Paying for College: Natalia Vidal

Natalia Vidal, a second-year chemical and biomolecular engineering student with a materials science engineering minor, grew up with a love for science and engineering. When she was accepted to Georgia Tech, making the choice to attend was an easy decision, but covering the cost of college is something she’s been aware of from the jump. Fortunately, she started her engineering experience before she took her first college course — and found success in her scholarship search.

Vidal has long been interested in engineering and spent time as she wrapped up high school cold-calling firms in her area to see if any would take her as an intern. She knew engineering was the right path for her, but she wasn’t sure exactly what type. Mechanical, civil, and several other engineering fields floated through her head, but she finally determined that working for an engineering firm — before starting college — would help her choose the right kind of engineering for her, while helping her save for college.

Eventually, she found Grant Shepherd, a land surveying company specializing in civil engineering. That company took her on as a paid intern the summer before college.

Vidal enjoyed her time at Grant Shepherd, though she ultimately found herself drawn more to chemical and biomolecular engineering — her current major. Still, she returned to the company the following summer to continue learning, working, and saving money.

To cover some of her other fees, Vidal has been able to supplement her paid internship income with funding from the Zell Miller Scholarship and a federal Pell Grant, which is awarded to undergraduate college students who demonstrate financial need.

Similar to the research she undertook that led her to her Grant Shepherd internship, Vidal researched other scholarships that might be available to her, which helped her identify more options.

While still in high school, she participated in her school’s “Diversity Day,” and received a scholarship for an essay reflecting on her experience. More recently, she received a scholarship from Women in Engineering, an on-campus organization dedicated to recruiting and assisting top students in engineering.

To those entering Georgia Tech, Vidal emphasizes the importance of self-assurance and keeping an eye out for opporutnities.

“There’s a ton of organizations on campus, and I always try to share my email with them so I can receive updates on any scholarship opportunities they may have,” she said. “Even if it’s a scholarship you feel like you don’t have much of a shot at, applying is still always a good idea.”

Vidal regrets that (thinking she wouldn’t be successful in securing internships as a first-year student) she didn’t apply to internships beyond Grant Shepherd. She notes that many of her other friends in the same year did get the internships they applied for — even as first-year students.

“I never thought that it would work out, but I know better now. You just have to believe in yourself,” she said. “You can absolutely apply for things at any point in your college career.”

To hear more about financing an education at Tech, visit the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid or read more student stories.