At 18, Ian Patrick-Vandall knows, he is a fortunate student.
Patrick-Vandall is one of 300 students within the United States to achieve the Gates Scholarship in 2018.
He is one of two students picked for the honor within Delaware County. Reportedly 30,000 students applied for the scholarship.
The scholarship, established by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is designed to fund the recipients "full cost of attendance that is not already covered by other scholarships and the expected family contribution, as determined by FAFSA."
This will include Patrick-Vandall's cost of attendance: tuition fees, room, books, transportation and may include additional personal expenses.
That scholastic honor will allow Patrick-Vandall to pursue a biology degree within the honors college at the University of Oklahoma.
He eventually hopes to attend medical school, pondering an emphasis in neurology.
"I have eight years to decide but it's really what I think I want to do," Patrick-Vandall said. "The brain really interests me because it controls everything we do."
He sees the path to a neurological-related career as one which would allow him to help people, through his research projects.
"All of the body is a vessel for the brain," Patrick-Vandall said. "The brain makes you who you are."
He said being part of the INTEGRIS Grove Hospital Governing Board for students gave him the experience he needed to ponder his future career in medicine.
"Medicine allows me to do what I love but also meet wonderful people," Patrick-Vandall said. "Which is really what I like. I definitely want to work on the front lines [of patient care]."
The Gates Scholarship is an incredible opportunity, he said.
"I still don't believe it," he said with a smile, adding he will travel to Dallas in June to attend a four-day conference for all of this year's winners.
"In my entire life, my grandfather always told me I would go to college for free, if I was a good student and loved school," Patrick-Vandall said. "I didn't think it would happen. This is a dream come true for me. It's mind-blowing. I can't believe I can go to college debt free.
"It's such a relief. I was planning on taking out loans, because I knew it would be worth it to attend medical school. But it wasn't something I was looking forward to doing."
The Gates Scholarship will also give him a chance to travel overseas, to participate in a study abroad program.
"It's opened my horizons," Patrick-Vandall said. "I'll be able to take classes all summer long, and take extra hours outside of my degree. I may minor in psychology, because I'll be able to afford the extra classes."
Patrick-Vandall's honors during his high school career include being named an Eagle Scout through the Boy Scouts of America. He was also part of the Pride of Grove Ridgerunners Band, a member of the Grand Savings Junior Bank Board, the Order of the Arrow honor society in Boy Scouts, Character County, Math Club and Heritage Club.
He said his favorite memory in high school stems from his time, in the band stands with the band during football games.
"We had a great time, did the craziest things and had so much fun," Patrick-Vandall said. "Some of my best times were the early weeks [in the summer] with the band. It taught me teamwork and to motivate myself. It's had such an impact on me, I've loved every single moment. Even when Mr. Wilhelm gave us 50 pushups to do."
His time in the band has led him to try out for the Pride of Oklahoma Marching Band. He'll find out next week if he's secured a spot in the program.
Patrick-Vandall has already though of one research project for his future pursuits - one involving random patterns of people placing tacks on a tack board.
"Is it possible to be random?" he said. "I'm really interested in seeing if what people do is random or has a pattern to it."