Valeria Carrillo: My First Semester at Rice University

This August, YOU made it possible for Valeria Carrillo, IDEA Class of 2022 Alumna, to begin her college journey as a freshman Business major at Rice University. We caught up with her about her first semester and how your contributions made her college dreams possible.

What will you always remember about your first week of college?

I will always remember the tears and the proud look on my mother’s face when my family dropped me off on campus; you could tell she knew her support and my hard work paid off. The first week was surreal, but it finally hit me that my dream was no longer a dream when I had the opportunity to walk under Sally Port, an iconic archway at Rice that new and graduating classes walk underneath as a rite of passage.

Valeria celebrates the start to her first semester at Rice University with her mom in front of the iconic Sally Port archway.

How has your IDEA scholarship helped you?

I was able to purchase my laptop with my scholarship from IDEA, which really assists me in completing my homework and readings, but more than anything, this scholarship has empowered me to be the first in my family to graduate high school, attend my dream college, and make my family proud. Growing up in a low-income household, I had doubts if attending the college of my choice would be possible due to my limited financial resources and rising college costs. “Echale ganas mija, nunca se rinda y sabes que con la ayuda de Dios vas a seguir adelante” is a phrase that my parents engrained in my mind growing up whenever I set my mind on a goal that seemed out of reach. It essentially means “Give it the best you got and never give up; with the help of God you will succeed.” This has, and will always, continue to be my motivation to continue my education, and I thank IDEA staff and supporters for making it possible for me to do so.

Which college course are you enjoying the most?

I’m enjoying all my classes so far, but I am finding my business class to be my favorite. I like that it focuses on teaching the social psychology of earning individuals’ trust to run a business and how to trust your own decision-making skills. I know this knowledge is going to help me invest back in my hometown in Weslaco as a business manager one day.

What is the biggest challenge since you started your first semester?

While I feel prepared for the academic rigor of college, thanks to my IDEA AP courses and teachers, the biggest hurdle I am facing right now is time management. There are so many extracurricular activities and events happening on campus, so I’m working to find the right balance of study and social time.

What college experiences are you most looking forward to?

I am looking forward to getting my first exams back and seeing how I do to determine a game plan for how to study better for the next one, if needed. I’m also looking forward to getting involved with the Hispanic association to help represent people of color and dance association because I love Latin music.

Valeria participates in a freshman orientation activity her first week on campus.

In what ways do you feel IDEA prepared you for college?

My professors shared they were going to be emphasizing peer talk in class. At IDEA, we did a lot of peer talk and peer evaluations, so I feel prepared and have enjoyed engaging with my peers. My professors also made it clear that it is a student’s responsibility to communicate with them if we do not understand something in the lecture material or assignments. My IDEA teachers implemented office hours and the same expectation for student-driven communication, so I have been able to easily engage with my professors and be my own advocate.

Your investment in college scholarships for IDEA students makes it possible for Valeria and countless IDEA alumni to attend the college of their choice and change the trajectory of their life, so thank you for your continued support and belief in our mission of College for All. You make college dreams possible!

Find more stories of impact

IDEA Rio Grande Valley alumna, Valeria Carrillo, visited Rice University for the first time on a College Field Lesson in the 8th grade. Attracted by the studious learning environment, Valeria was determined to attend Rice University upon high school graduation. Because of opportunities like Field Lessons, Valeria was able to envision herself at a top tier institution and is now in her first semester as a freshman Business major at Rice University. Continue reading to learn about Valeria’s journey to Rice and how IDEA supported her on the road to her dream school. 

What has been the most memorable moment from your first week at Rice? 

Rice is an amazing campus overall, however, the most memorable moment from my first week at Rice would be Orientation Week. They had a full week dedicated to welcoming and informing us about the academic programs, academic assistance, and the school’s culture. We participated in many bonding experiences, like a water balloon fight, and I had the opportunity to meet the academic advisors that helped me move in as well. We also walked under Sally Port as a welcome for the new matriculating class of 2026! 

What do you remember about leaving your family to embark on your college journey?   

My family and I cried a bit when they dropped me off on campus. I could tell my mother was extremely proud of me and she knew her support and my hard work had paid off. We both knew this was going to be an exciting chapter of my life and we were all extremely excited. 

What has been the best advice shared with you by your family?    

My mother and father have always told me this one phrase since I was little: “echale ganas mija, nunca se rinda y sabes que con la ayuda de Dios vas a seguir adelante” Essentially, this means “give it the best you got and never give up, with the help of God you will succeed.” This has, and will always, continue to be my motivation to continue my education. 

In what ways do you feel IDEA best prepared you for college? 

IDEA has prepared me in numerous ways. For one, peer discussions are one aspect of college that is very important and many students in my classes have difficulty speaking with one another because they have yet to gain these social skills. At IDEA, peer talk, or peer evaluations were emphasized often during my high school career. Similarly, AP courses have really prepared me because they gave me a glimpse of what college expects from me: reading comprehension, writing techniques, and time management.  

What has been the biggest challenge or hardship since you started your first semester? And if applicable, how do you think your time at IDEA prepared you to overcome the challenge or adversity? 

Time management. It’s very difficult to manage your time when social events or parties are occurring all around you. I didn’t believe it, but in college, it is your own responsibility to learn how to study, stay organized, and even communicate with your professors. I feel like my professors do a great job in completing the lectures, however, if you do not understand something you must communicate that and be able to manage what you need to complete for the next day, because the professors will not remind you. However, one good thing about IDEA is that they always emphasized the importance of communication and office hours. IDEA helped me have the confidence to ask for help when needed and also provided office hours when I was in high school, giving me a glimpse of what that would feel like in college.  

Which college course are you enjoying the most so far? And why?  

I really enjoy my business class because it incorporates social psychology and the trust you must earn with individuals to carry out a business and trust your decision making.  

What is one thing you are looking forward to experiencing at college that you have not experienced so far?  

I want to experience the process of studying after you receive the results from your exams. I want to learn how to improve my mindset and work ethic or develop certain skills to succeed.  

As a recipient of IDEA’s Give Me 5 Scholarship, did you use the funds to buy something specific?  

I utilized my Give Me 5 scholarship to purchase my laptop which really assists me in completing my homework and readings.  

What role do you think teachers play in students’ lives? How do good teachers have the power to impact students?  

They play a role 100%. Whether in our education or emotionally, teachers at IDEA really do care about you and want you to succeed 100%. My teachers really did help me the most in my college application process, writing skills, and emotionally. Mr. Resurreccion and Mr. Suggs helped me with my writing skills, Mrs. Hernandez, Mrs. Flores, and Mrs. McGowan were always there for me when I needed someone to talk to, and I have no idea how to thank my college counselors for having so much patience with me and supporting me all throughout the school year — and still do. 

Your support for IDEA scholars creates a brighter future for our communities and empowers students to achieve their college dreams. Contribute to IDEA and help scholars like Valeria make college a reality today: click here to donate today.

Valeria Carrillo, freshman at Rice University and her parents