HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) – Graduation season is approaching.

For Bethel High School senior Saleh Longchamp, it’s been a stressful few months.

She’s excelled in school, earning a spot in the top 10% of her class. She also spends hours volunteering and staying involved at Bethel High School.

With all that on her résumé, she had dozens of colleges flooding her mailbox, but her sites were set on North Carolina A&T.

“It’s just like a family there. I’ve been there a couple of times, and I like it there,” she said.

She set out a plan to make it happen.

“I knew I had to maintain my GPA, join clubs and volunteer, so I’ve been planning this out for a long time,” Longchamp said.

Longchamp learned she got into the HBCU, but said she didn’t have a way to fund her way through college.

“I paid my deposit and didn’t know if I was going to be in debt the rest of my life or take out loans,” Longchamp said.

So, she submitted every scholarship that was sent her way.

Some smaller scholarships rolled in.

“I am using my calculator trying to figure out how much more do I need,” Longchamp said. “I know where I know where I wanted to go, but I just had to figure it out.”

Longchamp applied for the North Carolina A&T Honors Program, which would allow her many scholarship opportunities, but she was denied.

She started looking at other schools that offered her a full ride.

“Wow, my dream school since I’ve been a freshman; maybe they don’t want me there,” she said.

Fast forward to last week, she had one last opportunity to pay for school. Longchamp was a finalist of the Gates Scholarship, funded by Bill and Melinda Gates.

“All I kept thinking about, like at 8 o’clock, my whole life could change,” Longchamp said.

At 8 o’clock, she refreshed her browser and learned she got the full-ride scholarship.

“I started crying,” she said. “I was very happy, but I didn’t believe it because the likelihood of that was 1.4%.”

Longchamp was 1 of 750 others chosen from a pool of 51,000 applicants.

Altogether, she has raked in over $600,000 worth of scholarships.

Longchamp, who hopes to be a project manager at a technology company, encourages high school juniors to start writing those essays now. She begins her journey toward a business information technology degree in the fall.

She has advice for others seeking scholarship money to pay for college.

“Look local, and also look into scholarships that require you to mail in the application,” she said, “because a lot of students aren’t doing those anymore.”