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Graduate Credits Prairie State College after Earning Full Ride to Stanford University

Graduate Credits Prairie State College after Earning Full Ride to Stanford University [06/20/2019]

“Choosing PSC was the best decision of my life,” says Prairie State College (PSC) graduate Cahron Cross who recently was awarded a full scholarship to Stanford University, one of the top schools in the nation.

Before opening the long-anticipated email from Stanford, Cross says he paused to reflect on the path that ultimately led him to this moment.

Raised in Homewood, Ill., Cross attended Homewood-Flossmoor High School (HF), where he was involved in sports, specifically the boys track and field team, but said he lacked enthusiasm for much else. While Cross enjoyed learning, he admits he often felt detached as a student which led to a less than stellar performance in the classroom.

man holding paper on stage

“I graduated from HF with a 2.7 GPA,” he said. “I had some rough experiences outside of school that made school insignificant in comparison to the troubles I was going through in life.”

Cross says he had to self-analyze to evaluate what he wanted to do after high school. So, when he graduated from HF in 2012, he decided to take a two-year gap, a decision that helped him to discover what he wanted out of life.

“At age 18, you’re way too young to know what you want to do with your life,” said Cross. “Just because there is this pressure on you to go to a university, don’t be afraid to go against the grain.”

During his time away from the classroom, Cross pursued his passion as a musician and songwriter and was even signed to a record label. Despite what could have been a promising future in the industry, Cross had a change of heart. He said he no longer felt “authentic or fully comfortable” in the music scene, and wanted to pursue a career in something else.

Cross says he had contemplated what he wanted to do with his life, and the answer always stemmed back to academia and learning. He says PSC gave him a platform to learn efficiently and allowed him to connect with people he thought were equally passionate about learning.

“I would have conversations with professors that kept me up at night because I was so excited about the ideas they presented to me,” said Cross. “I had classes that changed the way I looked at the world. I felt like this is what life should feel like; it should be exciting, and I got that through academia.”

During his first year at PSC, Cross says he was not invested in the overall college experience, spending much of his time working. However, in 2018, after he had received a rejection letter from Stanford last year, he decided to make some changes.

Since then, Cross immersed himself into life at PSC, expanding his involvement as a student leader and scholar. While his hard work and dedication exemplify the PSC value of excellence, Cross says his success would not have been possible without the dedicated faculty and staff at PSC who assisted him along the way.

“PSC has some of the most brilliant, most passionate and genuine people I’ve met,” said Cross. “I wouldn’t be who I am if I didn’t have such amazing people working to help me.”

Cross asserts that there is no special formula to get into top tier schools. Considering the odds of transferring to Stanford were low, with only one percent of their transfer applicants accepted in 2015, he understood that his chances were slim. But, it was the uniqueness of his story, he said, that set him apart.

“For anyone trying to do the same thing I did, I would say, focus less on trying to get into one of those schools and more on living the best, most interesting life possible,” said Cross.

Reinventing himself was his way of taking the road less traveled, he said. While many of his friends were going off to universities, Cross decided to create his own timeline, which ultimately brought him to the moment he learned whether or not he had been admitted into his dream school.

“I was not optimistic, but I thought, alright, let’s get this over with,” as he opened the letter from Stanford.

Cross had already been rejected by three schools and waitlisted by two, including Princeton University and Williams College. The only school he had gotten accepted into, at that point, was the University of Hawaii. He said he was shocked when he saw the word congratulations.

I couldn’t believe my eyes,” said Cross. “I remember saying, ‘oh my God, I got into Stanford!’ I was just hoping that this wasn’t a mistake. It was like winning the lottery,” he said.

While attending Stanford is a dream come true for Cross, he says the perceived expectations and pressure makes him somewhat nervous.

“This is more than just my success,” said Cross. “If I can do well and actually graduate from Stanford, then I set the path to say that this is possible, and more students from PSC can go to prestigious universities, too.”

Cross says after graduating from Stanford he wants to give back to the underrepresented in less wealthy communities just as the faculty at PSC has done for him.

“One of the most direct, tangible, and powerful ways I can change lives, is in academia,” said Cross. “I think, given my interest, my skillset, and things that inspire me, I want to be a professor.”

Cross will continue his education at Stanford University majoring in mathematics and philosophy in the fall.