Cultivating Leaders

Meet Madison

Madison Varner knew that the burden of paying for college would rest on her shoulders. The Ole Miss First Scholarship program helped her achieve her dream of attending Ole Miss.

Growing up, I knew that the burden of paying for college would rest on my shoulders. I have a physically and intellectually disabled older sister, and having a family member like that is truly a team effort. It’s a lot of sacrifice — on all of us. My family’s spare resources have gone to providing my sister with the best daycare, surgeries, and medications that my parents could provide.

I also knew that, no matter the price, attending the University of Mississippi was my goal. It’s something I’ve known since my parents first dressed me in an Ole Miss Rebels cheerleading uniform as a toddler. When it was time, Ole Miss was the first and only school to which I applied.

To prepare for and fund my future there, I began taking the ACT in the 8th grade. I took AP courses and earned college credit through a community college. I maintained a 4.0 GPA. I got involved in my community.

It wasn’t enough.

My initial financial-aid offer left me overwhelmed. I still would have owed $10,000 in tuition. All I could think was, “How am I ever going to come up with that money?” 

I prayed about it and talked to my parents. I cried over the stress.

Then I got a phone call.

It was Rosie McDavid, director of the Ole Miss First Scholarship Program. She was calling to tell me about my Ole Miss First Scholarship offer. Not only does the program help ease my financial stress, it comes with a mentorship support system. It also helps me with rent and housing. 

Because of my Ole Miss First Scholarship, I’m able to focus on my studies and future.

When I graduate, I plan to purse a Ph.D. I know that wouldn’t be possible without the support of Ole Miss First. More than that, my scholarship gave me an extended family of sorts, to lean on for support. I could not have made it through college without the love and support I’ve received from Ole Miss First.