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Elaina Rankin


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I am Elaina Rankin, currently in my Junior year at Michigan State University, pursuing a major in Political Science with a Pre-law focus and a minor in Law, Justice, and Public Policy. My academic journey is driven by the ambition to achieve milestones that no one in my family has attained before: graduating from both high school and college. Furthermore, I am committed to the aspiration of financing my education independently, thus aiming to graduate debt-free. My aspirations extend beyond personal achievement; they encompass a fervent dedication to advocacy. I envision myself leveraging the realms of law, public policy, and philanthropy to positively impact the lives of others. Through this multifaceted approach, I aspire to contribute meaningfully to societal advancement and individual well-being.


Michigan State University

Bachelor's degree program
2022 - 2026
  • Majors:
    • Political Science and Government
  • Minors:
    • Law

Avondale High School

High School
2018 - 2022


  • Desired degree level:

    Doctoral degree program (PhD, MD, JD, etc.)

  • Graduate schools of interest:

  • Transfer schools of interest:

  • Majors of interest:

    • Philosophy
    • Data Analytics
    • Public Policy Analysis
    • Law
    • Political Science and Government
  • Not planning to go to medical school
  • Career

    • Dream career field:

      Law Practice

    • Dream career goals:

      To open and own my own practice

    • Donor Recognition and Discovery Intern

      MSU Advance-U Program
      2024 – Present6 months
    • Operations Manager

      MSU Greenline
      2022 – Present2 years
    • Team Member

      2021 – 2021



    2018 – 20224 years


    • OAA medalist
    • Captain position
    • Yellow Jacket of The Year


    Junior Varsity
    2019 – 20201 year


    • OAA JV champions


    • Political Science and Government

      Michigan State University — Undergraduate Research Assistant
      2024 – Present

    Public services

    • Volunteering

      Grandparents University — Student Volunteer
      2024 – Present
    • Volunteering

