At eighteen years old, Caroline Haoud has not been a member of The Door for very long – just six months – but she is a master of making the most of her time and seizing the opportunities life has presented her. It is just one of the reasons why she nabbed two major, national college scholarships – the Gates Millennium and the Ron Brown Scholarship – before being accepted to Columbia University in the City of New York.

Her relationship with The Door started with a perfect twist of fate; she met one of our College Advisors, Briana Avery, at a workshop for the Gates Millennium Scholarship in late Fall. After a great conversation, Briana suggested that Caroline come to The Door to get some help preparing her college and scholarship applications. “I looked at The Door as a quiet place to work. I could come here and have access to the computers and printers, and complete my college applications and homework assignments. However, being a member of The Door is more than that,” she adds. “Bri has really driven me to get everything done, even when my tasks list seemed dauntingly long. Briana would say, ‘We’re going to work on this now.’ and that is exactly what we did. Briana helped me keep everything in order and made sure I knew how to prioritize my school work, scholarship applications, college applications and financial aid forms.”

With a bit of Briana’s guidance and all of Caroline’s skill, knowledge and dedication, Caroline applied to over 20 different colleges and countless scholarships. She was accepted to most of her colleges, including her first choice – Columbia University – but the big news about her scholarships would not come just yet. A few weeks ago, Caroline was invited to Washington, D.C. for an interview for the Ron Brown Scholarship – a highly competitive program focused on supporting African American students with outstanding academic and leadership skills – and received the surprise of her life. The same day as her interview, all of the invited finalists were taken to dinner where they announced the Ron Brown Scholarship winners, despite thinking they would have to wait several more days for the final decision. When the President of the Ron Brown Scholars Program delivered the news that all of the Ron Brown Scholarship finalists won, Caroline could not help but tear up, hug the other scholars, and call her mom to share the good news.

Her surprise and confidence notwithstanding, Caroline did have a moment of doubt when she was submitting that application. “They say you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. I almost did not apply, but I am glad I did… what are the odds, I thought?” The odds are, in fact, slim – Caroline is just one of 28 scholars chosen, out of a pool of more than 5,200 applicants, which means that the Ron Brown Scholar Program has an acceptance rate of less than 1%.  “I am glad I took my shot. Look at how it turned out! You just have set your mind on a goal and put in the work,” she adds.

Caroline’s success just keeps coming. One month later, she was on her way to The Door, in fact, when she received an official announcement email saying she had won the Gates Millennium Scholarship, which is given to students of color who serve as leaders in their community and demonstrate academic achievement despite socioeconomic obstacles.  She was thrilled to share the great news with Briana in person only a few minutes after receiving the email.

Briana herself has her own thoughts to share about Caroline’s success: “She’s a dream to work with as a college counselor. Her ambition and relentless drive remind us all of the endless potential young people have when they are empowered to engage with their dreams, education and community. Her acceptance to Columbia University, two major scholarship wins, and graduation from high school with an associate’s degree are all a testament of this. The entire Talent Search team is so proud of her.”

With her time at Bard High School Early College Queens about to come to a close, she will graduate with her high school diploma as well as her Associates of Arts degree, and will start her new journey at Columbia. With her eyes set on pursuing a M.D./Ph.D. degree and becoming a medical doctor, Caroline has a bright future ahead of her. With all of her skill and intelligence, though, she is humble as can be and grateful for all of the help she received along the way. “If I had not joined The Door, my college application experience would have been different. The Door has such a warm and welcoming environment and I am grateful that I had a community and a support network that encouraged me to make my dreams become a reality.”