Daya Brown, the Winner of $1.3 Million and 54 Colleges’ Scholarship Offers

A Summary of Story from the Inspired Life, Washington Post

Writer: Cathy Free

“I was astonished when my email inbox began to fill up with offers from universities and colleges.”

Daya Brown has applied to 70 colleges and universities and was accepted by 54. She decided to join Duke University in Durham, North California.

The story goes back to when Daya Brown was stuck at home due to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. She had spare time as a high school sophomore during the coronavirus and taking classes over Zoom. Brown decided to explore her desired universities that she might like to attend after graduating from Atlanta’s Westlake High School in May 2023. Consequently, she listed about 70 universities. When the time came, Brown devoted three hours daily for four months to filling out applications. She also put time searching for potential scholarships.

According to Brown, she applied freely and paid no application fees because many colleges and universities waived them amid the pandemic. She took advice from her school counselors to utilize admission price waivers. Finally, she was astonished to receive offers from 54 out of 70 colleges and universities she had applied, including Virginia State University, Spelman College, the University of MarylandOhio UniversityLoyola University Chicago, and Louisiana State University. Additionally, she received over $1.3 million in scholarship offers. Among dozens of offers, Brown accepted a one-year financial aid scholarship from Duke University in Durham, the top choice on her list. She plans to major in media and visual studies this fall at Duke University.

Daya Brown is also a finalist for The Gates Scholarship, and 300 outstanding minority high school students will receive the award this summer. As Brown said, if she receives that scholarship, she will not reapply for additional financial aid at Duke annually.

According to Brown, her story is unusual but not singular. Daya decided to tell other teens how she did it before moving into a Duke dorm. She added that other students have also received dozens ofcollege acceptance offers.

Brown’s Advice for Students

Brown hopes she might have some tips and tricks to pass along and help others get acceptance letters from their top chosen university. She advises others to start applying as early as possible and focus on schools with the top programs for their majors. Her suggestion is to apply for lots of scholarships, even small ones.

According to Brown, there are no shortcuts when doing this kind of research. So putting time and energy into figuring out what is out there is essential. She added that is the most important: applicants should give the selection committees a good idea of who they are as young people.

In her case, she focused on her poetry, stage performances, and leadership, which led her to create both a podcast for teens and a production company.

Brown explained, “I have a great GPA, but I knew that my SAT scores were not going to be the best and I would not be at the level of many other kids who were applying,” she added, “I knew that I had to change the narrative and focus on my personal story. That was key for her, and she thinks it might be helpful to others, too.”

Brown’s Back Story

Brown is the elder of two children. Her mother, Farrah Brown, is a real estate agent, and her father, Olujimi Brown, is a ministry consultant and a former preacher.

According to Brown, she picked up a strong work ethic and good study habits from her mother and her dad, Olujimi Brown. She said, “I grew up watching my father as a public speaker, and my mother is a nice role model who taught me the importance of balance in life.” She added that her teachers from K through 8 school set the foundation for her and set expectations of what a student should be. “They introduced me to the poetry world and debate and helped to shape me as a person.”

Daya Brown wished to be a lawyer during her first school years, but then a school counselor introduced her to Westlake Out Loud’s poetry group. In the group, the students, including Brown, performed their poems in front of an audience.

Brown started her production company, Elom & Co., in September 2021. Her company primarily aimed to promote poetry, art, music, and film created by teens and young adults. Additionally, she co-founded a podcast, “The Scholar Social,” to allow students to discuss topics like race, religion, and parental relationships.