Natalie Seales is wrapping up her first semester at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University near Washington, D.C. She’s a long way from her Mississippi home, but she’s studying in her favorite city in the world, and Phi Theta Kappa helped her get there.
Natalie isn’t intimidated by new cities — her family moved 11 times while she was growing up, living in seven states. She was homeschooled and started kindergarten at age 4, so she’s a year younger than her classmates.
The independence of homeschooling taught her responsibility, which factored into her choice to attend Jones County Junior College (now Jones College) in Mississippi. Natalie also found that she wasn’t great at taking standardized tests, but that wouldn’t hold her back at Jones.
She joined Phi Theta Kappa primarily for the scholarship opportunities, but she soon became involved in the volunteer events. She even met her two best friends through PTK. During her sophomore year, she served as the Vice President of Service for her chapter.
“It was one of the most formative experiences of my collegiate career,” she said. “Organizing events, communicating with a large group of people, being point of contact for members — these are skills I use every day now.
“The work I’m doing in law school — I got preliminary experience as my time as an officer.”
Natalie certainly benefited from the scholarship opportunities, too. She was named Mississippi’s New Century Scholar and was one of 20 selected for the All-USA Academic Team in 2016, and she also received PTK’s prestigious Guistwhite Scholarship.
She transferred to the University of Mississippi, which gives a full tuition scholarship to the state’s New Century Scholar. Add a Phi Theta Kappa transfer scholarship and an academic excellence scholarship, and her tuition and living expenses were covered.
“I really wanted to go to Ole Miss, so these scholarships made living away from home possible for me,” she said. “It completely paid for two years of my life.”
Natalie started at Ole Miss as a journalism major, but a communications law class changed her plans. She fell in love with “the details and intricacies of the law” and knew law school would be her next step.
She visited George Mason and loved it. When it came time to apply, she again reached for skills she gained through PTK.
The law school didn’t conduct interviews, so admittance relied heavily on the application. Natalie looked to her experience completing the All-USA and New Century Scholar application — and the application itself — for guidance.
“It was by far the most extensive application I’ve ever done,” she said. “I had a ton of material I was able to pull from, and I had confidence that I could clearly communicate through the application.
“My experience with such an extensive application process was paramount to my applying for law school.”
Natalie expects to graduate in 2021. She’s leaning toward communications law at the moment, but she said if there’s one thing she’s learned so far in law school, it’s how little she knows.
Still, while her first year has had its difficulties, she’s confident she’s on the right path. She approaches every situation with a humble and teachable attitude, and she learns every chance she gets.
And, Natalie believes it’s important to give yourself credit for what you’ve done.
“There will always be someone better than you at any given task,” she said. “Diligent, ethical hard work goes farther than you might think.”
Photos by Ariel Cobbert