It’s no secret that college is expensive.
The average 4-year college student graduates with $29,000 in student loan debt.
The ever-rising student debt brings new meaning to the age-old stereotype of the broke college student. More like broke college grad. Higher education is meant to launch us toward a successful future, right? It’s not supposed to cripple us before we even have our feet in the so-called real world. The most recent Project on Student Debt report shows this number increasing exponentially over the past decade. This number would have gone up even more rapidly if not for a national increase in grant and scholarship funding.
That’s where scholarships—AKA free money—become absolutely paramount to student and post-graduation success. Last academic year, the Portland State University Foundation gave away 3.2 million dollars in scholarship aid, according to its 2014-15 Annual Report. The scholarship application for next academic year is now open. For incoming freshmen, the application closes Dec. 1, 2016. For current and incoming transfer students, the application closes Feb. 1, 2016.
Read on for information on scholarship resources, important deadlines and tips to make your application stand out from the crowd.
What to do:
1) GET AHEAD
Visit pdx.edu/scholarships right away. Familiarize yourself with the application, look over the FAQ’s and explore the scholarship database.
2) CONTACT REFERENCES EARLY
The application requires that you provide 2-3 letters of reference written by people who can speak with authority about your personal and academic abilities. Choose people who know you well and can provide compelling arguments for why you deserve scholarship awards.
Choose instructors, employers, volunteer directors—diversify your pool of references so scholarship screeners have a well-rounded view of who you are and what you’ve accomplished. Provide your references with the information they need to provide a quality reference. Remind them of all the wonderful things about you, including your major, minor, past and current employment, career goals, extracurriculars and any other pertinent information you think will help you stand out above the rest of the applicants. See the sample letter below for advice on approaching potential references.
Thank them when you’re done! Make sure to follow up with your references and let them know you appreciate their time and energy. If you get awarded a scholarship, tell them! If they’re writing a reference, obviously they care enough about you to want to celebrate in your successes.
3) WRITE A KILLER PERSONAL STATEMENT
One of the main aspects of the application is your personal statement. Take the time to do this well. Sell yourself. Think about your value. Why are you going to school? What do you contribute to the community? How can scholarship funding help you contribute more to the community?
The things that matter here include your academic and career goals, GPA, community work, extracurriculars, academic achievements, awards, hobbies, hardships, family and life circumstances.
Proofread. Have someone you trust proofread your statement.
Attend a scholarship application workshop to help you craft your winning personal statement. (See calendar on next page.)
4) APPLY FOR ADDITIONAL SCHOLARSHIPS
Look over the additional scholarships included in the pdx.edu online application. Some of these require extra essays or references. They usually focus on areas such as diversity, culture, background, and individual areas of study.
Look over the list of outside scholarship resources. As a student of a public state university, you have access to millions and millions of dollars in financial aid funding outside of FAFSA. Take the the time to apply for these. Think of it as an immediate investment of your time that could lead to a less stressful launch into your career path after graduation.
SAMPLE LETTER TO REFERENCES:
Thank you for being willing to write me a letter of recommendation in support of my scholarship application. This letter will give you a better idea of the classes and activities that I have been involved with. I have also attached my updated résumé.
I hope that you could focus on different aspects of my background, character, academics, and activities so the scholarship committee will get a broad sense of my life and skills. I appreciate you taking the time to write this letter of recommendation.
Please let me know if you need any other information from me. Your support means a lot! The letter is due on [date]. [Tell them how to submit the reference.]
Thank you again. [your name]”
UPCOMING SCHOLARSHIP WORKSHOPS
Upcoming Scholarship Workshops: All workshops are in Smith Memorial Student Union, Room 238.
Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016, noon–1 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 28, 2016, noon–1 p.m.
Monday, Nov. 07, 2016, noon–1 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016, noon–1 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016, noon–1 p.m.
Jan. 15: Peer Mentor Application Deadline
Feb. 1: Undergraduate & Graduate Scholarships Deadline
Mid-March: Undergraduate Scholarship Recipients Notified
March–May: Graduate Scholarship Recipients Notified