As Delaney Brake sat in her AP biology class at Mogadore High School one day in March, she saw an email from Ohio State University stating that financial aid had been processed.
Although she applied for scholarships, 17-year-old Brake was shocked to see how much she’d been given for the year: nearly $27,000.
"I started freaking out, obviously," Brake said.
In the tiny class of three students, Brake’s surprise prompted her classmate, 18-year-old Joseph Hughes, to check his email, too.
He saw the same stunning total had been given to him at OSU: nearly $27,000.
Beside each total said "Land Grant Opportunity Scholarship" — a scholarship awarded by the university to just two students per county in the state.
And this year, both of those students from Summit County were from the same district with fewer than 900 kids.
"We were like, ‘We got the same thing.’ … It was just perfect timing," Brake said. "I worked really hard in school, but to think that only two students from every county get it? Crazy."
The OSU Land Grant Opportunity Scholarship is part of a financial aid package that covers a student’s full cost of attendance for up to eight semesters at the university.
When Hughes and Brake first learned they’d won the scholarship, they barely knew what it was. Every student who applies to the school is automatically considered for it, and it’s awarded based on academic merit and financial need.
But once the explanation came in the mail shortly after, they were overwhelmed with gratitude.
"I didn’t know what it was at first," Hughes said. "It definitely lifts a lot of weight off my shoulders. … This scholarship was such a surprise, and I won’t take it for granted."
OSU has awarded the scholarship to one student per county in the state since 2005. Until last year, the scholarship only covered the cost of tuition, but it now covers the full cost of attendance, including boarding and class fees.
Starting this year, the university decided to double the amount of scholarships it gives out.
As a land grant university, OSU is one of many universities that were established with federal money by each state around the country in the late 1800s. OSU spokesman Ben Johnson said the recent scholarship expansion closely aligns with the school’s mission as a land grant university.
"One of the things we take very seriously at OSU is our land grant mission," Johnson said. "We believe very strongly in broad access to an excellent, but also affordable, education."
Now that the scholarship has been expanded to two students per county, many students in districts like Mogadore, which is the smallest in the county, experienced surprises similar to Brake’s and Hughes’. Johnson said this year, 28 high schools across the state had multiple land grant scholarship winners.
Hughes and Brake were the valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, of their graduating class of fewer than 65 students.
Despite their good grades, the students weren’t sure how they’d be able to afford the public university without immense financial support. Hughes, the youngest in the family, had a few other siblings who already went to a university. And Brake’s father has an autoimmune muscle disease that prevents him from working.
"My mom is the sole income in our house, so I knew I’d have to work through school and take loans out because we just can’t afford it," Brake said. "This scholarship was definitely such a huge blessing."
Now, both get to attend one of their top university choices for no cost at all. Hughes plans to major in computer engineering with a potential double major and minor, while Brake wants to study secondary education with a concentration in integrated language arts.
"Going through the scholarship process, you just never dream this would happen," Brake said. "Now, instead of worrying about the financial aspect, we can go into school and take those opportunities and just enjoy it and make the most out of those four years."
Theresa Cottom can be reached at 330-996-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Theresa_Cottom.