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Full Length College Conversation with Austin, Destiny, Gavin, Gabbi


Concord University (Athens, West Virginia)

Undergraduate Population: 1,644 undergraduate students
U.S. Department of College Scorecard: Graduation rate, majors, costs, salaries
Official Website:
Social Media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube



Austin Taylor
Hometown: Gilbert, West Virginia
High School: Mingo Central Comprehensive High School
Year in School: Class of 2023
Major: Biology major with a concentration on molecular sciences
Austin’s Places: Bonner Scholars Program, SGA, ALEF (Appalachian Leadership Educational Foundation), Pre-Soma, ACS, PATCH
First-gen: Yes
Reach out to Austin on Instagram @austinjt17


Destiny Robertson
Your Hometown: Northfork, West Virginia
High School: Mount View High
Year in School: Class of 2021
Major: Sociology, (minor )Women and Gender Studies 
Destiny’s Places: President of Black Student Union , Student Support Services office
Are you a first-generation student?: Yes
Reach out to Destiny on Facebook: Destiny Robertson


Gavin Brandenburg
Hometown: Huntington, WV
High School: Huntington High School
Year in School: Class of 2022
Major: History and Political Science
Gavin’s Places: Senior Intern for the Bonner Scholars Program, Concord University Student Government Association, Fellow with the Appalachian Leadership Educational Foundation, and Vine & Branches (Campus Ministry) Administrative Director
Reach out to Gavin by Email:


Gabbi Lambert
Hometown: Shady Spring, West Virginia
High School: Shady Spring High School
Year in School: Graduating Senior
Major: Psychology and Sociology with an emphasis in Criminology
Gabbie’s Places:  Gay-Straight Alliance (I was the president from 2018-2020), Black Student Union, Residence halls (worked as a Resident Assistant from 2018-2020), Sociology classes were always quite fun!
Reach out to Gabbie on Instagram: @gabbi.lambert and Gabbi Lambert on Facebook 

College Conversation Breakdown

Hashtag Directory:
#WhoIs #highschool #background #dreamjob #collegesearch #collegeselection #studentsupport #changemajor #scholarships #payingforcollege #studentloans #campusjobs #roommates #makingfriends #gettinghelp #mentalhealth #uncomfortableexperience #people #places  #mostjoyful #advice #lgbtq #diversity #studentorgs #spirituality #leadership #RA #relationships #academics 

00:30 Gavin talks about his dream job. He says he wants to become an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. He also adds in a more broad sense that he wants to help liberate people who are victims of oppression. He explains more about what that position entails such as leading church services and counseling. #dreamjob

1:30 Gabbi talks about her dream job. She says she wants to obtain her PhD in clinical psychology and pursue the focus of sex therapy. She adds that she has also always wanted to have a family. #dreamjob

1:50 Austin talks about his dream job. He wants to be a forensic pathologist. His ultimate goal is to become the head forensic pathologist of Washington DC. He explains what a forensic pathologist does. #dreamjob

2:10 Destiny talks about her dream. She has a passion for working with non profit organizations and being involved with youth counseling. She wants to obtain a masters in counseling. As a personal dream she wants to have a family. She goes on to explain that she is in a long term relationship and how that influenced her choice to go to Concord in the first place. She reflects on the idea that you can balance a relationship with your own personal goals. #dreamjob

6:13 Austin also mentions he’s in a relationship and explains how he met his current girlfriend. 

7:18 Austin describes himself in high school. He says he was very hyper and excitable. He has calmed down a lot since then. He was involved with a lot of clubs, one of which was HSTA. HSTA paid his tuition for college. He talks about the cost of college and how tuition is just a part of it and how things like food, housing and books didn’t initially occur to him. But he was able to get other scholarships to help him pay his expenses.#WhoIs #highschool #background

9:27 Gavin talks about himself in high school. He says he took a lot of honors and AP classes to try and prepare himself for college. He was always busy. He mentions being fairly well known and popular. Lots of people knew his name.  #WhoIs #highschool #background

10:51 Gabbi talks about herself in high school. She says she was very different in high school. She was very shy and kept to herself. However, in senior year she suddenly got involved in lots of activities. She was in student council, NHS, as well as an anti-tobacco program. She was shy but a lot of people knew her. Her friend group was ever changing and she felt like she could never quite find her spot.  #WhoIs #highschool #background

