Scholarships for Black History Month: Our Top Picks

Scholarships for Black History Month: Our Top Picks

Happy Black History Month! February is a time for celebrating the history and achievements of African-Americans. Since it’s also financial aid awareness month, we thought we’d do what we do best, and give you the inside scoop on scholarships looking to help black and other minority students this season. Here are our top picks.  

Vinson & Elkins Diversity Scholarships

Award: $10,000 plus an internship

Deadline: April 1st

For: Minority Texas high school seniors looking to pursue legal studies

First up is an opportunity for our future advocates. Started in 1990, the Vinson & Elkins law firm targets students of color and LGBTQ students who wish to study law but are in need of financial assistance. Not only are there 7 awards up for grabs, but the firm also offers their scholars internships and mentoring. Students must be in the top 20% of their class, score higher than 1100 on the SAT or 22 on the ACT, and write a personal statement of 500-1500 words.

Minority Teachers of Illinois (MTI) Scholarship Program

Award: $5,000 per year

Deadline: March 1st

For: Minority undergrad and grad students who want to be teachers

If you’re a minority student from Illinois with a passion for education, this program is for you. MTI will sponsor minority students who want to teach in any capacity. Applicants must be enrolled in or accepted to an institution of higher learning and maintain a 2.5 GPA to keep the scholarship.

Ruth D. Peterson Fellowship for Racial and Ethnic Diversity

Award: $6,000

Deadline: March 1st

For: PhD Minority criminal justice and criminology students

This one if for our social justice warriors. Named after Ruth D. Peterson, a professor of sociology at Ohio State University – whose research focuses on ethnic inequality in crime and consequences of criminal justice policies for racial and ethnic minorities – the fellowship hopes to alleviate underrepresentation in the field by helping students of color complete their degrees. There are 3 awards up for grabs. They want to know everything: a resume, a personal statement, a statement of need, your career plans and passion for the subject, and 3 reference letters.

American Bus Association (ABA) Diversity Scholarship

Award: $5,000

Deadline: April 4th

For: Undergraduate minority students studying fields related to travel and tourism

The American Bus Association wants more minority students in the management and operation ranks of the transportation, travel, and tourism industry. If transportation gets you rolling (excuse the pun), tell the ABA how you hope to participate in the future of transport, motor coach, travel, or tourism or hospitality in a 500-word essay.

Lagrant Foundation Scholarships

Award: $3,750 for grad students; $2,500 for undergrads

Deadline: February 28th

For: Minority students looking to work in advertising, marketing and public relations

Know how to make a sell? The Lagrant Foundation is dedicated to increasing minority representation in marketing, advertising, and PR. 30 lucky undergrads and 20 lucky grads with a passion for the field will be selected as scholars in this program. Applicants must have a 3.0 GPA and answer 3 essay questions as a part of their application.

American Chemistry Society (ACS) Scholars Program

Award: $5,000

Deadline: March 1st

For: Minority high school senior and undergraduate chemistry nerds

If you’re suspicious of atoms because they make up everything, then you’re in the right place. The ACS wants to help minority students with renewable scholarships to ensure their success. They want to see your official transcripts, 2 letters of recommendation, and a copy of your Student Aid Report (SAR).  

A. Grace Lee Mims Vocal Scholarship

Award: $10,000

Deadline: March 15th

For: African-American graduate/doctoral vocal students

Sponsored by the Cleveland foundation, this program continues the tradition of Negro spiritual singing – an art form created by enslaved Africans in America. African-American students who want to perform and/or teach the art are encouraged to apply. On top of a general application, they want to see 3 letters of recommendation, an audio tape of a recent performance, personal statement, and a budget for your educational expenses.

Blacks at Microsoft Scholarships

Award: $5,000 per year

Deadline:  March 8th

For: Black high school seniors interested in tech

The employee resource group Blacks@Microsoft are looking for the next generation of black tech buffs. They’re giving out 2 awards and $1,500 to 5 runners-up on their way to college. They want to see 2 letters of recommendation, your resume, transcript, and 2 essays. If you’re interested in engineering, computer science, computer information systems, or select business programs (such as finance, business administration, or marketing) then this is not an opportunity you want to miss.

