February 2022

McKensie Clemons

When McKensie Clemons started exploring her college choices, she considered schools as far away as New York, but she decided to set those schools aside for future graduate school options. It was more important to her to remain in Minnesota so that she could be near her family. She ended up applying to only two schools: one public, one private.

Now a first-year student, the Hastings High School graduate chose Bethel University first and foremost for its close-knit community, especially in the music program. “From what I observed, people were very kind and helpful to each other and seemed to genuinely care about each other,” she said. In addition, she was attracted to the academic rigor of the school; she wanted a college that would challenge her, not one where she could slide by with ease.

College costs also influenced her choice. “I got a better scholarship from Bethel,” Clemons said. “At first I wasn’t sure if I could afford to go to college at all. Even with my scholarship, it was a struggle for me to be able to afford school, but I ended up being able to do it with help and through a lot of work.”

Although Clemons’ parents are willing to help her pay for college, she knew it would be financially difficult for them, so her goal is to pay for it herself. So far, she’s been able to make it work.

In addition to her Royal Merit Scholarship from Bethel, Clemons has a Bethel Opportunity Grant and a Minnesota State Grant. Combined, that aid didn’t cover all her costs. Fortunately, Hastings High School had information about private scholarships that she could apply for, including some funded by small businesses. She was able to cover some of her remaining costs through two different private scholarships. She also has two work-study jobs at Bethel as well as occasional nannying and house cleaning work outside of school.

Despite what seems like a heavy workload, Clemons has found time to indulge in her love of music. In addition to choir — a class required for her major in music education with a vocal emphasis — she participates in two worship teams, and she is performing in Bethel’s spring opera.

Clemons’ extracurricular activities are enjoyable, but they’re also preparing her for the future. After graduation she plans either to teach lessons while pursuing performance opportunities or to obtain a master’s degree and go on to direct a college choir.

Clemons believes that one of the best things high school seniors can do when they are looking at colleges is to consider all possible resources for financing their education. “When you’re choosing a college, make sure you’re doing a lot of research, including how much it will cost to pursue the major you’re considering,” Clemons said. “Think about how much time you can spend working while going to school and make sure you’re fully aware of all of your options for loans, scholarships, grants and work-study.”

By Kate Norlander