13:05 Destiny talks about herself in high school. She says she comes from a very poor county in West Virginia. When students are pursuing college in high school, the school really focuses on preparing you in junior year. They seemed to prioritize a group of about 20 students. She was very involved, she was in a sport every season, she was in HSTA, she was president of her 12th grade class. She was pretty well known by her classmates. She goes on to explain that she has changed a lot from her high school self in the way that she views the world and how her personal views have changed politically.  #WhoIs #highschool #background

15:31 Destiny elaborates on the ways she has changed and evolved from her high school self and has changed some of her political views, particularly how she’s now become an inclusive supporter of the LGBTQ community. She talks about coming from a community where most people were very conservative and how coming to Concord allowed her to meet other people that could widen her view of the world and expose her to other people’s lives so she could learn and grow. #lgbtq #diversity

17:36 Harlan asks Destiny what it was like when she and Gabbi first met (with Gabbi being the head of the GSA). They talk about how asking questions and having patient understanding conversations can open minds and help people who are ignorant on a subject. Gabbi talks about how her classes, particularly in women and gender studies, fostered this kind of conversation is a really great way. Gabbi talks about how where she comes from there is a lot of homophobia and racism in the community and how that made it difficult for her to come out as a lesbian woman. She describes how great it felt to finally reach college and have some diversity in her life and be able to attend meetings at places like the Black Student Union. Harlan asks if Gabbi has any advice for students going through a difficult time as they struggle with their own identity. Gabbi stresses the importance of having allies of any kind, friends and people you can reach out to for help. They can be life saving. She encourages students to look for communities on campus where they can find connection. #people #places #makingfriends #leadership

24:20 Harlan reassures viewers that panelists are more than happy to answer their questions and encourage them to reach out. 

24:52 Austin talks about his college search and what led him to Concord. He was very methodical in his search and selection. He made an excel sheet full of schools and the pros and cons to each. He had a very high GPA in high school. He also toured a lot of schools. He chose Concord because he felt he would get the best education to go to med school. He was considering Marshall, but he didn’t feel that Huntington was the right environment for him. He also felt Concord gave him a lot more opportunities and connections. They have a program that makes admittance into medical school a bit easier. #collegesearch #collegeselection 

28:35 Gavin talks about his college search process and choosing Concord. He was born and raised in Huntington, which is where Marshall University is based so he assumed he would probably go there. But he was recruited by a pastor from Concord United Methodist Church which is down the road from Concord University. He offered Gavin the opportunity to be his intern and pay his tuition to go to Concord. He applied and was accepted before even visiting. He finally scheduled a visit after a mission trip and fell in love with the campus. He talks about how he connected with Pastor Johnston and how he got very involved with church during high school, attending conferences.
#collegesearch #collegeselection

31:18 Destiny talks about her college search process and choosing Concord. She remembers from an early age that students are identified as being college material or college bound. She was part of a program called Broader Horizons. They trained her in speaking skills, resume writing etc. She was also in HSTA. They agree to pay tuition for colleges in West Virginia. She had originally planned to combine her HSTA scholarship with an athletic scholarship to cover both undergrad and grad school. She thought she would play tennis at West Virginia State University. She explains that she suffered an injury in her senior year which prevented her from attending another school on an athletic scholarship. She found out around June, after having taken an athletic tour, seen the locker rooms and was pretty sure of her plan until everything changed. She chose Concord as her backup. It’s spoken of very highly in terms of academics, it was also very affordable. She reflects on how much she has grown at Concord and how she didn’t expect it to be so inclusive for being such a small town. #collegesearch #collegeselection

37:40 Gabbi talks about her college search process and choosing Concord. She says her dad went to Concord, although remotely, so she was familiar with it. The criminology program sold it for her. She enrolled as a psychology/criminology major and stuck with it. She was able to find her people on campus. She met her best friend with whom she now lives. She also considered Marshall University, but ultimately felt like Concord was a better fit because it was in a smaller town and the scholarship opportunities she got for Concord were very helpful.  #collegesearch #collegeselection

40:54 Austin talks about how he paid for school. HSTA covered his tuition but he had to figure out room and board, books etc. He also applied for the Herschel Price scholarship. His mother helped him find it. It’s about 4,000 per semester. You have to reapply for it each semester. It can last you for the whole of your college career. He also got some money from the Bonner Scholars Program. He also recommends applying for the Coca-Cola scholarship. Another one he received was ALEF. #scholarships #payingforcollege

44:00 Harlan and the panel talk about the power of asking questions and asking for help. Asking doesn’t make you weak, it shows how serious you are about pursuing your goal.

