Scholarships lighten students’ load

The one relief before beginning freshman year: no more college applications, scholarships and essays. As a senior in high school, the biggest stress aside for preparing for the next step in life is applying to colleges and all of the paperwork that accompanies it. Once the acceptance letters start flooding in and a choice is made, students can take that enormous sigh of relief; or can they?

Although essay-writing is hardly anyone’s favorite pastime, meticulously crafting that perfect essay for endless scholarship opportunities is not only important – it is vital. High school students preparing for college aren’t the only students who should undertake this seemingly overwhelming activity; college students of all levels should take the time to investigate scholarship opportunities each and every year. After all, every penny toward tuition is a penny saved.

Mary Pol, assistant director of Gannon University Office of Financial Aid, said that the office is constantly being flooded with new scholarship opportunities that staff members weed through in order to select appropriate awards for Gannon’s students.

She added that, if certain scholarships are very specific, staff members ask Gannon’s registrar’s office for a list of students that meet requirements and send the information directly to those students’ mailboxes.

Students can find outside scholarship opportunities under types of financial aid on Gannon’s financial aid website, Pol said. She added that the financial aid office does not advertise anything that costs any money for the student to apply.

“Some scholarships may only yield $250, but it’s always worth it to apply – even if it just pays for a book or two, every bit helps,” Pol said.

“My advice is to never stop looking,” Pol said. Some freshmen might not have gotten a lot of scholarship money, but there are things out there for returning students that they should apply for, she said.

As far as the dreaded essay is concerned, Pol insists that it should not discourage students. “For many scholarships, the essay is a general question that essentially equates to how well you can sell yourself,” Pol said. Oftentimes the essay can work for a number of different scholarships unless a specific topic is required, she said.

“As long as students take the time and their best effort to write an essay, they should be fine,” Pol said. She added that one essay can often be used for multiple scholarships, and some do not even require an essay.

Siobhan Brown, a sophomore secondary English education major, said she receives an Academic Sports League Scholarship (ASL) that reduces her tuition 50 percent.

In high school, Brown participated in the Academic Decathlon where she studied a concentrated subject, the French Revolution, and was tested on it in several academic respects, she said.

Gannon, Edinboro and Mercyhurst are the only three Pennsylvania schools that award this scholarship, and Gannon awards two half scholarships and one full scholarship per academic year to incoming freshmen, Brown said.

“With such a small selection pool of schools that offer the ASL scholarship, I was lucky to have been awarded,” Brown said. “I put a lot of hard work into the Academic Decathlon in high school, so it was nice to receive recognition.”

Alongside outside scholarship opportunities, Gannon offers students scholarships within the context of the university.

Another student, Lyndsey Walker, a sophomore physician assistant major, said that she receives the Founders Scholarship. As a high school senior, Walker came to Gannon and took a placement test in Chemistry, and she placed second among all students who took the exam, she said.

Walker also receives the Schuster Memorial Music Award based upon her performance in Gannon’s student band. For this scholarship, Walker had to audition, and the band director chose the top performers to grant the scholarship, she said.

Current opportunities include: a Citizens Bank-sponsored scholarship that can range from $1,000 up to $5,000; the BigSun Scholarship targeted at student athletes; and the Frugal Dad Undergraduate Scholarship, available to all U.S. resident college students – all of which are available on the financial aid website for student perusal.

“Really students should investigate any and every way to try to keep their cost down,” Pol said. “Nothing is not worth your time.”

Students should keep an eye out for additional outside scholarship opportunities as they become available.

 

DIANE CASSARLY

[email protected]