Paying for college profile: Haley Coller
When Haley Coller, a junior at Gustavus Adolphus College, sets her sights on a goal, she does not give up. “I knew that I wanted to go to college and I knew that my mom would not have the money to send me,” Coller said. “So I just had tunnel vision towards my goal.”
Coller, who grew up in Bloomington and Burnsville, applied to 27 colleges and to more than 70 scholarships. In the end her college choice came down to two schools: one in California and to Gustavus. “I chose Gustavus because of the people and the campus. But also because they awarded me one of my largest scholarships,” Coller said. That scholarship, The Annexstad Family Foundation Scholarship turned out to be just one of many. “I just had a feeling that I could find little $1,000 to $2,000 scholarships. So I just kept applying. I utilized different resources. I asked local business owners and community members about local scholarships,” Coller recalled. “I would work on my homework until about 11 p.m. and then spend at least two hours a night writing essays and applying to scholarships. After a while, it definitely got easier! I just didn’t stop until I knew I had enough to pay for college.”
Coller’s financial aid package includes a Minnesota State Grant, a Pell Grant, a Gustavus tuition grant and several scholarships — some need-based and some academic-based. She also has a small work-study award. Coller credits her tenacity in helping her secure the scholarships. “My mom did not go to college and did not know what the FAFSA was or how financial aid is figured out. I had her full support but I knew I had to find a way to make it work,” she said. “Every year, despite fluctuation in grant amounts and scholarships, it always seems to work in my favor.”
And now that Coller is in college, she is taking advantage of every opportunity. She is pursuing a double major in public accounting and political science. She is involved in the Gustie Greeters, Model U.N., Gustavus Women in Leadership, Pan-African Student Organization and also works as a peer career advisor in the Center for Servant Leadership. Last spring she studied abroad in Malaysia. This summer, Coller secured a paid internship with Goldman Sachs in New York City. “I am testing the waters with all these different experiences,” Coller said. And she is sharing some of these experiences with her mom. “My mom is coming to New York with me. She has not had a vacation in 12 years and has never been to New York.”
As for advice for anyone starting their scholarship hunt, Coller says the key is to throw yourself into the process and to keep applying.