“Money became something I was very aware of from a young age. I was conscious of spending money and how important money was.”
Morgan, Northwestern University
Hometown: Erie, PA
Morgan Monahan decided at the age of 11 that the only school she wanted to go to was Northwestern. How she’d get there, she wasn’t sure, knowing her family wouldn’t be able to afford it, But, dedicated and driven, she worked hard all throughout her middle and high school years, confident she’d end up where she needed to be.
Morgan grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. Her parents divorced when she was 8 and the family, having lost everything, declared bankruptcy. She recalls going out to eat and knowing she had to order the cheapest thing on the menu.
“Money became something I was very aware of from a young age,” she says. “I was conscious of spending money and how important money was.”
“It was part of the reason why I wanted to go to a good school,” she adds. “Because I wanted to be set up for success later. I didn’t want to be like my parents, who only had vocational skills. I wanted to do everything I could so that I could set myself up, and that it wouldn’t be an issue for me the way it was for my parents.”
Despite trouble at home, her parents were always extremely supportive of Morgan, who was fond of the stage and loved theatre. A 6th grade project required her to research a career she might see herself having when she grew up, and she chose news anchor. That more or less settled it. Morgan’s mom told her to start looking at schools, and together they discovered the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern.
“I knew it was really hard to get into and I’d really have to focus,” Morgan says. “And then in high school, I started worrying about the financial aspect.” It had always been ingrained that Morgan would go to a good school, but when her family realized the ‘sticker price’ of such schools, including, of course, Northwestern, were out of the question, they started panicking. It wasn’t until she discovered a piece of mail from QuestBridge, buried beneath all the other the mail she’d received from schools and scholarships, and decided to give it a second look did she consider she might have a shot. Northwestern was on the list of QuestBridge partners.
She applied, and was accepted as a Finalist. When she submitted her rankings list, there was only 1 school on it. You guessed it: Northwestern.
“I thought, if I don’t get in this way, I’m going to be accepted another way,” Morgan said.
But she wasn’t matched, and she was devastated. For two days, she considered other options. And then, she received a notice from the Northwestern office of admissions. It said that they were disappointed that they couldn’t offer her a Match scholarship, but if she wanted to apply for Regular Decision, they’d be happy to admit her with 100% of need-based aid.
“My family had never been so happy,” Morgan said. Though it meant she would be leaving home, they always knew that would happen, and they were ready and excited for Morgan to take on the challenges she’d been preparing for since she was a young girl. “They put me on the stage when I was 5,” Morgan says. “They always knew I wanted to be somewhere exciting.”
Morgan immersed herself in Northwestern activities, participating as a peer advisor, a family guide, and the alumni network. She was overjoyed to be exactly where she’d hoped to be for so long. But eventually, one big thing changed. She discovered that the film industry is where she saw herself, not news. Luckily, Northwestern offered this route of study. But the change of course didn’t get in Morgan’s way. With her refocused goal, she did what she’d done previously: set out on a new path to attain it.
“Once it changed it was cemented in me forever,” Morgan says.
Now, she’s steadily on her way, securing a job as a Production Assistant for a reality TV show right out of college—a job that’s coveted by many. Not only that, she was promoted rather quickly to Assistant Production Office Coordinator. She’s already achieved much success, but, until she’s where she ultimately wants to be—Disney Studios—she likely won’t admit her accomplishments.
“In a way, it’s almost harder knowing exactly what I want to do, and nothing ever seems like it’s going to be enough for me,” she says.
But one can tell that, despite her unflappable devotion to her goal, her biggest competitor is herself. When I congratulate her on how far she’s come, she smiles.
It’s rare that someone can know from an early age what’s best for them, and stick to it. For celebrating that part of herself, Morgan thanks QuestBridge and Northwestern. “I don’t know, if I had applied normally, that it would have had the same impact,” she says. For me and my family it was like a life raft to hold on to, and it gave me hope that it was possible, especially when I started to doubt whether it was possible.”