Success By Degrees | The Scholarship America Blog

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

August 30, 2018
It is a long road from a rough neighborhood in Savannah, Georgia to the executive suite, but that’s Chantel Lewis-Cummings’ path. When she was just two years old, Chantel's father was killed. She moved in with her grandmother in Savannah. A few years later her grandmother's health began to decline and she lost her job. With no income, they were evicted and had to move into Chantel's great-aunt's basement. That was when Chantel's mother, who had been away at school, moved home to help care for her mother and child.
August 21, 2018
There’s an old piece of wisdom that “being rich means you don’t have to think about money.” The source of that quote is long lost, but it remains as true as ever—and for too many students and families, the opposite is equally true. If you’re struggling with finances, money is never far from your mind. Higher education is a way out; unfortunately, the very financial stress students are trying to escape can make it harder to earn a degree. Can scholarships and support services help students break out of the cycle?
August 10, 2018
The saying "nothing is impossible" characterizes Denis Cruz and his philosophy on life. Born in Honduras, Denis spent his childhood in a small village with his mother. The entire village lived in poverty, but Denis's family was among the poorest of the poor. In order to provide for her family, Denis's mother took a job in Spain, leaving him to live with his grandmother. At age 14, Denis moved into a house with his cousins in Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras. He dropped out of school so he could work full time welding and painting houses. “At the time…
August 2, 2018
Navigating how to pay for college may seem like an overwhelming task – especially if you are a first-generation college student. You may feel like you have been dropped into in a maze of loans, scholarships and grants where a wrong turn could end in a huge loan bill at the end of your studies. As a first-generation college student, you will likely have to navigate your own path, but you don’t have to go it alone. It may seem like a big task but don’t worry – with a little planning, research and support from your family, community or…
July 27, 2018
Our circumstances—where we’re born, our family’s history, our economic status—play an outsized role in shaping our identity in the world. For Rachel Muir, those circumstances weren’t the ones that usually lead to higher education. Rachel grew up in foster care and was adopted at 15 by a couple in her community whose primary source of income was delivering groceries for the local supermarket. “I was poor and no one I knew went to college,” Rachel said.
July 20, 2018
Preparing for higher education is one of the most stressful times in a student’s life. Between classes, standardized tests, admission deadlines, scholarship applications and financial aid forms, the junior and senior years of high school are a whirlwind. It’s all too easy to be overwhelmed—and that makes students all too vulnerable to financial aid and scholarship scams. Whether they’re out to make a quick buck, or they’re aiming to harvest personal information, scammers know to take advantage of those who are stressed out, who have urgent problems or who aren’t taking time to think critically. All of those descriptors can…
July 12, 2018
Twenty years ago, the National Science Foundation began using the acronym “STEM” as an easy-to-remember shorthand for the wide range of academic disciplines in science, technology, engineering and math. From these humble beginnings, STEM has come to dominate a great deal of the conversation around higher education. Some see it as the most practical, important pathway for college students to follow; others, as a poor substitute for the well-rounded liberal arts education of years past. STEM graduates are in high demand in the job market, but STEM degrees aren’t right for every student. High-quality STEM programs can mean more private investment in…
June 29, 2018
Scholarships are a vital way of closing the gap between students’ financial aid and the constantly growing cost of higher education. That gap causes countless students to struggle, stop out or drop out of college—and at Scholarship America, our mission is to keep that from happening. However, scholarships aren’t always the whole answer. Even with a scholarship to ease the burden, the cost of attending college can be overwhelming. Books, housing, transportation and other non-tuition costs are often outside the scope of financial aid. Recent research has revealed that housing and food insecurity affect huge numbers of students, leading to…
June 12, 2018
We have said it before, but it bears repeating as often as possible: higher education has never been more important, but it’s also never been more expensive. For students from low-income families, this is a catch-22 of massive proportions. If college were accessible and affordable, they’d have a better chance to break the cycle of generational poverty; instead, the struggle to pay for higher education can leave students in dire financial straits. At Scholarship America, we believe in putting students first. That means addressing issues of affordability and access at a policy level. It also means using private-sector scholarships to…
June 1, 2018
In a perfect world, every scholarship would perpetuate another scholarship. After all, private scholarships help millions of students fill in the gap between financial aid and the cost of attendance. That means more college graduates earning higher salaries and carrying less debt—and that also means more people with the means to give back to scholarships. Of course, we know that’s not always the way it works. The costs of buying a house, raising a family, owning a vehicle and hundreds of other daily obligations add up fast, and even well-off college grads are unlikely to be able to fund an…
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.…