Sachs Foundation Undergraduate Scholarship

Award: $6,000 per year

Deadline: April 15th

For whom: Black high school seniors in Colorado

The Sachs foundation sponsors talented college-bound high school students in the state of Colorado. If you have a 3.0 GPA, and are in need of financial aid, this general scholarship is perfect for you.

American Library Association (ALA) Spectrum Scholarship

Award: $5,000

Deadline: March 1st

For whom: Minority library and information studies graduate students

Calling all book worms who prefer novels over humans – this scholarship is for you! ALA wants to address the issue of underrepresentation in the librarian profession with their Spectrum program. This one-time award also comes with a membership to ALA and an all-expenses paid 3-day trip to the Spectrum Leadership Institute catered to Spectrum scholars.  

That’s only a taste of all the opportunities we have found for you on Scholly. If you’re looking for more, look no further. With personalized scholarship-matching, in-app tracking tools to make sure you never miss a beat, and an AI-powered writing assistant, Scholly is your best chance at debt-free education.

Happy Black History Month and happy applying!

How to Avoid Student Debt in 2019

How to Avoid Student Debt in 2019

Happy New Year from Scholly! It’s 2019 which means new goals, new scholarships, and new opportunities. With college application season all but over, scholarship season is in full swing. It’s our mission to help as many students as possible reach their potential - and that means having access to education. With each year, we strive to propel even more students towards success than the last, so here are some Scholly tips on how to maximize those scholarship applications and avoid student debt in 2019.

File your FAFSA.

Your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is your first step towards determining your financial aid packages from your schools of choice. The sooner you file your FAFSA, the sooner you’ll know how much assistance you’ll receive from each of your prospective schools, and the sooner you can start planning for your future. Try to finish filing this month if you haven’t already. Filing early will to give you time to take advantage of rolling scholarship opportunities that could supplement your aid.

Check out Scholly.

Log onto Scholly ASAP and check out your new matches. We consistently update our database so that users have a range of scholarships to choose from. Save scholarships to which you would like to apply. Try to save a combination of scholarships with high Scholly Scores and large awards to prioritize your applications.

Now plan your attack. 

Take note of due dates for your saved scholarships and make an application timetable for yourself. Be sure to set realistic goals to give yourself enough time for each application. Some spring scholarship applications are due sooner than others, but a bulk of them tend to be due in March, with another in April. Start early so that you’re not scrambling to apply for scholarships by the time spring break rolls around.

When in doubt, ask!

We understand that scholarship essays can be tricky. Some topics are very broad while others are rather specific, and deciphering what and what not to include can be daunting. Many scholarship programs have a ‘Past Winners’ section where you can see profiles and sometimes essays of previous winners. These sections can help you get an idea of the kind of applications the scholarship program is looking for. Scholly also has an in-app ’Resources’ section with examples of scholarship essays for some extra help.

Edit.

Run your application essays through Scholly Editor! It’s our instant proofreader that scans your writing for both style and grammar mistakes so you can put your best foot forward. Content wise, ask teachers, friends, parents or anyone else in your life whose eyes you think would benefit your application to read your essays. You’d be surprised at how people can pick up on some of your strongest qualities that even you may miss. They can help you articulate those attributes for your applications and make them stronger.  

Lastly, keep going.

The scholarship application process is full of ups and downs. If you’re feeling disappointed about not having won a few scholarships to which you’ve applied, keep trying. There is always another opportunity out there and you are not going to win every scholarship you apply to, but a scholarships is always a better option than a student loan. Remember to stay positive and keep improving upon your applications. If you don’t win an award, you can always reach out to ask for feedback on your application!

2019 is already a big year for Scholly with the launch of our Student Loan Payoff Program in partnership with grownish - and that is just the beginning of exciting things to come for the Scholly community. So Happy New Year, happy applying, and all the best for 2019!