44:56 Gavin talks about how he pays for college. His parents didn’t really go to college. His mom went to nursing school and his dad only attended for a short time. It was always his choice to go to college. He hunted down every scholarship he could find. His admissions counselor helped him find a lot of resources and he discovered the Bonner Scholars program, and ALEF. #scholarships #payingforcollege

46:22 Destiny talks about how she paid for college. She also got a HSTA scholarship but it only pays a portion of her tuition, not the whole thing. She got a scholarship through student support services, and she recommends the CU Pathways scholarship which is about 2,000 per semester. The Pell Grant (which you can apply for through FAFSA). She encourages students who may be struggling financially to reach out and find if your campus has a pantry or similar services to help provide things like food or even clothes to students in need. She mentions students who come from out of state are often used to public transportation being available in their city but it is not present around Concord, there’s no Uber or Lyft. She says this is all the more reason to find out what is free and provided for students on campus. #scholarships #payingforcollege

49:10 Destiny talks about Student Support Services. She explains that they help students who are first generation/low-income, students with disabilities, they provide counseling, school supplies if you can’t afford it, they help with scheduling etc. She worked as an intern for them and loved it. She recommends everyone look for student support services when they get on campus. #studentsupport

53:06 Gabbi talks about how she paid for college. She says she had a bit of a rocky start figuring out how to pay for school. Her dad is a veteran and her whole life she was told that because her dad served, her college education would be paid for. She found out just a few weeks before college that instead she would only be receiving a small stipend. So she had to scramble to find a way to pay. She had some scholarships from high school but they were very small. She had to visit the financial aid office and take out loans just to pay for her first semester. Gabbi maxed out her ability to take out loans and her dad also had to take out loans for her as well. She has been able to reapply for scholarships over her college career such as the West Virginia Scholars scholarship, the Pell Grant, she also mentions a new program at Concord where if you received a Pell Grant there is an opportunity to have your tuition taken care of as well. She talks about not having the best financial situation in her family as her dad is a fully retired vet and is disabled and unable to work. Her mom has worked at Walmart for the last 20 years. She had to find a job immediately during her second semester. She started working at the cafeteria to help pay. She also became an RA. She goes into how trouble struck when COVID hit. She lost her job and her place to live, as the campus was shut down. Thankfully, over the summer her former boss was able to get her a job painting the dorms. She recommends students apply to every scholarship they can find. #scholarships #payingforcollege #studentloans

58:40 Destiny and Gabbi talk about perseverance and overcoming financial difficulties. Gabbi talks about trying to find a way, look for jobs and take anything that can help. Gabbi worked as a tutor for student support services as well as in the cafeteria. #campusjobs

1:00:12 Harlan asks the panelists for their “people” who helped them through their toughest moments. Gabbi says her friend group her freshman year helped her a lot and encouraged her to apply to be an RA. She highlights how her boss helped her, hiring her as an RA and later as a painter for the building. #campusjob #people

1:02:33 Destiny talks about the people in her corner. She says her professors in the sociology department were the first ones she went to for help. She talks about Derek Scott who is from McDowell County as well and went to her high school and knows all the same people. He told Destiny to look him up when she got to Concord so he could help her. He has helped her build her schedule every year and gives advice. She credits his help and support for her not dropping out. #people #places

1:06:07 Gavin talks about the people who have helped him. He attributes his positive experience to his church community which includes Dr. Jerry Beasly (former president of Concord) and Dr. Sarah Beasly (VP of student affairs) and also Kathy Ball who is the head of the Bonner Scholars program. She helps keep him under control whenever he has too much going on. On that note he recommends everyone get themselves a planner because the habits you make now will stick with you for the rest of your life. He also credits his professors for being supportive such as Dr. McKenna in the history department as well as Dr. White and Dr. Howard in the Political Science program.
#people #places

1:07:30 Austin talks about the people who have helped him at Concord. He also credits Kathy Ball from the Bonner Scholars program. He talks about the great meetings he’s had with "Doc" Foglesong, leader of the ALEF scholarship. He recommends the classes taught by Dr Chambers, his anatomy and physiology professor. He talks about his great friend group that he met during orientation. He also mentions Maria Harer has been very supportive in helping him manage his course load and set realistic goals. #people #places

1:09:32 Gavin talks about his most uncomfortable experience. He talks about how his major was dissolved on his first day at Concord. He broke down at first but was able to use the story as an ice breaker to meet new people. He took some time to figure out what he was passionate about and landed on a double major in history and political science. #uncomfortableexperience

