May 19, 2023

A few years ago, Grace Rai could never have imagined that she would have back-to-back graduations, or that she would be graduating from a two-year college before finishing high school. 

Grace Rai

Grace confides that, when she started her NOVA dual enrollment journey, she didn't want to get her hopes up and tell everyone that she would complete it all in two years. But now, this brand-new NOVA graduate is so very proud that she did it! 

On May 15, she graduated from NOVA, and on June 5, she will graduate from Annandale High School. Grace admits that people were a bit baffled when they learned she was graduating from a two-year college before graduating from high school. But once she explained it to them, their reaction was the same--that's really smart.  

Tell us a little about yourself and your background:  
I'm 17 years old, and I'm a business administration major. My parents are from Nepal, and I was born and raised in the Northern Virginia area. I have two amazing younger siblings and live in Alexandria. 

I'm on the quiet side, but that doesn't stop me from loving a good chat with people. I genuinely find joy in lending a hand whenever I can. Staying active is something I enjoy. Although sometimes, I also appreciate some quiet time when I'm alone. 

I'm all about exploring new ventures and meeting new faces in my free time. My go-to activities are planning trips, self-care and researching potential career paths. Oh, I must confess, I'm quite an Instagram enthusiast! I love taking photos and sharing moments on my personal account. Above all, I find immense gratification in helping others. 

What brought you to NOVA? How did you learn about being a dual enrollment student?  
I attend Annandale High School, which has an International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma program. When I started planning what courses I wanted to do during my junior and senior years, I knew those years were very important. I researched the IB Diploma program and its benefits. You must take all IB courses for two years for the IB Diploma. 

But while I was researching the IB Diploma program, I stumbled across a video of a student comparing the IB Diploma vs. Dual enrollment and why she chose to do dual enrollment over IB. The reasons she presented resonated with me. She explained that for the IB Diploma program, you have to pass the exams to get the credits. But if you're dual enrolled, the credits are pretty much guaranteed to transfer to a four-year university. I liked that, and it's why I chose dual enrollment. That decision saved me time and money. Also, I had the liberty to choose my own classes and the times for those classes. 

My parents were very happy about dual enrollment and encouraged me. They told me that if it's ever too much, just to let them know. They worked out a system to make sure dual enrollment could work out for me.   My mom would drop me off at the NOVA Annandale Campus every day, and my dad would pick me up after work. 

What are you studying at NOVA?  
I've just completed my associate in business administration and am transferring to VCU to complete my B.S. in Information Systems. Over the summer, I'm taking a Python programming class to learn more technical skills. 

I'm super passionate about organizing and working with a bunch of different people. I dream of becoming a product manager or project manager in the IT industry. I love the idea of leading teams and making things happen! 

Tell Us About Your Experience at NOVA, i.e., professors you’ve liked and friends you’ve met. 
As a dual-enrolled student, I prefer in-person classes because they make it feel more personal and allow for the chance to create connections with other students and professors. It's easier to introduce myself and establish valuable connections with industry leaders when I can interact face-to-face. 

At NOVA, I've gotten the chance to meet so many unique and interesting people. I can confidently say that I've learned just as much outside the classroom as inside the classroom. The career services here at NOVA are absolutely spectacular! I was able to meet with career counselors, polish my resume and get free professional headshots. 

The resources available at NOVA are abundant, such as the AAPI center. Recently, they organized a speed networking event in collaboration with Microsoft, where I had the chance to connect with professionals in various positions in the tech field. These opportunities would not have been accessible to me if I had not enrolled in the dual program. I consider myself incredibly fortunate and grateful for the chance to utilize these exceptional facilities. 

What would you tell a student coming to NOVA?  
They put a lot of trust in students here. My biggest piece of advice is to really manage your time and don't procrastinate in getting your assignments done. It's not like high school, where your teachers keep holding your hand and telling you, ‘Come on now; it's time to turn this in,’ and ‘This is due next week.’ Here, it's all on you. That's why time management is really important. Also, since you can choose your own schedule, you'll have more time, so attend career services’ career-building events and land an internship!! 

Where do you see yourself after NOVA or what career pursuits are you exploring?  
This summer, I'll be interning at the National Museum of Asian Art as a Marketing and Communication intern. For the next two years, I plan to complete my bachelor's in information systems at VCU. I also plan to complete the product innovation program at the Da Vinci Center. In the future, I want to work in the tech field, either in Tech Sales (Saas) or as a product/project manager. 


Topics: featured article, student success