My path to Drake

Anastasia Crist

As a college student who was even surprised that I made it through community college, I was completely blown away by my acceptance letter from Drake University.  

For some background, I didn’t have a great support system growing up. Coming from a dysfunctional background and childhood, it was never supposed to be “in the cards” for me to pursue higher education. I wasted about half of my young adulthood deep in codependency and the workforce barely making ends meet. 

By the time I was 29 and decided to go back to school, I was like a lost puppy in a very large world. What I did know, is that I wanted something better for my children. I would see to it that they had a mother they were proud of and that they had an example they could look up to and depend on. 

My journey started at DMACC, and I enrolled in the interior design program. After purchasing a camera to photograph my furniture pieces, I quickly realized that I loved my camera more than I loved anything else I was doing. I then put in a program change to the photography program and never looked back. 

I quickly found myself hyper-focused on joining Phi Theta Kappa, the national two-year honor society, and in order to get the invitation for that, I needed to maintain a GPA of 3.5 or higher. Once I did receive my invitation, I felt a sense of accomplishment and pride in myself I had never felt before. I met my mentor, Alyssa Monroe, at a PTK conference and she helped familiarize me with the various clubs I could join. 

Shortly after, I became part of the school newspaper and found a sense of self I had been looking for. I was a part of something bigger, and for students like me,, every small win is a point of celebration. I loved my opportunity for higher education and every single bonus that came with it. 

At a Phi Theta Kappa Conference, I met with Rachelle Setsodi, a transfer advisor from Drake University at a transfer fair in the hallway. I quickly laughed and said, “Oh no, I’m not University student material.” She looked at me and replied, “You’re part of Phi Theta Kappa, of course you’re university material.” 

It seemed like in an instant everything I knew about my abilities, or lack thereof, was wrong. We quickly went over all the scholarships that were offered to me just for being an honor student and what I would get applying to a private university. She briefly went over what that would look like coupled with my financial aid, and for just a moment, I saw a vision of possibility ahead.

I didn’t think much into it past that, I just more-or-less fantasized or dreamed about the possibility I could be an undergraduate student at a private university. 

That same month, I went to an ICMA award conference with the student newspaper and loved every minute of it. It was there that I knew I wanted to explore the possibility of journalism as another program once I graduated. Probably at DMACC but by now, I had already published two books of my own and loved every second of being a staff writer for The Campus Chronicle. 

Fast forward a few weeks to the transfer fair at DMACC. I was doing interviews for the student newspaper when I ran into Setsodi, again. This time, she seemed much more adamant and serious about my opportunities, my doubts, and the true reality that this was possible. So I made the transfer appointment…. aaaannndd bailed on it. I missed it. 

I went on to become Vice President of my Phi Theta Kappa chapter, and it was the most rewarding position of my entire education. 

Finally, I decided to log onto the Drake website. It was then I realized that I had actually photographed Drake University when I first moved to Iowa, and at that time said out loud, “must be nice to be able to afford to go to Hogwarts.“ I captured its beauty and architecture, and I had completely forgotten I had done this until I was staring at ‘Old Main’ on the Drake website.

I rescheduled my transfer appointment and met with Setsodi. It was then that I realized as an honor student, not only would I not have the extra competition for admission, but with the scholarships and grants available that this could be just as affordable, or even CHEAPER than a public university. 

Drake Admissions Counselor Rachelle Setsodi and Lillyana Crist, 5 years old.

Setsodi was kind, and patient, even as I nervously rushed through questions, and interrupted her so I didn’t forget anything. All I could think was, “I am out of place, I don’t belong here.” We walked through finances, credits, and every single anxious “what-if” I had. 

She never judged me for being an non-traditional student, or student parent. She never got frustrated with my anxiety or my doubt. I never felt singled out. I felt welcomed, I felt heard, and when I left her office, I felt like I belonged. 

I filled out my application, and a week later, I got the email. ACCEPTED. WHAT?! The burst of emotion that flooded through me is too much for this piece, but I can tell you that my whole world stopped for a moment. It came as a shock even with Rachelle reassuring me the entire way.  

DMACC molded me in ways I could have never done on my own and Drake University opened up opportunities I never even dreamed of calling reality. 

I am now transferring from DMACC and I am officially a Bulldog. 

Don’t ever assume something is out of reach, and despite what you think you know about cost, acceptance rate, and inclusion, fill out the application. Drake guarantees EVERY transfer student a scholarship and is home to the $23,000 PHI THETA KAPPA SCHOLARSHIP. Credits transfer, it is affordable, and Drake includes everyone.

One Comment

  1. Michael Renner says:

    Welcome, Bulldog!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *