Erin S.'s Story

“I thought that it was way out of my league.”

Erin Schutte grew up on her family’s small farm in rural Minnesota, surrounded by corn, soybeans, pigs, and cows. In the early years of establishing the farm, her family suffered a number of setbacks, including weather disasters like the Great Flood of 1993 and fluctuating commodity prices like the hog market collapse in the mid-late 1990s. However, these challenging times did not stop Erin from imagining opportunities for an education, career, and travel outside her small community.

Before even starting school, Erin memorized state capitals and national flags, and dreamed about a career in international relations. When she received a pamphlet for the QuestBridge College Prep Scholars Program in the mail during high school, she immediately applied and was invited to attend a National College Admissions Conference at Yale University. Erin, along with her parents and two younger sisters, ventured east for the conference at Yale and took the opportunity to schedule visits to several colleges in the area. 

After her trip to the East Coast, Erin was even more excited about college. She applied to the National College Match in her senior year and was accepted to Yale through QuestBridge Regular Decision. Before the conference at Yale, Erin says that the university was not on her radar. “I thought that it was way out of my league,” she said, laughing about how she and her mother were impressed by the ornate wood paneling inside Yale Law School and touched it in disbelief.

Erin's first year at Yale was a steep learning curve. At her public high school, Erin had excelled in her classes while balancing sports, music, and forensics activities. Entering college, Erin was confronted with new challenges. With failing out as her biggest fear, Erin decided to work hard, focus on academics, and prove to herself that she could do it. She later became a leader on campus in a number of student groups and graduated in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science.

Following graduation, Erin went on to work as the Director for Yale Young Global Scholars, an on-campus summer program for top high school students around the world who are interested in global affairs and have strong leadership and academic potential. Beginning in 2013, the program partnered with the Quest for Excellence New York City Award, inviting awardees from New York City to participate in Yale Young Global Scholars. Erin has seen these awardees serve as ambassadors for other high-achieving, low-income students in the Yale program, showing them that an education at a top university is possible.

In addition to working with Yale Young Global Scholars, Erin pursued a JD at the University of Connecticut School of Law. She is passionate about using her training to promote education access for low-income students in underrepresented communities in the U.S. and around the world. Erin was married in her hometown in November 2015 and now goes by Erin Schutte Wadzinski. She and her husband Tyler, a Ph.D. student at Yale, live in New Haven, CT.