How I Became a Thiel Fellowship Recipient
As a “top-performing” high school student in Toledo, Ohio, it was assumed I would be going to college. After all, “the only way to be successful was to get a college degree.”
While I heard stories of the tech giants that had dropped out of college, it was all so far away… and everyone that was ‘successful’ without a degree seemed to be male.
I didn’t feel that college was for me. Thus, I would spend hours researching “alternatives to college.”
I ultimately stumbled upon the Thiel Fellowship. As a gal from Ohio, far removed from Silicon Valley/VC culture, this fellowship was not just a “stamp of approval,” it was my way out of the system.
$100,000 to NOT go to college and pursue my dreams of changing the world? Legendary.
I was a sophomore in high school when I submitted my first application. At the time, I owned a relatively small button company. I personally designed, pressed and sold buttons, magnets, and compact mirrors. While I didn’t have a “big vision,” I had real revenue.
I didn’t receive the fellowship that year, but that didn’t stop me. At the time, I was 15 and I had 7 more years until I was no longer eligible due to the age restriction of 23 years old.
I applied again.
Every year, my button company grew, but my odds of receiving the award did not.
I eventually went to college disdainfully.
After just 1 semester, I dropped out (before getting the fellowship).
I set my sight on disrupting the menstrual product space, founding Aunt Flow.
I continued to apply and at age 18, I received my first “interview” for the fellowship. This consisted of a free trip to San Francisco (the first time I traveled west of Indiana).
While I believed that I crushed the interview and created lifelong friendships, I didn’t get the fellowship.
I continued to apply, but it wasn’t until I was 22 that I secured an interview again.
That was the year that I received the phone call that I was awarded the fellowship.
By this time, I didn’t really even “need” the money and had already been 3 years removed from college.
I don’t know why I received the fellowship that year, compared to others. What worked for me was persistence.
I am exceptionally remarkable at just one thing, persistence, and I believe that is the most important thing to be remarkable at.