How to be Successful in a Rural Community

By: Autumn Shelton

My small town in Southwest Missouri has less than 5,000 people who live in the city limits. For prom, dozens of dates come on tractors. FFA and 4-H are two of the strongest clubs in the entire school. Besides agriculture and farming, football reigns. Every Friday night the town swarms to the football field to watch our tigers “roar”. Sadly, although these programs are strong, many others are neglected. The fine arts struggle to find footing, community service opportunities are rare, and AP classes are almost non-existent. Although there are barriers to thrive in a small, rural community, through support and a few helpful tips, I have been able to surpass expectations, and you can too.
#1 Start planning the summer before freshman year
This is a tip for high schoolers everywhere. You do not need to know everything, but start brainstorming the summer before freshman year. Plan to take the ACT or SAT that year to see which one you like best. Decide which extracurriculars and community activities you want to join. The earlier you join a club/organization the better it looks on your resume. Although summer is a time to have fun and relax, it is also a great time to begin applying to scholarships and researching opportunities for the next year.
#2 Make a list of your goals
This is essential. There is a famous quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin that says, “If you fail to plan you plan to fail”. This is very true. If you don’t know what your goals are, how are you supposed to achieve them? In rural communities, the majority of your peers will not have the same ambition you have. By making a list of goals, you keep yourself accountable and remind yourself of what you want your future to be.  I keep a notebook on my side table. I write every single one of my goals in it, from “Research different colleges” to “Learn French”. I read my goals everyday to remind myself of what I want to achieve and how I will achieve it.
#3 Do not worry if your school doesn’t offer AP, IB, or DC Classes
Another negative of living in a small community is that the quantity of advanced placement and Dual Credit classes is few. Just take the most advanced classes you possibly can. When you apply to college and you have to send a transcript, most (if not all) will also require a course list from your school. They will know how many AP classes your school offers and how many you took. As long as you take the hardest course load possible, then you will be fine.
#4 Use your struggles to your advantage
Although living in a small, rural community can be hard, there are millions of opportunities available. The Joyce Ivy Foundation is one example. Use the internet and other tools to search for different scholarships that relate to your disadvantages. Do you have to work a full time job to support your family? Then the Hagan Scholarship would be perfect for you. Are you low income but still want to go to a summer program? Then LEDA would be a great fit. No matter who you are or where you are academically, there is a program for you.
Living in a rural community has its positives and negatives,
but no matter what, as long as you work hard, you will reach your goals.

The posts published on the blog are written by a talented group of Joyce Ivy Fellows, who are all members of the Publications Team. To see who the members are, please visit here.

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