'I learned more, not only about myself, but about the world than I could have imagined'

Photo by Hal Morris/UK Alumni Association

By Molly Williamson

As a first generation college student, Katie Sterling was unsettled. She did not know what to expect when she went to college nor did she know how she would afford her tuition. But, the Independence, Kentucky, native said her four years at the University of Kentucky were the best, most fulfilling years of her life. 

“I learned more, not only about myself, but about the world than I could have imagined,” Sterling said.  “The Hearst Foundation's support alleviated some of the financial burden that accompanies pursuing a college degree. Their support allowed me to focus on my UK experience, both in and out of the classroom, without having to continuously worry about finding the means to pay for it all.”

Relieving that worry was especially important to Sterling her first year. She was trying to acclimate to college life and found her study skills lacking.

“I failed miserably on my first college exam ever,” said the integrated strategic communications graduate. “School had always come easy to me, and studying was something I never had to do. That next day, I was in my professor’s office seeking advice and studying tips. Over the course of the semester I made gradual progress, and when it came time to take the final exam I knocked it out of the park. 

“My professor emailed me privately to acknowledge the effort I had put forth since that first exam,” Sterling said. “That experience stuck with me throughout my college career. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is the first step in trying to accomplish your goals.”

That is why she encourages students to apply for scholarships. Having financial support gave her confidence and flexibility. She was able to get involved on campus and begin pursuing her love of event planning. 

“I am truly grateful for the support of the Hearst Foundation,” Sterling said. “I do not believe my experience at UK would have been the same without the assistance from the foundation. As a first generation college student, many aspects of college just seemed impossible or unattainable. Having the Hearst Foundation's support gave me the assurance that I could accomplish every goal I set in college. I'm proud to say I was able to do so.”

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