Matthew Wigglesworth was given the freedom to create his own path with the support of the STARR Scholarship.

Matthew Wigglesworth in front of Beaumont Tower. Wigglesworth is a junior in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences and the Honors College.

Risky Business

Matthew Wigglesworth, from Big Horn, Wyoming, brought a business savvy to the table when considering how he would pay for college. He knew he didn’t have a college fund to draw from, so he was looking at working hard to avoid extraneous debt. Beyond that, from his perspective, there was a risk associated with taking money to pay for college – whether it was from relatives, the government, or a lender. It was a risk that he’d feel pressure, either direct or indirect, to take others’ wishes into account when choosing his major and classes. If relatives helped him pay for school he was worried he’d feel pressure to choose a major they approved of. If his education was paid for by government programs or lenders, he might feel pressure to get a degree in a field that met a priority need for society or that would lead to a job with an immediate ability to pay off the debt.

For Wigglesworth, the question was how could be pay for school while ensuring that he could pursue his own interests without the influence of others holding him back. A scholarship would prove to be the answer he was looking for.

Hedging His Bets

Wigglesworth first learned of the STARR Charitable Foundation Scholarship when another local student received the award. It is a small community – his graduating class only had 28 students – so everyone in town heard about the first STARR Scholar in the area. Wigglesworth was in eighth grade at the time, and he made it his goal to do what was necessary to pursue the STARR Scholarship. When the time came to apply, he didn’t want to get his hopes too high, so he also made plans to attend the University of Wyoming. He was actually pretty excited at the thought of studying in Laramie.

Wyoming is a resource-rich state, with the resulting public funding you might expect. There are some scholarship programs available for students to pursue a degree without leaving the state. Wigglesworth notes that, for him, it would be hard to turn down one of these in-state scholarships to go to school out-of-state unless he received a scholarship that made attending college away from home financially comparable to staying in Wyoming.

Chasing His Dream

The STARR Scholarship relieved Wigglesworth of his worries. The award covers 100% of expenses for a bachelor’s degree at Michigan State University, and has no restrictions on program eligibility. Since coming to campus in 2013 he’s been able to explore various academic programs. He’s now a junior, pursuing a bachelor’s in communications, with minors in sales leadership and documentary production, and he will graduate in May 2017. Wigglesworth says his sales minor is one of his favorite academic experiences so far, and ironically enough, he owes that experience to the influence of others. He’s grateful for a friend who first told him about it and for the Honor College advisors who helped him work it into his course plan.

He’s also grateful for the encouragement of Korine Wawrzynski, director of undergraduate research, who urged all the STARR Scholars to consider participating in the University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum. The work he did with a social media marketing research group resulted in a presentation that later led to a job offer. He’s currently working with a start-up marketing company and plans to move to Detroit to pursue a sales career with the company after graduation.

To Wigglesworth, the STARR Charitable Foundation Scholarship was not just a scholarship. It was a chance to seek out and pursue programs that he was interested in, without being restricted by societal expectations. “Without this scholarship, I wouldn’t have nearly the amount of opportunities that I’ve had thus far,” he says. “It’s hard to say thanks for something so massive.” The donors have “given all of us the freedom to chase our dreams.”

This post is part of a series, Not Just A Scholarship, featuring various scholarship recipients at Michigan State University. You can also follow #NotJustAScholarship on our social media channels to learn more about these Spartans throughout the year.

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