Applying for scholarships can seem daunting—that is if you take your time to even find those that best suit you. But it’s really about planning. Unlike that last minute essay students write for class that translates into a grade, essays for scholarships might have monetary value. Who wouldn’t want to have some change over in their pocket to enhance their learning experience by minimizing the stress related to college costs?
Low GPA and/or the lack of time or time management skills are usually factors that play into students’ decision when it comes to applying for a scholarship.
Financial Aid Director Todd Moravec explained that though students usually have a better chance of getting a merit-based scholarships, there are other scholarships that aren’t merit-based. Most scholarships offered on campus are usually merit-based, but it behooves students to check with the chair of the department or their advisers to find out about the requirements for the departmental scholarships.
There are 250 to 300 departmental scholarships on campus and the criteria varies depending on the department and what the donors’ wishes are.
“It may seem a lot, but given the amount of students on campus, it is only fair. Last year 310 scholarships (were handed out). That was about $260,000,” Moravec said.
To qualify for these scholarships, students should apply around the beginning of the spring semester and should have at least a year left when they are awarded the scholarship. Most students think that merit-based scholarships attract many applicants, but that is usually not the case Moravec said.
“We have 10-20 applicants and half of them are students who don’t meet the eligibility criteria, so those are taken out. That leaves a pool of 10 and a lot of them are not very strong. So don’t be discouraged. If you find one that you like, call and ask how many actually apply for it,” Moravec said.
Besides scholarships offered by the college, scholarships in the students’ community are also available. These scholarships are usually awarded to further promote diversity, gender equality etcetera. So, students who don’t have stellar GPAs have a shot to round up their month end. Finally, search engines for scholarship such as Zinch.com and College Prowler offer scholarships weekly, monthly and yearly and take no longer than an hour, and some of them are not merit-based. Though this gives students with a low GPA a chance to save money, Moravec said the amount of applicants are far too many, which minimizes the students’ chances.
Students who are looking to increase their chances for a scholarship should, if increasing their GPA is out of the question, put effort in independent studies, research assistance and other scholarly activities. These efforts will show the students’ strengths and also help them build important relationships.
Director of the Career Development Center Julia Overton-Healy suggests these students focus “on creating powerful cover letters, essays and have their recommendations focus on their leadership capacities, campus or community involvement and other ‘intangibles’ that translate to success.”
Regardless of the type of scholarships students are applying for, both Moravec and Overton-Healy stress the importance of putting a face to the name. Moravec suggests students to build relationships with the scholarship committee, the department or anyone who will help them advance in their academic career. Overton-Healy had the same opinion.
“Pick up the phone and talk, don’t just email or text. Ask advice about how to write a strong essay that will appropriate address a lower GPA. Grad admissions people can advocate for applicants, but you have to be the sort of person they want to advocate for,” she said.
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