Rachel Heimke

Today the College Board awarded $1 million to recipients of its first ever Complete Your Journey Opportunity Scholarship. Twenty-five student winners from across the country earned a $40,000 scholarship for completing all 6 college planning steps laid out in the College Board Opportunity Scholarships program.

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted families across the country, including millions of high school seniors. By any measure a $40,000 scholarship is good news, and a number of the 25 Complete Your Journey recipients remarked that it is particularly welcome at this time.

Among the winners was West Anchorage High School senior Rachel Heimke, who will be attending the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

"If I’m not doing homework, I’m probably at my dance studio. I’ve been doing Irish Dance for nine years, and have competed out-of-state as well as performed around the community countless times," Heimke said in her scholarship profile. "For the past few years, I’ve also adopted a teaching role, and this year I taught a class on my own, gave private lessons to lots of kids, and helped in the studio whenever possible. I love being with my friends, going on walks and just having fun. Also, I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, and when I have time, I love reading and baking. I love to learn, and have always wanted to go to college, and I am excited to start my studies there. I hope to earn a major in Ocean Science, as well as possibly a minor in German or some sort of writing. When I was six, my parents and I left home and began a two year sailing trip in the South Pacific. There, I realized how much I love the ocean, and I want to learn more about it. If I can someday write about what I know and help save our oceans, then my goal will have been fulfilled.

“When I heard the news, my community was 10 days into the shelter in place mandate. It felt really good knowing that the College Board has provided me with some certainty for the future,” said Fiona Smith-Calonico of Livermore, Calif. “My parents never really prepared a college fund for me or my brother, so they are relieved to hear that I will be taken care of.”

Claudia Gore of Newport News, Va., was thrilled when College Board CEO David Coleman called to surprise her son Nyzaiah with news that he was a $40,000 Complete Your Journey winner, because so many senior year milestones have been canceled. “He’s not going to walk [at graduation], he can’t go to prom. All those special moments have been taken away. This is a moment to just see his face light up. He’s worked so hard, he deserves it.” Nyzaiah, who wants to study law and African American studies, says his father is especially proud of his passion for learning, because members of their family “do not usually go to college, much less finish high school.”

“To those students who may have counted themselves out of scholarship opportunities, this program is for you. There is so much more talent out there than we can see,” said Coleman. “We want all students to see themselves as scholars, no matter where they began. College planning does not need to be daunting. These 25 students took one simple step, and then another, until they reached their goals. We encourage the class of 2021 to follow their lead.”

For more on the 25 students, including video highlights of the moment they learned about their $40,000 scholarship and information to help juniors get started earning scholarships right away, click here.

Complete Your Journey $40,000 scholarship winners completed these 6 college planning steps:

Build Your College List: Students get started by exploring colleges they’re interested in (700 Build Your College List scholarships, each worth $500)

Practice for the SAT: Students use Official SAT® Practice on Khan Academy® (1,500 Practice for the SAT scholarships, each worth $1,000)

Improve Your Score: Students show how practice pays off by improving their scores (150 Improve Your Score scholarships, each worth $2,000)

Strengthen Your College List: Students make sure their list has a mix of reach, match, and safety schools (300 Strengthen Your College List scholarships, each worth $500)

Complete the FAFSA: Students fill out the free government form to apply for financial aid (800 Complete the FAFSA® scholarships, each worth $1,000)

Apply to Colleges: Students apply to the colleges they want to attend (500 Apply to Colleges scholarships, each worth $1,000)

More than 500,000 students from all 50 states have joined the College Board Opportunity Scholarships program since it launched in December 2018. In addition to the 25 $40,000 Complete Your Journey winners, nearly 4,000 students from 48 states, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, earned $3.6 million in smaller scholarships, ranging from $500 to $2,000. Research shows that completing specific steps helps clarify the complex college planning process, especially for low-income and first-generation students.

“The Opportunity Scholarships provided me with easy-to-meet deadlines and pushed me to look further into colleges. I got my SAT score up and felt confident enough to apply to my dream college AND got in, too. I would definitely recommend giving it a try.” – Nanci Diaz, Los Angeles, Calif., accepted to The University of Chicago

“Elena has taken the college journey so seriously right from the beginning when it all started in her junior year … by following the steps of this program she has learned so much about herself and what she wanted. I cannot relay to you enough what this means for Elena and our family.” – Beth DePaolo, North Tonawanda, N.Y., mother of Complete Your Journey winner Elena DePaolo

The College Board has dedicated $25 million over 5 years to the new program that lays out 6 simple steps all students can take to get to college. Class of 2021 students who opt in now and get started by building their college list on BigFuture™ by July 31 will be eligible for the next $40,000 Complete Your Journey scholarship. Learn more about this year’s recipients and how juniors can get started earning scholarships here.

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