Like many other POC students, my choice to attend W&L was influenced in large part by their generous financial aid package – the school offered me a full tuition, room, and board merit scholarship that I couldn’t turn down. I was extremely proud of that achievement – I had worked hard to graduate first in my high school class, had won many academic prizes and honors (including national competitions) throughout my life, had an SAT score in the 99% percentile, and had generally felt the accolades I had earned were deserved.
My freshman year, one of my classmates (and someone I considered a friend and am still friendly with), a white legacy student, mentioned that she had applied for the same scholarship, and didn’t receive it.
In the same breath, she said I had probably gotten it (presumably over more qualified candidates like her) because I was a minority candidate.
I have thought about that comment more times than I can count in the nearly 20 years since she said it. I am certain she meant nothing by it, and I am sure she doesn’t even remember saying it. It just simply didn’t occur to her that I could have earned that honor through merit, nor that I might have deserved it more than she did.
I graduated 6th in my class from W&L. My classmate had trouble keeping a passing GPA. And I still, *still*, wonder if maybe she was right.