Success By Degrees | The Scholarship America Blog

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

October 30, 2018
Born and raised in the United States to Mexican immigrant parents, Jacqueline (Jackie) Vela has often served as a translator. Her father works in an industrial metal lab while her mother, despite suffering from chronic back pain, works at home raising their three children. As the eldest child, Jackie grew up helping with housework and caring for her younger sisters—including her youngest sibling, who has autism and does not speak.
October 22, 2018
Everyone knows what a scholarship is. It’s free, no-strings-attached money to help a student pay for their higher education. Right? Usually. But not always. In some cases, there are significant strings attached—including a few situations in which scholarship funds may be treated as taxable income. While it’s unusual, it’s also important for both students and scholarship providers to know how this can happen, and how it can be avoided.
October 12, 2018
I was 12 years old when I lost my dad in the September 11 attacks. He was a firefighter who died running into the Twin Towers to save others. I lost my hero that day. I knew I would never again have that moment when my dad would look at me and say “I’m so proud.”  After losing him, I felt insecure about my capabilities. I struggled through school. I had no idea what I was going to do in life, and I definitely didn’t think I could go to college.
October 5, 2018
Discussions about financial aid and student support tend to focus on big costs, big numbers and big trends: skyrocketing tuition; trillion-dollar student loan debt; and deep cuts in state aid to higher ed. But those conversations, important as they are, don’t tell the whole story. For millions of students, the struggle to get through college comes down to questions that are far more basic. Their educational success hinges on issues that most of us take for granted.
September 24, 2018
Roxanne "Rocky" Thompson has spent over 20 years volunteering her time and talents to the Swanville Dollars for Scholars chapter. The organization in the small Minnesota community of 350 has awarded over $630,000 in scholarships to local students since it was founded in 1987. Rocky’s contribution to Dollars for Scholars has been recognized with her selection as the 2018 Ralph “Cy” Seifert National Volunteer of the Year.
September 21, 2018
Scholarships are a vital piece of the financial aid puzzle. According to Sallie Mae’s most recent How America Pays for College report, nearly half of all families used scholarship aid when it came to paying for college—and scholarships and grants covered 35 percent of the total cost of higher education. That makes scholarship aid the single largest resource that families are using to pay for school. And it also means that, as scholarship providers, we need to ensure those millions of scholarship dollars are doing the most good.
September 13, 2018
Growing up in a small town in Mississippi in a single-parent household, Jaquaious (Jay) Little had limited access to resources and experienced lots of change. His mother and father broke up very early on in his life. His mother later married and divorced his stepfather when he was in first grade. She completed college with a degree in education and became a preschool teacher to support their family.
September 6, 2018
Kaylee Logan learned how to keep busy at a young age. She was playing roller hockey at age three and got involved with 4-H at age ten. That led to joining FFA as a teenager, and her passion for helping others and serving her community has only continued to grow.
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.