While the spring semester is just beginning, many departments are already looking ahead to the fall when it comes to one area of academic life: scholarships.
As students begin filling out their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form for the next academic year, Academic Scholarships office program coordinator Paula Turner is encouraging students to utilize a new program as a financial aid supplement.
The ScholarX program is an online application that matches students with any of the scholarships available on campus that he/she is qualified for, including those offered by all five of Sam Houston State University’s colleges, Academic Affairs and Alumni Relations. It is available through the scholarships Web site at http://www.shsu.edu/~sfa_www/scholarship.html.
“The application is genuinely a one-stop shop for scholarships. And it opens up the opportunity for students to qualify for scholarships they may not even know exist on campus, including new scholarships,” Turner said. “University Advancement is always establishing new scholarships, and it’s hard for students to research all of them because the information is scattered or they don’t know where to look.
“We’re making it as easy as we possibly can.”
As a recent SHSU graduate, Turner said she understands how frustrating the financial aid process can be, but ScholarX simplifies it, for both students and administrators.
“When they fill out that one application, it’s for hundreds of scholarships,” she said. “ScholarX takes the guesswork out of the students’ hands.”
While SHSU generally has a low number of unclaimed scholarships each year, the number of scholarship applicants also tends to be low, with only approximately 2,500 applications each year out of more than 16,000 students.
“Paper applications are just a nightmare for students,” Turner said. “ScholarX is really user friendly, and kids are so technology-savvy that it really makes sense to do it online. I think students are more likely to go online than fill out a paper application.”
“The Office of Alumni Relations has 16 scholarships ranging from $250 to $5,000 per year for an individual student, and several of these scholarships provide multiple awards,” said Kristle Castillo, Alumni Relations assistant director for membership and marketing. “For the last couple of years, the Alumni Association has awarded more than $40,000 each year in scholarships to more than 50 different students.
“ScholarX is a tool that will significantly broaden our pool of applicants and allow the Alumni Association to be more selective when awarding our scholarships and recognize the most deserving students for their academic accomplishments,” she said.
The program is a win-win, for both students and the departments giving out the scholarships.
“From the administrative point of view, it just makes our job so much easier,” Turner said. “We can pull up a scholarship and see which students are qualified, go through the vetting process and the awarding process. Everything’s done electronically, almost right down to the letter generation to let students know they’ve been awarded.”
When it comes to filling out the application, Turner has a few tips for students, including taking the extra time to read through the entire application before filling in the blanks, writing any required essays in Microsoft Word before filling it out and creating a password that’s easy to remember.
“It’s a two or three day process to get that password reset,” she said. "We cannot reset the passwords here; I have to go out to the software provider to get the password reset.”
Also, if you are going to start an application, finish it, Turner said.
“I have over 800 started applications and only 200 have been completed,” she said. “If you’re going to go through the effort of starting it, of making that commitment, finish it.”
Because some of SHSU’s scholarships are awarded on bases other than grade point average or financial need, Turner said she encourages everyone to fill out a ScholarX application.
“There is a scholarship out there for everybody. They are competitive, but it’s worth their time,” Turner said. “I have scholarships that are for community service; for first-generation college students that don’t care about GPA; even for student involvement on campus, for student leaders.
“I see students miss opportunities, and it’s just heartbreaking, because they don’t think they’re good enough,” she said. “I cannot stress enough that it’s not all merit and it’s not all financial; we have everything in between.”
Applications for the 2009-2010 academic year will be processed on Feb. 15, which gives students only a small window when completing the ScholarX program in conjunction with the FAFSA form. Students who have questions about the FAFSA component of the application should contact the Financial Aid office at 936.294.1774.
For more information on the ScholarX application, contact Turner at 936.294.1672 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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