We recently asked SCHEV staff member, Tierney McAuley, to respond to questions about scholarships.
SCHEV: How does a scholarship differ from other forms of financial aid?
Tierney: A scholarship is different from some forms of financial aid in that it is considered to be gift aid—money that does not have to be repaid. Scholarships are similar to grants, but unlike most grants, scholarships may not require that students complete a FAFSA. Instead, students may be asked to write essays on certain topics that are significant to the organization, submit personal statements, and/or provide recommendation letters. There are some scholarships that, if received, require students to work in a certain location or for a specific employer. If such requirements are not met, the student may be asked to pay back the funds.
SCHEV: What types of scholarships are available to Virginia students?
Tierney: There are several types of scholarships available to all students that are awarded based on merit (academics, sports, etc.), financial need, sociological factors (race, gender, etc.), and programs of study. There are also scholarships awarded through credit unions/banks, certain employers, and places of worship. There are even scholarships awarded based on specific physical characteristics (left-handed, height, etc.) and to single parents. Some scholarships available to Virginia students only include Brown v. Board of Education, Granville P. Meade, Lee-Jackson, and Robert C. Byrd, just to name a few.
SCHEV: Where can students find more information about scholarship opportunities?
Tierney: I would recommend that students seek information about scholarships through their high school guidance office, their institution’s admissions or financial aid office, their academic program office, and the internet. I recommend students check out www.finaid.org, www.fastweb.com, www.collegetoolkit.com, www.schev.edu, and their institution’s website.
SCHEV: If a student plans on applying for a scholarship, should he or she still fill out the FAFSA?
Tierney: Absolutely! I would encourage all students to complete a FAFSA no matter what. Even if they think they may not receive any grants, they can always decline any financial aid that has to be repaid. As I always tell students, “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
SCHEV: What advice can you offer students considering applying for scholarships?
Tierney: Apply for as many scholarships as possible and pay attention to deadlines. The more free money, the better! During these difficult economic times, I think it is best that students take advantage of scholarships to help them pay for their education.
Tierney is SCHEV’s GEAR UP scholarship administrator. Her background is in Financial Aid and Scholarships. She previously worked at Virginia Commonwealth University as a Financial Aid Program Specialist and later served as Scholarship Administrator.