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AOPA scholarship recipient shares winning strategy

Flight training award helped Madison Seymour earn private certificate

A love for flying spurred 17-year-old Madison “Maddy” Seymour to pursue learning to fly, and AOPA flight training scholarship funds helped her earn a private pilot certificate in November. The Michigan student attributed her success to a professional approach during the scholarship application process plus mentorship and good training habits.

High school senior Madison 'Maddy' Seymour earned a private pilot certificate in November, with help from an AOPA scholarship. Photo courtesy of Madison Seymour.

“Ever since I was a little girl, I loved airplanes, but I never thought I could go into aviation because no one in my family is a pilot,” said Seymour. A discovery flight with Crosswinds Aviation at Michigan’s Livingston County Spencer J Hardy Airport was “an unforgettable experience” that changed Seymour’s life. “I fell in love with that moment,” and realized that aviation was her calling.

The South Lyon High School senior who has an eye on a professional aviation career is giving back by sharing several tips that can help others achieve their flying aspirations.

Be yourself: “First of all, you just want to be yourself … and tell your true story.” Think of all the things that make you different as an individual and relate how a particular scholarship can help further your aviation goals and dreams.

Apply frequently: “Apply for as many scholarships as you can,” she coached. “I was applying for any scholarship that I could get my hands on and I applied to new ones every single week just to get my hands on any money” that could further flight training.

Consider it a job: “Apply … as if it were a job,” said Seymour. Be professional when approaching a scholarship application by making sure to read all the requirements and then review those requirements. Fill out the document as if it were an application for a career position and mentally check off each item required. Emphasize how you are different and how the scholarship would help further your goals.

Do your homework: “Do a little bit of research about scholarships” to help understand what type of funds are available and where to find them, “just like you’d do if you were researching a job opportunity.” She said 10 or 15 minutes of regular searches online can really help. “I’ve had friends come up to me and ask, ‘How do you find all of these scholarships?’ There’s so much free money out there … you can look up aviation scholarships [online] and hundreds will pop up. You just have to do the research and see if you’re eligible. It’s really not that much work.”

High school senior Madison 'Maddy' Seymour earned a private pilot certificate in November, with help from an AOPA scholarship. Photo courtesy of Madison Seymour.

Personalize it: Many scholarship applications ask for an essay describing yourself, your goals, and your accomplishments. “I find a personal essay rather fun to write,” said Seymour, who advised others to “be yourself and tell your true story.” Put your thoughts down “a little bit every night” and before you know it the essay will have written itself … and become available for future scholarship applications. Update it as needed.

Be honest: “Emphasize that this money will just help me, but I’m going to be doing the rest [on my own]” to pay for primary flight training, advanced ratings, or additional certificates.

Every little bit helps: “If you get one scholarship—even if it’s a small one—it’ll pay off. Say you get $500, or $1,000, that’s three to four flights right there” and less you’d have to pay out of your own pocket to maintain flight proficiency. “I really think that people need to start looking at all types of different scholarships to help them through their flight training in any way possible.”

Personal funds: Part-time jobs can help keep training going on a regular basis until scholarship awards kick in. “I have a little part-time job. Even though it’s minimum wage, it gets me by a little bit.”

Mentorship: Coaching from a softball friend’s professional pilot father led to ground school classes and continues to help guide Seymour toward a life as a career aviator. Seymour considers mentorship a valuable tool as she pursues life as a professional aviator.

Seymour is a member of AOPA and Women in Aviation International, and she plans to attend Ohio State University, Western Michigan University, or Bowling Green State University with a goal of becoming an airline or corporate pilot.

AOPA’s 2021 flight training scholarships total more than $1 million dollars and applications are open until February 14.

The You Can Fly program and the Air Safety Institute are funded by charitable donations to the AOPA Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization. To be a part of the solution, visit

Madison 'Maddy' Seymour's first passenger was her mom. Photo courtesy of Madison Seymour.
David Tulis
David Tulis
Senior Photographer
Senior Photographer David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a private pilot with single-engine land and sea ratings and a tailwheel endorsement. He is also a certificated remote pilot and co-host of the award-wining AOPA Hangar Talk podcast. David enjoys vintage aircraft ad photography.
Topics: Scholarship, Career, Student

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