Open Doors: Grace Seo

Financial aid allowed the SMPA junior and aspiring journalist to focus on building personal and professional connections.

October 29, 2021

Grace Seo

SMPA junior Grace Seo.

As a middle schooler in Oklahoma City, Grace Seo’s dream career was to be an architect.

“It kind of was a rude awakening that I couldn’t really draw well,” joked Ms. Seo, now a junior at the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs.

A high school trip to South Korea helped Ms. Seo channel her passion and creativity into a more flexible field with less stringent artistic requirements: journalism. She decided to create a travel video about her experience, and her positive experience with video production interested her in media more generally. She discovered GW when she started looking into top university journalism programs, but wasn’t sure whether she could afford it.

Fortunately, GW provided Ms. Seo with a comprehensive financial aid package that included both merit-based scholarships and an award based on her federally-determined need. The award was a welcome shock to Ms. Seo, who only discovered she’d received it when she logged into the GW admissions portal for admitted students.

“When I told my parents, it was definitely a big sigh of relief,” she said.

Ms. Seo’s story is just one of many that demonstrate the importance of GW’s long-term commitment to increasing access to a GW education. Fundraising from Open Doors: The Centuries Initiative for Scholarships & Fellowships seeks to provide consistent, ongoing support for talented students.

Ms. Seo said her GW aid package helped her cover costs she necessarily hadn’t been able to predict before leaving for college: not just tuition and room and board, but textbooks, supplies, transportation and other incidentals. Without it, she also might have needed to take on loans and would have been impacted by the resultant repayment stress.

The relief of having her costs covered or reduced has allowed Ms. Seo to devote more energy to her academics and to building the relationships she hopes will give her options in her chosen career, she said—especially in terms of opportunities to connect with professors.

“They just give you so much good advice, because so many of them have worked in the positions that journalism students are wanting to work in,” she said. “It’s so interesting to hear what their experiences were like—the inside scoop of what it’s like to actually work in that field, rather than just being a student learning about it.”

What she’s learned is that journalism is a surprisingly broad arena with more possibilities than she’d previously imagined.

“There’s so many different aspects to the field of journalism,” she said. “And taking classes and learning what journalism really is, and the different sides to it, is continually growing my passion for it.”

Ms. Seo’s financial aid has also freed her up to form strong relationships outside the classroom and get involved in extracurriculars, especially since returning from the remote learning period. She’s involved with TEDxFoggy Bottom, student radio station WRGW, and GW’s Asian American Student Association.

“It’s really important to not only be involved in your academics and pursue what you want to do as a career, but also—because GW is so diverse—it’s so important to embrace your own culture and heritage,” she said. “Being a part of the Asian-American Student Association has allowed me to meet people who share the same types of problems and issues and perspectives.”

Ms. Seo also works with Campus Living and Residential Education (CLRE) as a communications assistant, which she said is also helping her hone skills she’ll be able to use in her career. But it’s the relationships she really values.

“Journalism is one of those fields where connections are kind of what gets you into the position,” she said. “Definitely you have to be hardworking and have those basic skills, but it also comes from getting a recommendation from a professor or [knowing] someone who works in a company that you would like to apply to.”

And Ms. Seo said the relationships she’s formed at GW have had an effect far beyond work.

“All of my orgs that I’m in—like I am in it for the experience, but also to meet people, and I think to just find a sense of self, and it’s definitely helped doing that just by joining these different groups,” she said.

Open Doors: The Centuries Initiative for Scholarships & Fellowships lays the groundwork for the university’s third century by charting a course to increase access to the transformative power of a GW degree. Learn more about how GW is expanding opportunity for the next generation of leaders.