Scholarship Scams And How to Avoid Them

Scholarship Scams And How to Avoid Them

With over 300,000 people in America googling 'scholarships' every year, the demand for scholarships is high - and so is the risk of falling victim to a scholarship scam. With "opportunity for all" being our mantra, we want to make sure students are protected. These are our go-to's for sussing out the real opportunities.

Red Flags

There are several warning signs with scholarship scams. If you come across one of these red flags, file a complaint to one of the bodies outlined in the next section.

Never apply to a scholarship with an application fee. The whole point of a scholarship is to help students pay for their education, not make money from them. If they are asking you for money, they aren't legit.

Do not apply to a scholarship with money-back offers of guarantees. They should award money when someone has won a scholarship, not when they're applying.

If a scholarship claims to provide 'exclusive information' it's shady. A real scholarship program won't bait you into applying for any other reason than to help you pay for school.

The most obvious sign of a scholarship scam is an application that requests credit card or banking information. DO NOT VOLUNTEER YOUR FINANCIAL INFORMATION like social security numbers under any circumstances. No one needs access to your finances to help you pay for school.

Common Scams

'Phishing' and 'Pharming' scams are two of the most common internet scams.

Phishing scams are unsolicited emails from sources pretending to be a reputable company that encourage you to reveal personal information, likely passwords, credit card numbers, and account numbers. These emails will bear a logo of your bank or credit card company to trick you.

Pharming scams are like phishing scams, except scammers will drive you to a bogus website that mimics a legitimate one to get you to volunteer your personal and financial information. Both scams can come in the form of emails so be sure that you set your spam filters for your inbox.

See Something, Say Something

If you come across any of the examples listed, alert authorities so that other financial aid-seeking students or anyone does not fall victim to a scam. There are a few official bodies to whom you can report suspicious activity.

National Fraud Information Center (NCIF)

Visit their website, www.fraud.org to file a complaint online

Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

Go to www.ftc.gov/scholarshipscams to file a complaint online or write to:

Federal Trade Commission Consumer

Response Center

600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

Washington, DC 20580

State Attorney General's Office

You can also file complaints with the Protection Division in your state. Visit www.naag.org to find your state Attorney General's Office.

US Postal Inspection Service (USPIS)

Use this body to report mail fraud at postalinspectors.uspis.gov, or call the Crime Hotline at 877-876-2455 or write to:

Criminal Investigations Service Center

222 S. Riverside Plaza, Ste. 1250

Chicago, IL 60606-6100

Better Business Bureau

File an online complaint about a business at www.bbb.org or all 703-276-0100

How Scholly Protects You

We want you to win so we bring you the best scholarships possible. We base our quality assistance on three central tenets:

1. We never add sweepstakes scholarships to our database. These kinds of scholarships have many applicants and decrease you chances of actually winning.

2. We do not house scholarships that require membership in an organization or program. Our motto is 'Opportunity for All' which means we want scholarships that are open to the public.

3. Scholarships that require users to sign up for a product or service as a part of the application process are also not added to our database. We want you to focus on what's important here, and that is getting money for school.

Scholarships can change lives, but so can scholarship scams. Be sure you're changing your life for the better, with Scholly.

FAFSA: Your First Step to Financial Aid

FAFSA: Your First Step to Financial Aid

If you're looking for money for college, then you need to start with FAFSA.

What is FAFSA?

FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The federal government uses the application to see if you qualify for federal assistance for college. Federal student aid can include grants, scholarship, work-study jobs, and loans. Most colleges and universities use FAFSA as the application to their own financial aid programs. Private colleges often have additional financial aid forms - like the CSS Profile - when determining financial aid packages.

What is FAFSA’s role in the financial aid process?

Since 2016, students can file the FAFSA as early as October 1st. The deadline for the 2018-2019 year is June 30th, but it's advisable to file far earlier than that to increase your chances of receiving federal aid. Also, the earlier you file, the sooner the government determines your aid, and the sooner you can plan for the future.

From your FAFSA, the federal government calculates your EFC. Your EFC is your Expected Family Contribution and what the government believes you and your family should be able to pay towards your tuition. The school of your choice will then try to provide further financial aid based on your EFC.

