What would you do if you were offered a full-ride scholarship (as in all expenses paid for all four years) to one of the elite universities in the U.S.? Well, what if you did that three times over? That's the situation 18-year-old Aryenne Ysabelle is in right now. The Compostela National High School senior has dreamed of studying abroad for as long as she can remember: "I used to read countless news and stories about Filipinos who successfully pursued their studies in the US and wanted to make a positive impact in the Philippines. Who would’ve thought I’d join them this year...at all three schools I was accepted to? I’m still in disbelief."
Describing herself as the humble daughter of farmers—her Papang is also a tricycle driver—meant Aryenne was aware early on that they couldn’t afford to send her to college. "That is why I’ve always strived to help them in ways I know how (selling pastil and chili peppers at school for my allowance, and buying simple necessities at home). And now, finally, I can give them the perfect gift—going to college for free and becoming a future environmental scientist (hopefully)."
Aryenne is still in disbelief at fulfilling her dream of getting accepted by multiple top schools in the United States. "By getting accepted to the best schools in the world—Harvard, Princeton, and Amherst—my heart is filled with gratitude and excitement for the resources, experiences, and knowledge I will acquire over the next four years. As of this moment, I’m still undecided, haha, but I know whatever school I choose, I’ll still receive the best education I could ever ask for and be able to take advantage of that by making an impact in my country.
Honestly, I’m not a fan of flaunting my accomplishments in public, but I would never have made this on my own. And I want to acknowledge all the people who made it possible for me to accomplish this life-changing feat."
On top of her three acceptance letters, Aryenne has also been waitlisted by Columbia University, Dartmouth College, Cornell University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Rice University. Amazing!
From thanking God, her parents, her relatives and friends, her MENRO family, her supportive teachers and school staff, CAUSE Philippines' mentorship program, and giving special mention to her "amazing and inspiring mentor" Andre Perez (a full-ride scholar at Columbia University), Aryenne only had words of gratefulness to share with her support network.
"Finally, to myself, thank you for taking the risk. Senior year was the busiest I have ever been. It was very difficult juggling acads, extracurriculars, and college applications. In the end, it was all WORTH IT!!"
"I hope my experience and story inspire other students. Whatever your background is, embrace your ambitions and reach for the stars. You may face obstacles and challenges along the way, but don't let them discourage you. Remember that there is no limit to what you can achieve, as long as you believe in yourself and are willing to put in the effort. If you're a Filipino interested in studying abroad, feel free to contact me."
Cosmopolitan Philippines got to chat exclusively with Aryenne, who shared the specific majors she's thinking of pursuing in all three schools that offered her acceptance letters. "I received [an annual] need-based grant aid of $91,000 from Amherst, and I'm still waiting to hear back about the financial aid from Harvard and Princeton," the soon-to-be high school graduate revealed.
- Environmental Science & Engineering or Public Policy (Harvard)
- Geosciences or Environmental Engineering (Princeton)
- Environmental Studies (Amherst)
Aryenne also offered one piece of advice for fellow Filipino seniors interested in studying abroad: "Start by asking yourself why you want to study abroad and how it fits into your goals. Having a clear understanding of your motivations can serve as a source of strength throughout the strenuous application process. The college applications are also very accessible and there are often fee waivers to help offset costs."
"Furthermore, CAUSE Philippines offers free-mentoring for college applications. This can be a valuable resource for students who may not have access to professional guidance or who need additional support. Hence, be proactive, seek out opportunities, and don't be afraid to ask for help along the way."
Congratulations, Aryenne—we're so proud of you!