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NSU Junior Talks about His College Application Experience with High School Students at TEDx Event in California

Isaiah SwiftA Norfolk State University junior was recently featured in a TEDx talk (TEDxLAHS) where he spoke to students at a California high school about how college affordability and how he was able to cover the cost of his education by applying for various scholarships.

Isaiah Swift, 21, an NSU finance major from Norfolk, lectured a group of more than 100 students at Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California, in March 2019 as part of the popular video speaker series. The video debuted earlier this month on YouTube and has received nearly 4,000 views.

TED is a nonprofit organization committed to sharing concepts about wide-ranging topics that include technology, business, social issues, the environment and more in short video lectures. TEDx is a continuation of the series on a smaller platform. The recorded lectures are independently organized and allows institutions such as colleges and high schools to host licensed events in the same format.  Swift was selected to participate in the TEDxLAHS event along with 12 other presenters.

“I was nervous because I was the first person to present,” Swift said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself to deliver. It’s not easy to keep a crowd of high school students engaged, but I think I was able to hold their attention.”

Swift said he applied several times to speak at a TED event, along with other speaker forums, and worked feverishly on his presentation. He joins NSU Alumna Dr. Jedidah Isler as a fellow NSU student or alumni who have presented at a TED-affiliated event. Isler, the first African-American female to earn a Ph.D. in astrophysics at Yale University, was the lead speaker at TED events in 2015.

His talk, titled “Awaken the Greatness Within You,” is based off of his 2018 book, “Unlock Your Greatness: 8 Ways To Be Successful In High School and Beyond.” Swift wrote the book while attending Maury High School in Norfolk. He said it was important for him to author a book in his teens because he wanted to capture his message in “real time” as a way to reach students in the demographic he wanted to connect with.

During his lecture, Swift briefly talks about his mother encouraging him before he entered high school to apply for scholarships because she wouldn’t be able to afford for him to go to college independently.

Swift said while at Maury he applied for 10 scholarships per week.

Eventually, he received more than $108,000 in scholarship offers and awards. Swift also talks about the importance of networking and seeking out professional internships and mentors in the video.

“In high school, my pressure came more from the cost of college versus the grades it took for me to get into some of the top schools,” Swift said. “Although I didn’t have a 4.0, I didn’t let that deter me from applying myself.

“After I won my first scholarship for $125, I became addicted and I kept applying for additional scholarships,” he added. “I ended up having enough to cover the cost of my college tuition.”

Norfolk State University School of Business Dean Glenn Carrington described Swift as a smart, confident and prepared student who he believes will accomplish more great things in the future.

“Many students create and develop a roadmap for success once they get to college, but Isaiah created his roadmap before he arrived to campus and hit the ground running,” Carrington said. “He has a huge amount of drive, and I can’t say enough about his ‘likable’ factor. He has it.”

 In addition to his studies, Swift also sits on the student advisory board for the school of business. This summer, he will serve as a consumer finance intern with Ally Bank in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

To view Swift’s TEDxLAHS talk, visit here.