Georgia State Reached Out to Taylor Briggs — and She Made the Most of It

“I wanted to go to a college where they thought I was valuable,” Taylor Briggs says. “Georgia State offered me the Foundation Scholarship right off the bat — they wanted me to come immediately and become part of the Honors College. They basically said, ‘Not only do we want you, we acknowledge that you work hard in your academics and we want to reward you for that.”

Taylor says she examined her college options carefully. Some out-of-state schools were attractive, but expensive; she also wanted to have some semblance of on-campus life. That narrowed her choices down to four public schools in Georgia, and she says Georgia State stood out by making an effort to impress her, rather than making her feel like it should be the other way around.

“At Georgia State I felt like they were wooing me, like they were trying to show me everything Georgia State had to offer,” she explains. “It was a very comprehensive picture, and everyone was super attentive and helpful.”

Opportunity Every Step of the Way

When Taylor dived right into her college experience, she found that Georgia State lived up to its promise. “I really wanted to have the quintessential college experience, so I lived in the freshman dorm my first year,” she says. “And I took 17 credit-hours my first semester. A lot of people get burned out because they take too many lecture classes their first year, but I took some smaller classes and I really connected with my professors.”

Last year, Taylor also served as executive vice president of the Student Government Association, which she describes as “highly purposeful and highly functional” and “a really great way for me to meet a lot of faculty and staff and get connected on campus.” “It’s run by students who care about what’s going on on campus, who acknowledge what needs fixing and are genuinely interested in starting a dialogue with faculty and staff to change it.”

Some of the most important opportunities Georgia State provided, though, were in the area of scholarships. The Foundation Scholarship was just one of many funding sources from which Taylor, now in her final semester, has benefited over the course of her college career. She also received Pell Grants her first two years and, more recently, the Women’s Philanthropy Initiative Scholarship.

Setting up that financial support wasn’t always easy, and she did have to dip into savings from her on-campus job to pay for school out of pocket one year. In the end, though, Taylor will leave Georgia State with a distinction that’s becoming increasingly rare for new college graduates: no student-loan debt. Given that she’s only 20 and will have earned her degree in just a little over three years, she’s grateful for the freedom to weigh her future options carefully rather than having to leap right into a job or graduate school.

“I definitely want to go to grad school, but because I’m so young I’m going to take a year off and study for the GRE. I finished high school early and I finished college early, so I’m ready to take a breather,” she says. “And I want to take some time and thoughtfully consider where I’m going to go.”

A Passion for Guiding Children Through Challenges

In the meantime, though, Taylor says she’s gotten some valuable experience and direction from her job at the Emory Autism Center — another opportunity Georgia State helped her find. “I got that job through Panther Career Net,” she says. “All of my co-workers are either Georgia State students or Emory students, and my boss is a Georgia State grad, so it’s pretty cool.”

Taylor, a speech communication major, has taken on the challenge of working with autistic children on their verbal-communication skills. “In our classrooms we have kids with autism alongside typical kids, and we have a methodology in place that comes from researchers partnered with Emory,” she says. “It’s a very specific approach to encourage verbal language in all the kids, but there’s more targeted intervention with kids with autism.”

Working with autistic children has helped Taylor gain a greater understanding for how people with autism-spectrum disorders think — and the social stigma they often face. “Everyone has what I would call social deficits, it’s just that when you have autism they’re very pronounced,” she says. “I’ve started noticing my own and other people’s social deficits. I find it kind of sad how you can have one thing and you’re OK, but when you have more than one, you quickly lose acceptance with other people.

“For example, people with autism have super-focused interests — for example, maybe they have a favorite sports team and that’s the only thing they talk to you about. So it can be a challenge to communicate with these people and help them feel like their communication is meaningful.”

Taylor says she’s also looked at getting a master’s in deaf education, but no matter which direction she goes, she appreciates having the freedom to think through her choice and make sure it’s something she loves.

“I think it’s really important to have a strong passion about where you’re going to specialize, so I want to get a better idea of where I can specialize — do I want to teach, do I want to create curriculum,” she says. “I feel like that peace of mind is something I’ve only begun to fully understand and appreciate.”