Warning: EFC's are often much higher than families can afford as the federal government does not consider consumer debt in their calculations.

How can I apply?

If you are a dependent, you and your parents should gather some important information needed to file your FAFSA:

  • Social Security Number

  • Current bank and brokerage statements

  • Driver's license (if you have one)

  • Current mortgage and investment records (if applicable)

  • Alien registration card (for non-US citizens)

  • Current federal tax return (use estimates if parents have not filed yet)

  • Current untaxed income records (if applicable)

  • Current W2 and 1099 forms plus other records of income

  • Parents' current income tax return (if you're a dependent)

Now head to www.fafsa.ed.gov to create a profile. From there you can download the FAFSA forms or complete them on the web, electronically sign your application, check your FAFSA's status, correct errors, add more colleges and universities to your application, and renew your application for coming school years. Print the FAFSA summary and confirmation page once you submit it.

Once you file your FAFSA, you should receive your SAR electronically in 1-3 days - or 2-3 weeks if you made a paper filing. Your SAR is your Student Aid Report. It's a summation of the information you entered in your FAFSA and indicates your potential federal student aid and EFC. Your SAR also tells you if you are eligible for a Federal Pell Grant - even more free money! If you find any errors in your SAR, do not panic! Make corrections online using your FSA ID (created when filling out FAFSA) and report the errors to your financial aid office. If you never receive an SAR, call 1-800-433-3243 (1-800-4-FED-AID) or visit www.studentaid.ed.gov.

Next Steps

Your prospective colleges will send you an award letter once they review your SAR and confirm your eligibility for student aid. You do not have to accept all the aid they offer - some of which may come in the form of loans - but declining one form aid will not increase your other forms of aid. This is where we come in.

Use Scholly to help you fill in any gaps between the aid you are offered and what your family can actually afford. If you want to avoid student debt, then scholarships are your best bet. There are countless scholarship programs wanting to help you go to school - and we've already found them for you on Scholly.

Schools With The Best Financial Aid Packages That Aren't Stanford

Schools With The Best Financial Aid Packages That Aren't Stanford

With college tuition increasing every year, the demand for scholarships, financial aid, and student loans is higher than ever. However, what so many students don’t know is that schools with the highest tuition can often be the most affordable. Take Stanford for instance; the school is famous for having an amazing financial aid package, but with an acceptance rate lower than 5%, we can’t all go there. No fear! We found some schools, including Stanford, for whom pricy can mean affordable. Here are our top picks.

1. Princeton will fully fund all of the costs to attend (tuition, fees, room and board) for families with an annual income under $65,000. On average, Princeton reports awarding over $53,000 to members of their Class of 2022, leaving a cost of $13,600 for families. Each of the other Ivy League schools - Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, and Yale - offer similar aid packages based upon families’ demonstrated needs.

2. MIT also uses “need-blind” admissions, meaning they don’t consider your family income during their admissions process. This is important for college-bound students to understand; never shy from applying to a school because of tuition! Even though MIT costs over $70,000 per year, 72% of its students graduate debt-free, and families earning under $90,000 a year pay absolutely nothing.

3. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, Opportunity Vanderbilt is the university’s commitment to providing no-loan financial aid with no financial cutoffs or thresholds. Students with financial need are provided grants and scholarships to cover their cost of attendance through Vanderbilt’s extensive fundraising and donor support.

4. Franklin & Marshall is a small, historic college in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Called a model “that more colleges need to follow” by PBS’ TheNewsHour, F&M’s student recruitment strategy has diversified the student body across race and social class by awarding $56 million in financial aid each year. Some of that could help you!

5. Part of the Claremont Colleges Consortium, Pomona College serves around 1700 students just outside of Los Angeles. Like other need-blind schools, the vast majority of Pomona’s students receive grants and scholarships to attend. Student loans are not a part of Pomona’s aid package, but are an option to help cover immediate financial needs. The average cost of attending Pomona after aid is only $15,000.

