I’m Ksenia and I’ll be going into my 2nd year of neuroscience at the University of Alberta this fall. I had been attending Centre High Campus (an amazing high school, btw) when I was nominated for Mr. Warden’s very first scholarship! I had already been applying to about 20 other scholarships/awards before learning that I was the selected recipient for the Leroy Warden & Associates Scholarship, and that my whole first year of university would be paid for by Mr. Warden! The only way I can think to express my gratitude, appreciation, and what this award means to me is by explaining the tremendous struggles I already had (and eventually overcame) during my very first year at university, and how many more I would have had had I not received this scholarship.
As a first year science student, university was a huge shock and eye-opener to me due to the sheer amount of classes (I took 5 each term) and labs (I had 2 labs per term) that I had to take, daily assignments, and exams, that I had to complete, all within the timeframe of a 3.5 month long term! For comparison, in high school you ideally only have 4 classes over the span of almost 5 months, and what takes 2 weeks to cover in high school is covered in about 2 days of class in university! Time management and perseverance, I learned, was the key to everything. Being smart will only get you a tiny fraction of the way when it comes to academic success in post-secondary. At the start of my first year I also experienced, firsthand, how undeniably important mental health truly is! I was so stressed about keeping up with the workload every day that it actually took a huge toll on my physical health! My perpetual stress caused my wisdom teeth to suddenly and painfully grow in and I needed a very serious oral surgery. I would also get the flu and have ear infections at least once a month, when I had used to be the person that gets the flu maybe once a year, and ear infections were completely unheard of for me! I also was not getting anywhere near enough sleep because I was so busy, and this further caused me severe mental and physical fatigue, impacting my marks and making me even more stressed! Due to my struggles, I sought out professional help and learned that I also had ADHD. The thing is, the disorder had never been presented itself until starting university because I had never needed so much focus and energy in my life before! I started receiving treatment, started following a stricter sleeping regimen, and I also became less obsessive/stressed about keeping up with school. Because my mental health and sleep had improved, in turn, my grades had also improved, and I started to have a bit more free time to myself.
University is one of the most challenging (but also one of the most rewarding) experiences a person will have in life. What kept (and still keeps) me going are the career goals that I have set for myself, knowing that this seemingly endless workload is only temporary, and by making the most of my time in university by getting involved on campus, meeting and making friends with other students and professors with common goals and interests as me, and taking advantage of the other countless opportunities available in post-secondary. If I had not received this award, I would have had to find a second job or work twice as many hours to pay student loans, which I couldn’t imagine having done in my personal case/experience, as there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to have gotten a goodnight’s sleep, cook my own meals, attend school, volunteer, go to work a long shift, and then come home late to finish assignments/study into the early hours of the morning, repeating it all over again starting at 6AM, every single day, all while maintaining a great GPA! This award has allowed me to focus solely on school during the most challenging/testing year of university without having to worry much about student loans and finances on top of all the other first year stresses and millions of things to do that you’re already bombarded with.
Any student that plans to attend post-secondary should definitely apply for this scholarship (and to as many others as they can get their hands on (as did I), to drastically better their chances of obtaining at least 1) because it would, 100%, be a huge blessing to not have to stress about financing an expensive first year with money, time, and energy that most of us don’t have in first year. When applying, I suggest that you get out of your comfort zone and talk about the qualities/quirks that make you stand out from the crowd, even if they seem silly/embarrassing to you (trust me on this one)! Discuss your passions, goals, ways you have helped your community, talk about struggles that you have faced and overcome.
And lastly, I wish so much success and blessings to any of you going into post-secondary soon, and to remind you that your mental health is, and always needs to be kept, your #1 priority!