Let’s Make This Scholarship Season Even Busier
By Carissa Chang Cress
You may have heard the phrase “scholarship season” — a peak time, usually from January to May, for scholarship applicants, their families and references, selection committees and others who are involved in the scholarship application and selection process.
If you think about the logistics of offering a scholarship program, there are, in fact, a number of details that go into making these life-changing gifts possible. If your company or community offers scholarship assistance, you have to consider factors like who is awarded (for example, students studying a particular field), how much those awards are worth, who will help select scholarship recipients and how their awards will be disbursed (directly to a student’s institution, for instance). These questions, and more, require a lot of thought — and can make a scholarship season really busy.
But that’s not to say that being busy is a bad thing. In fact, we think being busy during scholarship season is a
good thing. Here are four reasons why:
1. More scholarships mean less debt.
Many parents — especially those of first-time college-goers — experience sticker shock once they realize just how expensive college is nowadays. According to
The College Board, tuition and fees at private four-year institutions averaged $31,230 during the 2014-15 academic year. That’s almost double the published price from 25 years ago: From 1990-91, tuition and fees were 45 percent cheaper, or $17,060.
One of the consequences of the ever-increasing cost of college is an ever-increasing dependence on student loans. The historic amount of national student loan debt — now sitting at $1.3 trillion — potentially changes the course of a student’s future. For young college students, a student loan is often their first encounter with borrowing a huge chunk of cash, which can lead to uninformed and costly decisions. According to the Brookings Institution, undergraduate students seriously underestimate how much debt they’re taking on. That debt can play a big role in delaying major life decisions such as homeownership, marriage and retirement.
With scholarships, the aid doesn’t need to be repaid. The more chances we can provide to support students generously, the less they’ll feel financially confined from pursuing their postsecondary degree.
2. Supporters have more chances to make a difference.
Today, there are countless programs for students’ career interests, from
career and technical education to humanities studies. This opens doors for volunteers, donors and other community members to contribute to a diverse range of awards.
Whatever the program or interest, there will be a student who needs support. Scholarship programs provide a vehicle for enabling a student’s dreams — and an opportunity to continue the cycle of giving for future generations. Tangible examples include volunteering with your local Dollars for Scholars affiliate, donating to a scholarship program that impacted you as a student or supporting education efforts on a national level, such as Scholarship America’s work with entry-level, multi-year and emergency financial awards.
3. Your community participation helps us all.
Support of scholarships helps more than just a student — it helps the broader community. By participating in scholarship season activities, you’re likely to interact with students and their families, who are invested in making higher education affordable; teachers, counselors, administration and other education professionals who support those students; financial aid professionals who can help inform and guide individuals and schools on how to pay for college; and other volunteers and donors who are invested in making a difference in their community, too.
The scholarship network is interconnected, with each group holding an important strand in making a student’s success possible. It also means higher levels of civic participation. And whether that participation is on a local or national level, rest assured that you’re joining a movement to sustain a stronger, smarter America.
4. Scholarships increase chances of staying in school.
Scholarship season is an exciting occasion: not only does it provide immediate financial relief to deserving students, but it gives them confidence and hope to continue their studies. When a student is hit with thousands of dollars on a tuition bill, they’ll work to make ends meet. But if the burden becomes too heavy, they’ll drop out — leading to
inequalities between those who finish college and those who don’t.
Increasing scholarships — in number awarded and dollars distributed — can help even more students stay in school, complete their degree and bolster their career. It’s a winning combination that helps students, our communities and our nation. Not bad for a busy scholarship season!