Ariana Bell

Midlands Technical College

"I had so many options available to me at Midlands Tech. I didn’t realize that when I was trying to go to the bigger colleges. Tech really helped me get started."

My family moved from California to South Carolina  in 1999. When I graduated from Edisto High School in Orangeburg, I got accepted to Spelman College. That plan didn’t pan out, so I decided to go to Claflin University in Orangeburg for a year. My mom ended up moving to Columbia, and I moved with her. I applied to USC, but for whatever reason I didn’t get in and I didn’t know what to do from there.

This is my story of forging onward to find out what was next for me. 

My boyfriend at the time — who is now my husband — was getting ready to start at Midlands Tech. He was like, “Hey, why don’t you come with me and let’s see if you can get enrolled there.” I started at Midlands Tech in 2007. 

I earned two degrees while I was at Midlands, starting with the pharmacy technician program. I always knew I wanted to go to pharmacy school, but I wasn’t sure how to start the whole process since my original plan hadn’t gone the way I’d envisioned. The program allowed me to get a job working as a pharmacy technician.

When I started that job, I continued taking my pre-pharmacy prerequisites and earned the pharmacy technician diploma. I earned an Associate in Science just by doing my pre-pharmacy prerequisites for USC. In 2015, I decided that I wanted to go ahead and apply to pharmacy school and I transferred to USC. Fast-forward to this year, I just graduated from pharmacy school, got married and am waiting to take my boards.


What happened with Spelman and Claflin to inspire you to seek other options? 

The biggest thing was financial obligations. My family didn’t have any college savings set aside for me. I did get some scholarships through high school, but being in school as long as I have been, those things get exhausted pretty quickly. I did get some financial assistance initially for Spelman, but it didn’t cover the whole bill. Essentially, I had to make the decision that I couldn’t go because I wasn’t able to pay the balance. 

That same thing happened at Claflin. I started there and finished the year, but I had a balance on my bill. There were also some things going on with my family, and I had to decide whether to stay in Orangeburg or go with my mom. 

I don’t know what happened with USC. I don’t know if I applied too late to USC or I didn’t get the financial aid, but for whatever reason, I didn’t get accepted. During that period, I worked a couple of jobs until I could figure things out. Midlands Tech was so much more affordable, and I had so many options available to me. I didn’t realize that when I was trying to go to the bigger colleges and universities. It really helped me get started.


What have you defied or overcome on your journey? 

I like to think about the Midlands Tech slogan and how they always say “you can get anywhere from here.” That has literally been a driving force for me. When I started out my college career, I had nothing. I didn’t have a car. I didn’t have a driver’s license. I didn’t have financial support. I didn’t know how I was going to make anything happen. I just knew it was what I wanted to do. 

As far as my family, I am the first one to go to college and complete college. I didn’t really have a lot of guidance from family members saying, “This is what you need to do and this is how you do it. This is what I did.” There was no blueprint for me. I had to figure a lot of things out on my own just by asking for help, looking things up or going to Midlands Tech to talk to the people in the admissions office. 


Now that you’ve made it, how are you feeling? 

I feel really grateful and blessed that I’m in this position today. I’m proud that I kept going. This process has taken about 13 years for me. I would have never thought that I would graduate, go to pharmacy school and get my degree. When you’re in the beginning of the journey setting goals, it’s just an abstract idea. To have actually earned my pharmacy degree is an amazing feeling. 


How did the affordability of technical college impact things for you? 

It was so much cheaper to take my pre-pharmacy courses at Midlands Tech versus a bigger university. It also allowed me to work, which was important because I didn’t have financial support. Even though I was going to school, I still had to pay my rent, buy groceries and pay other bills. Starting out at Midlands helped me to save so much more on the front end. 


What have you learned about yourself along the way? 

One thing I have learned is to believe in myself. I’ve had to stop the self-doubt and limiting myself by not asking questions or asking for help when I need it. Making it through pharmacy school has really shown me my own strength, and given me perspective on what I can do if I just put my mind to it. 


What advice do you have for students considering the next step in their education journey? 

Regardless of what your GPA is, set a clear plan for yourself. What are your goals? What do you want to do after high school? Create a plan and go from there. Don’t worry about what works for someone else or what everybody else is doing. Start looking at your options now and figure out what works for you.