Coral’s courageous choice may very well have been inspired by a lesson she says her Pathways teachers at her Connecticut high school reinforced after she became a Pathways Scholar in 10th grade and started thinking about what colleges she wanted to apply to: “Keep your mind open.”
To a casual observer, it seemed that Pathways alumna Coral was living the dream: a young woman of color studying at Yale — after turning down other Ivy League schools, Brown and Harvard — and a prestigious consulting firm offer of a six-figure salary to leave school early.
Coral turned down the offer. Instead, she decided to finish her studies, focus on her passions, and live what she considers an authentic life. Coral’s courageous choice may very well have been inspired by a lesson she says her Pathways teachers at her Connecticut high school reinforced after she became a Pathways Scholar in 10th grade and started thinking about what colleges she wanted to apply to: “Keep your mind open.”
Some school guidance counselors, Coral says, “might push you toward traditional careers that earn a lot of money, instead of telling you to go to college and take four years to figure out what your passions are. I’m a firm believer that every person knows what’s best for them.”
Listening to Coral speak, her self-assuredness is striking. But she says she once struggled in her early college days with a condition known as “impostor syndrome.” It’s the fear some students share that somehow they’re neither deserving nor worthy of opportunities they’ve won to study at prestigious institutions. They believe this is so because they come from economically humble backgrounds and/or have graduated from traditionally academically underperforming public high schools. So even as the Ivies courted Coral, who had always maintained a high grade-point average and was her high school’s debate team captain, she had doubts about her own abilities. But her Pathways teachers, she said, buoyed her confidence.
“When you have the ‘impostor syndrome,’ having Pathways teachers say to us, ‘I think you’re talented and you can make it’ and investing in our success was the thing that would help us get through school,” Coral says. “Our mentors were willing to read over our college essays and give us advice. Pathways gave me access to those mentors and helped me find tools to apply to college.”
Coral’s mentors also taught her and her fellow Scholars the importance of exploring options once they were in college. In her junior year, Coral chose studying in Spain over Argentina to refine her Spanish language skills. Then, after feeling drained by the impacts of Covid-19, she took a semester off.
“There’s a pressure to finish college in four years and a stereotype that if you don’t, you won’t finish, or that you’re prolonging the process,” Coral says. “I knew that for me, my college education wasn’t finished.”
Early in her college career, Coral took only courses relating to her political science major. But Coral’s passion for writing and entrepreneurship now has her interested in becoming a dramatic TV writer.
“Students of color who don’t come from wealthy backgrounds face pressure to secure stable jobs after college, whether it’s becoming a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer or a teacher,” Coral says. “I used to use those metrics for myself. I used to think if I had a ton of money, I’d be happy. I could’ve taken the job I was offered and been completely miserable, working until 2 a.m., seven days a week.”
Instead, Coral now chases her passions. And as a Pathways alumna, she offers this advice to younger Scholars once they’re in college: “Be open to where life will take you. It helps to be open-minded and think about what will help you have a good quality of life.”