6. University of Virginia provides need-based aid to eligible students and several merit-based opportunities for others seeking to apply. Merit awards are based on a student’s success or experiences - not on financial need or income level. Students are encouraged to apply for both need-based and merit awards, if applicable. At UVA and most other schools, completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the first step for determining need-based assistance.

7. Students at Bowdoin in Maine can “just focus on being a student.” Bowdoin provides grants up to the full cost of attendance, and also bundles student employment grants into their packages. When students work in research labs or offices on campus, they are able to build their resumes, manage their time, and learn how to be a team leader, all while earning additional money for school.

8. Last but certainly not least is Stanford. If any of the 1700 new students on campus each year have an annual family income of $125,000 or less, they get a free ride. Families earning $65,000 or less a year also have their room and board covered. For other students with not as much need, Stanford bundles federal and institutional awards to reduce debt, often making Stanford more affordable than colleges with lower tuition costs.

These schools are just some of the many that are working aggressively to make college less of a financial burden. Note that at many universities, financial aid programs apply only to U.S. citizens. Other schools have made strides to support undocumented students, and some have also extended their financial aid benefits to international students. However, be sure to read through everything closely when you do your research.  

These schools are also difficult to get into – and the competition gets tougher every year. Your best shot being accepted to a highly selective, need-blind college is to stand out. Do well in high school, join organizations and leadership activities that you enjoy, and work hard.

If you’re looking for other ways to pay for your education, scholarships are your best bet. It’s free money and we’ve already found them for you on Scholly.

Writing College Essays: Five Myths You Need to Know

Writing College Essays: Five Myths You Need to Know

The college application process is stressful. From deciding on your dream school, prepping for the SAT or ACT, to finishing all those applications, the task can feel near impossible. It's not - and neither is writing a college essay that works. To help our college-bound high school seniors, let's debunk some myths surrounding writing a persuasive college essay.

Myth #1: "I have to write the greatest essay in the world."

Every student wants to stand out, but you don't have to write the Iliad or the Odyssey to do so. The college essay is your opportunity to showcase your achievements and contributions. However, what most people don't realize is that they overindulge and exaggerate when talking about themselves. Admissions offices can read right through self-praise - what they are looking for is authenticity. Emphasize achievements or lessons you have learned that highlight your best traits. Tell a story about your experiences. What have they taught you? The truth sounds a lot better than you think.

Myth #2: "I'm not creative."

You don't have to be creative to write a successful college essay; but you have to be personable. Don't regurgitate the same answers for every application. Admissions offices can tell when an application has been recycled. Add your own flair to each essay. Whether that be in your tone, content, or writing style, be sure to do something unique with each essay so that your reader remembers it.

Myth #3: "I should limit my number of applications because college applications are expensive."

You're right, applying to college gets expensive - but just like scholarships, there is money out there for applying to college too! If applying to college is out of your budget, contact the admissions office of the school you're applying to. They can give you forms to apply for a fee waiver. The process may seem cumbersome, but a free application will be worth it.

Myth #4: "I can wait until tomorrow."

Just do it now. Are you one of those people who writes something ingenious at the last minute? Your brain actually works better when you exercise it. That exercise will make your ingenuity a habit instead of something that saves you when you're under pressure. Your college essay does not have to be perfect the first time. Prioritize consistency over the grandiose last-minute essays and the result will be a well-written and concise articulation of why your dream school needs you.

Myth #5: "I have to know what I want to study."

No, you really don't. If you know what you want to study, good for you! However, having your mind made up about your future has no sway on your ability to write a persuasive college essay. A large part of college is figuring out what you want to do - that's why you're going. So when you write, talk about your interests and passions to showcase your potential. Try adding how you think the school will help you hone these interests. That way, your application will be unique and tailored to the school.

See? Writing college essays isn't as intimidating as it may seem. Keep these myth busters in mind the next time you're stressed about the college application process and you'll be good to go. Remember to always run your essays through a proofreading service like Scholly Editor for the finishing touches!

Need help paying for college after you get in? Get matched to scholarships instantly when you build a profile on Scholly.