Success By Degrees | The Scholarship America Blog

Success By Degrees: Scholarship America Blog for Students, Parents, Educators and Supporters

May 7, 2018
Since 2015, Scholarship America has hosted an annual salute to student success and those who make it possible. On May 22, 2018, we’re celebrating our biggest Dreams to Success event yet: a whole day of inspiration, education and celebration centered on students and their champions. Registration remains open through the end of this week. If you’re thinking of joining us in Washington later this month, here’s what’s in store.
April 19, 2018
At the beginning of 2018, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing reported over 1,000 colleges and universities have made ACT/SAT scores optional in their admissions process. Many factors contribute to this trend, including recent studies suggesting GPA is a better predictor of college success than test scores and that test requirements deter many qualified first-generation students. This is because the tests have typically favored more affluent students who can afford to take multiple test prep courses, leaving many low-income and minority students behind.
April 9, 2018
Since Scholarship America’s founding in 1958, we have consistently grown and changed along with  the world of higher education. Our original, community-based scholarship programs still operate today—but they, along with our other services, are flexible, always aiming to meet the most pressing needs of students. As we move into our seventh decade of service, our strategic direction continues to put students at the center of our work. But that strategy is also being updated to reflect new realities. “Higher education” in 2018 doesn’t mean what it did in 1958 (or in 1998, or even in 2008). For example:
March 13, 2018
Students and their families are often surprised to realize some colleges reduce their financial aid packages when the student earns private scholarship dollars—a practice called financial aid displacement or award displacement. Colleges that practice displacement say it helps free up more funds for more students; students and families say it unfairly punishes those making the effort to earn scholarships. Whatever your perspective, it’s a complicated issue without easy answers. The most accurate description we’ve seen of displacement is “the Catch-22 of financial aid”—and because it’s so controversial and has a major impact on students and schools, it is increasingly at the forefront…
March 5, 2018
Financial support alone is not enough to get students through school.  This is nothing new; research has proven time and time again that often more barriers emerge once a student has started to pursue their education, even if they have adequate financial aid to pay tuition. Food insecurity and homelessness are common struggles, and simply feeling out of place can often lead to burnout. While additional grants and food pantries can help alleviate some of these stresses, it can be more difficult to address abstract needs like belonging and connection. That's where mentors can make a huge difference.
February 21, 2018
If you’re applying for scholarships—or if you’re guiding students, managing awards or helping a family member—you know we’ve hit the busiest part of the financial aid calendar. Many state FAFSA deadlines are approaching; colleges are beginning to put together aid packages for current and potential students; scholarship application deadlines come and go nearly every day. Lots of deadlines also mean lots of information. Most of that information is helpful, but not everything you see or read will tell you the whole truth—especially if you’re part of the growing segment of college students whose path differs from the “traditional.” If you’re…
February 12, 2018
The sweeping tax-related legislation passed at the close of 2017 will have far-reaching impacts throughout the American economy—including in the higher education sector. Now that the dust is starting to settle, here’s our look at what students, families, institutions and education supporters can expect in the near future.
February 1, 2018
Life started out rough for Umesh Bhandari, who spent most of his early years in a refugee camp in Nepal waiting for his family’s opportunity to build their life in America. It was a helpless time, as there was no way for his parents to earn their living, and they relied solely upon government support. Umesh’s father started working a job in India for extra funds for his family.
January 25, 2018
Ending the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program will profoundly affect nearly 800,000 students nationwide. Unless Congress takes action, there will no longer be any federal protection for Dreamers.  Finding a permanent solution for those students is critical to their success and ability to contribute to our country.  Scholarship America, along with virtually all colleges and universities and many other national student support organizations, calls on the U. S. Congress to pass the Dream Act and deliver permanent relief and security for these individuals.
January 11, 2018
Mikayla Bridgewater spent her childhood moving between the homes of her aunts because her father is in prison and her mother is an alcoholic. Stability was just not something that, Mikayla was used to, but this was a common scenario for many black families in her community.  Nevertheless Mikayla found being a young African American woman in Kansas City exciting, fun, but dangerous. She often would argue with her aunts. At the age of 15, those disagreements would put Mikayla on the street. Mikayla found herself homeless for a brief period, and she worked and struggled to care for herself.…
December 14, 2017
After her parents’ divorce, Shanell Yenchik found herself living on the Navajo reservation in northern Arizona with her grandmother and family. While the circumstances for the move were heartbreaking, the reservation became a wonderful refuge for Shanell and her two sisters. Playing with her siblings outdoors is among her fondest memories of the reservation. However, while Shanell enjoyed the outdoors, her mother struggled to support her family. Their family’s only source of income was the sale of traditional Navajo jewelry that her mother crafted. The electric and water would be turned off for periods of time until her mother could…
November 7, 2017
Inside Jorge Morales’s childhood home, rain would make the corrugated aluminum roof rattle with a thunderous pounding. The house itself was made of scraps of cardboard, wooden packing crates and tin. Jorge’s dad died when he was just five years old, and his mom worked three jobs to ensure her children could have a roof over their heads. At a young age, looking at the circumstances of his life, Jorge made a decision: one day he would build his mom a house.
