Madison Gaines wasn’t necessarily looking for her dream college when she attended the Washington Journalism and Media Conference on George Mason University’s Fairfax Campus in the summer of 2016.
In fact, George Mason wasn’t even on the high school junior’s priority list at that point.
But Gaines said she fell in love with the campus, the people she met and “the sense of unity and community I found just by being there a week.”
Returning for the 2017 conference only reinforced her opinion. That is why Gaines, an incoming freshman and member of the Honors College, said she is more excited than nervous about what the future holds and ready to embrace all the opportunities Mason has to offer.
“I hope to find a greater sense of purpose,” the creative writing major said. “I hope to find where I really fit in, not only on campus but in the Fairfax area, in the Washington, D.C., area, and I think Mason can help me achieve that.”
“She always knows where she wants to go and where she wants to be and just goes after it,” Gaines’ mom, Beth, said. “She’s a special kid.”
She is also motivated. Consider her passion—yes, passion—for spreadsheets.
“I recommend everyone do it,” Gaines said. “Anytime you are doing anything, make a spreadsheet.”
Gaines did it to keep track of the 60 scholarships to which she applied, six of which came through, she said. She also received the Mason Distinction Scholarship and the Mason IDEA Scholarship.
“She’s a great leader. She stands out among her peers,” said Elena Johnson, who runs the Washington Journalism and Media Conference and is director of Mason’s Washington Scholars Program and K-12 Partnerships. “This university could have a thousand [of her], and every organization would be run so well, and all the students would embrace every opportunity here.”
Gaines’ motivation springs from her parents.
“Everything I do is for my mom. I want to make her proud,” she said. “But everything I do is because of my dad.”
Carlton Gaines died at the age of 46 of a heart attack when Madison was 13. Madison said she and her father had the same taste in music and the same sense of humor. She said losing him so suddenly made her appreciate living in the moment.
“I’m excited to meet new people. I’m excited to see my new roommate,” Gaines said on move-in day at Mason. “Everything here is just amazing.”