1:11:00 Austin talks about his most uncomfortable experience. He talks about a difficult roommate situation. His roommate was on the track team and his teammates would come by the room to try and prank him, but they were not sure of which room belonged to him so they would leave gross things on the door handle etc. #uncomfortableexperience #roommate

1:12:28 Gabbi talks about her most uncomfortable experience. She also had a big conflict with a former roommate. At first they were part of a nice big friend group but her roommate had a tendency to gossip and start drama which inflated into a big conflict. The bright side is Gabbi was able to move out and then move in with her best friend. #uncomfortableexperience #roommate

1:14:40 Destiny talks about her most uncomfortable experience. She explains that she had a difficult sophomore year. She was initially a biology major because she thought she wanted to be a professional trainer. Then she took a class called biology internship shadowing. She realized she really did not like the program. She gave her final presentation and talked about how much she disliked the program, which she later regretted. She realized it just wasn’t for her and that her true interests and passions lie elsewhere. She went to her World Literature professor, which was a class she loved, and asked her to help her figure out what might make a better fit. She realized she liked that class because it let her learn about people and their stories and learn about their world. It led her to become a sociology major. Harlan reinforces that it’s okay to change your mind and that you don’t have to commit and stick with what you choose your first year. #uncomfortableexperience #changemajor

1:17:57 Gavin talks about his most joyful experience. He says he loves how small and intimate the campus is at Concord and how you really get to know people. Specifically he values the experiences he’s had with the Bonner Scholars program. He was chosen to be the senior intern for them. There is a summer leadership program for that. He was able to attend and it was a very memorable and encouraging experience. #mostjoyful #places

1:19:33 Austin talks about his most joyful experience. Austin says that homecoming was a great experience because that was the first time his girlfriend asked him out. Harlan recalls that Austin and his girlfriend met through a mutual interest in a book series. He tells the story of hanging out with her playing Mario Kart and complimenting her for the first time and realizing she was interested in him.#mostjoyful #relationships


1:21:55 Destiny talks about her most joyful experience. She talks about an experience she was able to have through the Black Student Union. She was able to travel to DC to walk in different protests. #mostjoyful #places

1:23:30 Gabbi shares her most joyful experience. She says she’s had a lot of positive experiences at Concord and it’s hard to choose. At the end of her last semester as a freshman she heard she was going to be an RA and that she would be president of the GSA. Building community on her floor helped her make friends. She says people have come up to her and said that the GSA was life saving for them. #mostjoyful #places

1:26:00 Gabbi gives advice to her high school self. She says she would tell herself “You’re going to be okay.” #advice

1:27:10 Destiny gives advice to her high school self. She says she would tell herself to not be afraid of change. Don’t try to fight change, it’s for the better. She says she used to be a bit hard headed and had a plan. If she had allowed things to flow more naturally, it wouldn’t have been as difficult. #advice

1:28:00 Gavin gives advice to his high school self. He would tell himself to not be afraid to be vulnerable to new people and only be your true authentic self to those you love. #advice

1:28:20 Austin gives advice to his high school self. First, jokingly he says invest in bitcoin. Second, don’t be afraid to take time for yourself.  #advice

1:28:50 Harlan asks everyone for a brief tip about mental health and self care. Destiny says as a person of color she realizes that mental health and therapy is stigmatized in that community. She used to think self-care was selfish. She soon realized that without self care she was completely depleted of all energy and couldn’t properly focus on her work and goals. #advice #mentalhealth

1:31:45 Gavin says create and maintain healthy boundaries, and learn when to say “no.” It’s also okay to fail. #advice #mentalhealth

1:32:38 Gabbi adds, as a psychology major, that your mental health is on the same level of importance as your physical health. She recently decided to get help through the counseling center and discovered she has clinical depression.  It doesn’t hurt to try and learn why you’re feeling the way you feel. #advice #mentalhealth

1:34:17 Harlan assures the viewers that the panelists are open to students reaching out to them with questions.



New York Times bestselling author Harlan Cohen talks with current and recent students about life in college.  For more videos visit BeforeCollegeTV on YouTube.  For more information about Harlan Cohen visit him online at: or follow him on social media: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Tik Tok | LinkedIn | Snapchat (helpmeharlan).

DISCLAIMER: All views expressed by panelists and participants are their own and are in no way endorsed, officially affiliated, or representative of the institution, Harlan Cohen, or BeforeCollegeTV.  All views expressed on panelists social media are not endorsed or affiliated with Harlan Cohen and BeforeCollegeTV.  Students views, opinions, and advice are their own. ALWAYS contact official representatives to verify and validate any information provided