October 23, 2017
Late last year, Forbes magazine highlighted a great idea with a big problem. The magazine looked at companies’ use of employee tuition assistance programs: a win-win benefit that helps workers further their educations, helps employers retain qualified staff and comes with significant tax benefits. On paper, tuition assistance is the perfect benefit. So what’s the issue Forbes found? In their words: “[This] can be said of the tuition assistance benefit offered by most employers: more could be accomplished if employers weren’t trying so hard to keep it secret.”
October 12, 2017
Growing up as a minority in small town, Yessenia Cantero Hernandez’s reputation preceded her—mostly for having a name that most people in her community had difficulty saying. The typical greeting was, “Oh, you’re Yessenia. You’re the name we can’t pronounce.” Born in Mexico City, Yessenia and her family moved to the United States when she was 7. They moved in with family in Chicago before placing roots in rural Kentucky. With few resources or familial connections, Yessenia and her family relied heavily on the community to help them get established. Members from their local church would come by their apartment…
October 3, 2017
Military Makeover is a special mini-series from the Lifetime Channel’s Designing Spaces team, dedicated to members of the military and their loved ones. The host, retired United States Marine Corps Staff Sergeant R. Lee Ermey (aka “The Gunny”) enlists the help of home renovators, designers, landscapers and many others to improve the living situation of deserving military families. Earlier this year, the show reached out to Scholarship America, inviting us to appear in a segment looking at educational benefits for veterans. The episode featuring that segment appeared last week, and you can watch it (along with the rest of the three-part series) at
September 18, 2017
Everyone knows the conventional wisdom: a bachelor’s degree (or higher) is the best ticket to getting a good job. Like most conventional wisdom, this is at least partly true. And, like most conventional wisdom, it also fails to tell the whole story. As a recent report from Georgetown University’s Center for Education and the Workforce outlines, it’s gotten more difficult, but not impossible, to find Good Jobs that Pay Without a BA. In 1991, 40 percent of good jobs* were held by those with bachelor’s degrees; that percentage increased to 55 percent in 2015. As the report’s co-author, Anthony Carnevale, told Inside…
September 8, 2017
Wyatt Tauber’s earliest childhood memories are of sitting on his grandfather’s lap in front of a computer screen. At the time his parents did not own a computer, so going to his grandparents’ house to play on the computer was a special treat. Wyatt could entertain himself for hours just typing random child’s gibberish on WordPad and playing other games. For the young Wyatt, the computer sparked his sense of wonder and curiosity.
August 25, 2017
We are thrilled to have such a diverse and interesting class of Dream Award recipients! Ezekiel's story continues our series on each of the ten 2017 students. Throughout the next few months we will be posting more stories on a bi-weekly basis featuring these amazing individuals. Check out previous student stories by visiting our Success By Degrees blog. When Ezekiel Ogden was young, he lived on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. His parents divorced when he was just five years old, and Ezekiel and his brothers lived primarily with their mother who worked two jobs.  During the day, she was a substitute teacher;…
August 11, 2017
In Part 1 of this series, Scholarship America program designer Cheryl Amundson (a former professor, and mom of three college grads) walked you through two things any scholarship seeker needs to do: get organized before you have to, and start a wide search as early as you can. Today, Cheryl returns to offer expert advice on what to do next—as well as the top ten things to avoid while scholarship searching.
August 8, 2017
When prenatal tests indicated a higher likelihood of April Lewis being born with a birth defect, the doctors highly recommended that her mother terminate the pregnancy. Though a potential of a life filled with doctor appointments and medical tests loomed over the family, April was born a beautiful, healthy baby girl. That baby girl grew up in single-parent household on the east side of St. Louis, MO. Her mother continued to work a number of jobs just to put food on the table and keep the lights on in the house. Meanwhile, April worked hard in school—from a very early…