Brandon Dawson

Age: 18
Hometown: Bear
High School: 2016 graduate of Middletown High School

Brandon is a freshman at Duke University pursuing a bachelor’s in environmental science and policy.

Brandon first began thinking about going to college when he entered high school. He liked the idea of living out of state, away from a small-town atmosphere, and gaining some independence.

Brandon’s parents didn’t attend college, so the process was very new to them too. Brandon dug in and began looking into careers and schools, leaning toward becoming a veterinarian. But he soon became intrigued with environmental science and policy.

Using the College Board’s Big Future website, he looked at out-of-state schools, their programs, and financial aid packages and began narrowing the possibilities down. A few caveats helped Brandon shorten the list: he wanted to stay in the eastern half of the country, he wanted to go to a school with a good global education program so he could study abroad, and he wanted smaller classrooms, with more personal interactions with his professors. When he toured the Duke campus, he knew that was the school for him.

Help along the way

Brandon also participated in the Delaware College Scholars Program, a partnership between the Delaware Department of Education, St. Andrews School, Delaware school districts, corporate donors and endowments. The goal of Delaware College Scholars is to give Delaware first-generation college students the know-how to enroll in and graduate from a four-year university. The program also helps ensure that each student is prepared to succeed in his or her post-secondary plans.

“I was ensuring my parents of something I wasn’t myself sure of, simultaneously trying to teach my parents while learning about the process .”

Choosing an out-of-state school requires a lot of courage for most families. But Brandon had learned that Duke, a private school that costs $70,000 a year to attend, offered financial aid packages from $45,000 to $50,000. Armed with that knowledge, he sat down and explained to his parents how the three of them could make going to Duke a reality.

Using the Financial Aid Calculator tool, Brandon got an estimate of $55,000 a year from Duke in financial aid, leaving $15,000 a year to come from the family. Brandon received an additional $5000 a year in honor scholarships, so that reduced the family payment to $10,000 a year. Suddenly, his dream to attend Duke was not only attainable, but was within his grasp.

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