance [and] still have fun while you're doing it.”
Out of many choices, Brown said she chose to attend Duke University because it felt like “home.”
“When we stepped foot on Duke’s campus, I honestly had the feeling at that very moment… a sense of home,” said Brown. “I was welcomed by so many amazing Black students who look just like me, who have the same dreams and aspirations as me as well.”
Brown said she couldn’t have achieved her goals alone and has to thank “her village.”
“My father, he is a pastor [and] an educator, so I learned my rhetorical skills from him. My mother, she’s creative, so I learned her visionary attributes. My grandmother, she makes all of my gowns, so I learned all of her artistic abilities,” she said. “My brother, he reminds me to like laugh every day.”
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Adding, “At the end of the day, I believe my village really showed up.”
Brown said she plans on studying visual media studies with a minor in journalism. Her advice to other students starting the college process is to do the work and do it with happiness.
“No, it wasn't easy. Yes, you have to stay up many nights to get the work done if you want the GPA, but at the same time, it wouldn't feel like such a burden, if it's your passion,” she said. “I wake up every day, happy about what I do.”
Editor's note: This was originally published on March 14, 2023.