Ayala-Gallo receives college acceptances, evaluates financial and study options


Photo Used With Permission From Noel Ayala-Gallo

Senior Noel Ayala-Gallo poses with his acceptance packet from Eastern Mennonite University.

Senior Noel Ayala-Gallo, a Harrisonburg-born Cuban, has begun to plot out the next steps of career. Over the last few months, Ayala has applied to various colleges around the country such as Harvard University, Colby College and Princeton University. Although he has submitted numerous applications, he is still waiting on responses from many of them 

“Out of the fifteen schools that I have applied to, I’m still waiting for the responses of 12 of them. The three that I have been admitted to are Old Dominion University, New England College and Eastern Mennonite University,” Ayala-Gallo said.

While he still awaits responses from several other schools, he has begun to look deeper into the ones he has already received admission from. One of the universities he has been accepted into is Old Dominion University (ODU), a college that has piqued the interest of Ayala-Gallo

“ODU was a school that interested me because of the location of the campus in Norfolk, Virginia. I’d love to see it in person, and [I] liked their connection to William and Mary, so I decided to apply there. “

Not only was the campus itself appealing to Ayala-Gallo but his financial aid package was, too. This will significantly lower his cost of attending the ODU.

“I received about 4000 dollars of financial aid from ODU, but I am also getting money from my FAFSA as well a few more sources which will grant me enough to attend basically free of cost,” Ayala-Gallo said

Although Ayala-Gallo is very content with what he already received from ODU, he has set his eyes towards Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) as a more favorable choice based on many aspects that meet his criteria. 

“EMU is a local school in Harrisonburg, Virginia which I have visited a couple times throughout the years. I saw Francis Collins, the director of the NIH (National Institutes of Health), there during our annual biotech symposium which was nice,” Ayala-Gallo said. “I enjoy their campus as well as the personal connection that the students seem to have with each other and their professors. Since the school is local, I can stay close to my family and friends in this area.”

In regards to the financial aid package from EMU, he has expressed gratitude for what he has received.

“For EMU I got a lot of merit-based scholarships, but I also applied and received the Yoder Webb Scholarship which is a full ride scholarship,” Ayala-Gallo said

The Yoder Webb Scholarship covers students’ entire cost of tuition without including room and board. However, because of Ayala-Gallo’s aid from the FAFSA, he won’t have to pay any additional costs.

The application process was not too tedious, but it did require a good amount of work. I had to write an essay about a quote that they gave me as well as [do] an interview with the head of political science at EMU. I had to receive recommendation letters from people that I trusted to represent me, which I believed was my counselor and my AVID teacher,” Ayala-Gallo said.

On hearing the news directly from the financial advisors at EMU, he felt relief and happiness. Ayala-Gallo believes that the opportunities that this scholarship provides will take him far in his career and future goals 

“I was excited to receive the scholarship and personally meet the head of financial aid and other officers at EMU. EMU allowed me to not have to worry about working 40 hours a week to pay off my college tuition and balance my work and school life. I remember when I first started working during my junior year [of high school, and] it was really hard, especially when I moved,” Ayala-Gallo said. “ I’m really glad that I earned that scholarship and the people at EMU are good people. It was really nice, [so] I’m proud of myself and thankful for the people that supported me along the way who allowed me to be in the proper mindset and motivate me to reach for this opportunity.”

Currently Gallo is working towards completing his senior year and moving on to the next chapter of his life. Ayala-Gallo has already formed definite plans for his future at EMU if he decides to attend. He believes that the choices he has made for his future reflect the ideas of his past self and fulfill his dreams.

“If I attend EMU, I would like to study political science with an emphasis on international affairs because of the work that I have done during my high school career, [my] involvement in equity organizations and community outreach which allowed me to develop a love for multiculturalism and the promotion of equity locally and globally,” Ayala-Gallo said. “Growing up, I was always a political and history guy, so that part of me wants to become a US diplomat and eventually hold a position that allows me to promote equity and fairness in the United States.”

Although Ayala-Gallo will soon be leaving Harrisonburg High School, he is thankful for the years and experiences he has gained. To the classes below him, he has some wisdom he would like to share.

“For rising juniors and sophomores, make sure to apply to early decisions and actions so that you’ll give yourself time to do scholarships and financial aid. Don’t stress out too much about the SAT because there are other ways colleges can see how you are as a student besides on a test which the emphasis has gone down a lot on. Not only that, but continue grinding in school,” Ayala-Gallo said. “If you are really struggling, reach out to your teachers and counselors because they are there to help you even if you don’t see it that way. Try your best to be active in your community, rack up those extracurricular activities and form a connection with those around you or those where you want to be.”

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