Researched and written by Taylor Downs
Photograph courtesy of Debbie Harris
After four long years in high school many students begin to prepare for the next big chapter in their lives: college. While most people worry about where they’re going to college and how they’re going to afford it, a lucky handful earn a full-ride to Michigan State University through the STARR Scholarship Program. One of this year’s STARR Scholars is Professional Writing major Hayden Harris.
The STARR scholarship has many distinctive features. It is only open to students from Wyoming and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Established by an anonymous private donor, it includes tuition, fees, books, room, board, and living expenses, beginning the fall semester of each year.
Hayden has his father to thank for hearing about the scholarship. “My dad was the principal of my high school, so he knew about all of these scholarships. [He came] home to tell my older brother about it and I overheard their conversation and remember thinking ‘Oh, that sounds really cool.’ So, from then on, it was on my radar.”
As you might imagine, the competition for a full-ride scholarship to MSU is pretty intense. “I believe about 130 students from Wyoming and about 150 from the Upper Peninsula [apply]. I don’t think they have a set number for how many actually receive the scholarship, but it’s usually around ten to fifteen.”
Once he arrived at MSU, Hayden chose the Professional Writing major, with a focus on digital and technical writing. “I definitely want to go into something with communication, social media, or something along those lines.” A self-described “tech enthusiast,” Hayden is also interested in jobs that would include “working on the backend of websites and updating content.” He adds, “I think the digital side of the track will be especially useful in that field.”
When he’s not in class Hayden puts his writing skills to use at Impact 89FM, MSU’s campus radio station. “Last semester, I wrote around six stories ranging from Jam of the Day to album reviews to the first article of an ‘In Case You Missed It’ series about bands who never got the fame they deserved.”
He also finds time to reconnect with his fellow STARR recipients, many of whom come from his home state of Wyoming. “STARR scholars meet twice a semester to catch up with each other and eat dinner,” he says. “One of those is an informal dinner at Brody and another formal one at Kellogg. Our next dinner will be the formal one at the Kellogg, and we will be welcoming the new STARR scholars from the graduating class of 2016.”
Hayden is thankful for the opportunity to expand his horizons by spending his college years at Michigan State. “I live in Wyoming, and I’ve never really been outside of it for an extended period of time. So, coming to Michigan State, being able to live here, it’s been kind of a culture shock, but has been good for me experiencing something different.”
He adds, “I grew up in a town of five-hundred people, [with a] graduating class of like twenty kids. So, it’s been awesome coming to such a different environment.”
To learn more about the STARR Scholarship Program, visit their website at starr.msu.edu.