      NHS — member
      2019 – 2022

    Future Interests






    Veerappan Memorial Scholarship
    Growing up in a low-income family has profoundly influenced my educational journey and career aspirations. Coming from a home where neither parent had completed high school, the scarcity of resources was a constant reality. The never-ending dread of bills and a focus on survival often made it much more difficult to focus on my studies or extracurriculars. Despite the challenges, a passion for law, particularly criminal defense, burned within me from a young age. However, the reality of our financial situation posed a significant barrier to achieving this dream. To afford school, I’ve worked an on-campus job since my very first month enrolled in classes. During the school year, I work an average of 25 hours a week, which becomes very taxing while taking 17 credit hours’ worth of 300-400 level classes. This large work commitment has impacted my ability to join extracurriculars, participate in activities with my friends, and, most importantly, limited the time I can dedicate to my studies. The emotional impact of this cannot be understated, and often the prospect of paying for legal education feels insurmountable. This financial strain threatens to derail my aspirations and perpetuate the cycle of limited opportunities. Despite these financial burdens as a low-income student, I still feel endlessly privileged as the first person in my family to even enroll in a four-year institution. A scholarship would be transformative, providing the financial stability necessary to pursue a legal education without compromising my family's well-being. Previously having to take out private student loans to stay enrolled in school, I can’t afford to take on much more debt to finish my degree considering my post-graduate educational aspirations. With this support, I could continue to focus wholeheartedly on my studies and professional development, lightening the financial pressures that loom over me. Furthermore, achieving my dream of becoming a criminal defense attorney would have a profound positive impact on society. Armed with empathy and a firsthand understanding of the struggles faced by low-income individuals, I am committed to advocating for justice and fairness within the legal system. By offering affordable or pro-bono legal services, I aim to level the playing field for marginalized communities who often face systemic discrimination and injustice. Additionally, I aspire to be an agent of change within the criminal justice system, working towards reform initiatives that address underlying issues such as for-profit prisons and high recidivism rates. In essence, a scholarship would not only enable me to pursue my dreams but also empower me to effect meaningful change in society. By breaking down barriers to education and legal representation, I hope to contribute to a more equitable and just world for all individuals, regardless of their background or financial circumstances.
    Miguel Mendez Social Justice Scholarship
    Growing up I never fully grasped how money impacted my life, but I knew we didn’t have much of it. No one in my family, including my parents, had graduated high school; let alone received a college degree. Although they tried their best to provide, it was hard growing up poor. Until I was around seven, I shared a 10’ by 10’ room with both my brother and sister. Every aspect of our lives when I was young revolved around finances and how to survive. It doesn’t surprise me that many people in similar situations resort to crime purely out of desperation. Early on I was passionate about working as a Criminal defense attorney, but I could never pinpoint why. As I progressed further into my educational journey, I discovered more about what drew me to the field. Although my parents never had any felonies or major stints in prison, I understood pretty quickly that we couldn’t afford to have issues like that. Lawyers cost an arm and a leg and with the financial possibility of one of my parents not being present, my paycheck-to-paycheck household would be unable to function. Seeing how my family could be one misstep away from destruction, I soon realized some of the ways the criminal justice system fails its citizens. In my freshmen year of high school, we had the choice of picking between two essay topics or researching and writing our own. With my headstrong nature, I choose to pick my own. I began researching prison reform and was very surprised at what I was finding. Most people don’t grow up being taught about for-profit prisons, incredibly high recidivism rates, and just how downright destructive incarceration is. This single essay began to widen my thoughts on why the criminal justice system operates, and just how wrong I felt all of this was. From that day forward, I was committed to being an advocate for incarcerated individuals. From day one my goal has been to be a criminal defense attorney, but this goal has shifted slightly over the years. With my background of being low-income, a passion of mine has been aimed at assisting those in similar circumstances as well as being able to educate disadvantaged groups on the legal system. This opened up the possibility of working as a public defender or doing pro-bono work with an organization dedicated to reforming the prison system. I believe my greatest strengths are my empathy and compassion, and ensuring that everyone has access to a fair trial and representation, regardless of their background or circumstances is something that motivates me to continue pursuing a career in law in pursuit of social justice and reform. I know from experience how difficult it can be to stay afloat while being low-income, and legal troubles can certainly throw people in over their heads. The ability to in the future help those with legal issues who deal with similar financial situations I was in throughout my childhood brings me so much joy and purpose. Although this goal will take many years ahead, I am more than committed to providing affordable and free legal services to those who otherwise couldn’t afford it in a system that is far from equitable.
    Catrina Celestine Aquilino Memorial Scholarship
    Field trips are the highlight of any elementary schooler's educational experience. Whether it be a museum or a local zoo, often the excitement and thrill of a new environment is hard for any kid to contain. Despite all the likely reasons a field trip can leave an impression, one field trip forever influenced my life. We were visiting a local courthouse, somewhere that sparked my interest as an argumentative kid. As an activity, our teacher created a mock court script with roles to be played. I was one of the lucky few chosen to have an active role in the case, playing the defense lawyer. From memory, the defendant was being bullied and was being sued for libel, or something more suited for ten-year-olds to understand. I took my role to heart and knew that my defendant was in the right. Believing that if I gave an impassioned performance I could win the case, I gave it my all; and I was right. When we won, I had so much joy and excitement rushing through me that I did a complete victory lap around the courtroom. Possibly too much, as when the judge came back in she asked who had been running around her courtroom. Despite the defense likely winning no matter what, I felt proud that I could help assist in what was right. Although this personal anecdote is a clear connection for me as to where my passion for the law came from, it is far from the full picture of my desire to become a lawyer. What started as a small seed planted by a single field trip grew into an ambitious goal that has motivated me despite all the obstacles that I face. Neither of my parents has graduated high school, let alone gained an advanced degree, and maintained an extremely toxic relationship strained by mental health issues. Even though they worked hard to provide, we still faced many financial and emotional struggles throughout my childhood. Until I was seven, my two siblings and I shared a single 10’ by 10’ room. By the time I got to middle and high school, I understood that to achieve the goals I had set for myself I was going to need to work ten times harder than those around me. Although I have been dealt a hand that forces me to face many obstacles, I’m not allowing anything to stand in my way. Early on I was passionate about working as a Criminal defense attorney, but besides my mock court case, I could never exactly pinpoint why. As I progressed further into my educational journey, I discovered more about what drew me to the field. I’ve learned over time that our passions often stem from personal experiences, values, and qualities, and Criminal defense attorneys play the crucial role of ensuring that everyone has access to a fair trial and representation, regardless of their background or circumstances. This notion holds so significance for me since, like many individuals facing criminal charges, I have faced many disadvantages in my life. Being a criminal defense attorney requires empathy, compassion, and a commitment to justice: all traits that I strive to carry with me every day. Everyone brings their own strengths to the table, and I know that mine lies with growing from my situation and using it to assist others from similar ones. By being able to understand and have empathy for my client's circumstances and backgrounds, my goal is to be an outspoken advocate for their rights and a powerful force for change in the criminal justice system.