Caroline Johnson: Ready for Everything the Panthers — and Atlanta — Have to Offer

The Presidential Scholarship is among the top awards an incoming Georgia State student can receive. In addition to covering full tuition, fees and on-campus housing for four years, it provides stipends for living expenses and study-abroad programs. It also includes automatic acceptance to Georgia State’s Honors College, which offers smaller classes, specialized advising and unique research opportunities. As you read about each of this year’s 10 recipients — the largest class ever — you will see that they earned the Presidential Scholarship with more than just good grades and test scores. Their diverse interests, independent ideas and dedication to service are great assets with the potential to make a real impact — not only on Georgia State’s campus but throughout the Atlanta community.


The Presidential Scholarship isn’t based entirely on good grades, but they’re a big part of it. And Caroline Johnson is certainly dedicated to doing well in school. So dedicated, in fact, that she missed the call informing her she’d won the scholarship in the first place.

“They called me during history class, and my history teacher was kind of intense,” she says with a smile, “so I couldn’t take the call right then. Later on I was able to sneak into our International Baccalaureate office and call them back. There were some other people in the room, and I told them, ‘I’m about to make a phone call, and if I start crying, it’s either a really good thing or a really bad thing, but you probably shouldn’t worry about it regardless.’”

Fortunately, it turned out to be a really good thing — and now Johnson is enrolled at Georgia State’s Honors College, majoring in computer science. With plenty of opportunities laid out before her, both on campus and off, she says her mood is “all excitement” as she settles into life in downtown Atlanta.

From the High Seas to Cyberspace

Johnson grew up in Pensacola, Fla., where she was particularly close with her grandfather. “I managed to do a pretty good job of following his passions,” she says, one of which was sailing.

“I’ve done a whole lot of racing throughout the Gulf Coast,” she says. “I’ve raced single-hand stuff, and then I’ve done team racing — some where there are two or three people, and some where the teams are really big and there’ll be six or seven people on the boat. When it’s three or fewer people, I’m usually the skipper, meaning that I’m driving it. Other times I’ll be the crew or tactician. I’m fine with any position, just so long as I’m out on the water.”

Her grandfather, who started out as a mechanical engineer and then “kind of morphed into a computer engineer,” also passed along his interest in computers. “I’m not who you’d think the typical computer science major would be, I guess,” Johnson says. “I do a little bit of gaming, not a lot. I’m pretty good at operating computers, and I know a little bit of the back-door stuff. My dad has a blog, and I help him out with that — it’s mainly editing, but I’m familiar with the setup.”

When Johnson started hunting for a college where she could turn that interest into a career, she knew she wanted to focus on Atlanta. “It’s the biggest and most exciting city in the South,” she explains. “So I Googled colleges in Atlanta, and I applied to a few of them, but Georgia State definitely was the most accessible. And it all worked out.”

’10 Things Happening All at Once’

Though she researched her options thoroughly online, Johnson says she still wasn’t quite prepared for the experience of being on campus at Georgia State.

“I guess I didn’t really know a lot until the first campus tour,” she recalls. “When we were walking around, in a five-minute time span you’d hear six different languages. I guess I didn’t understand the entirety of what they meant about this being the most diverse campus in Georgia — it’s different in person than when you’re reading about it, but I’m really looking forward to being a part of that.”

After two campus tours and an Incept session, Johnson says she’d compiled a lengthy list of opportunities she was excited about taking advantage of, from the wide range of course options to the rock climbing wall at the Student Recreation Center. But she’s also eager to branch out and explore her new city.

“There’s just so much stuff to immerse yourself in,” she says. “In Pensacola, there’s always something happening, but it’s always just one thing — if it’s the Crawfish Festival and you don’t like crawfish, then you’re out of luck. But here there’ll be 10 things happening all at once, and there’s a whole lot of international stuff too. When we were here for Incept, there was a person in our hotel talking about an international convention that was filling up the entire city. I just like the idea of there being one place here in the South that’s able to draw people from everywhere.”


Previous 2015 Presidential Scholars: Maggie Hunt, Midori Naolu.