The Meaning of Scholarships

December 10, 2018 Ken Downs, Product Evangelist

The ABCs of student finance are at the heart of everything we do here at CampusLogic. In part two of this two-part series celebrating National Scholarship Month, Ken Downs uses his 10 years of experience in the scholarship space to uncover what makes scholarships worth celebrating.

Students and parents introduced to financial aid for the first time can be overwhelmed, confused, and sometimes—mislead. Award letters can include a combination of aid—loans, work-study, grants, and scholarships. On the surface, scholarships might seem like other types of financial aid because, they too, are used by students to help cover the cost of educational expenses. However, if you read on, you’ll see why scholarships are not only different from other types of aid, but they are the best type.

Scholarships: Not Just Another Bursar Transaction

When students get their award letters, their responses are typically something like, “yeah…loans…cool.” You know, like when you get socks for your 10th birthday.  Just like socks suck as gifts for kids, loans suck as awards for students—there’s no sugarcoating it.

Only in financial aid is an “award” something you have to pay back—sometimes, until your hair turns grey. However, when a student is offered a scholarship “award,” it’s a different story. Students feel a sense of accomplishment and parents feel a sense of pride. Arguably one of the best aspects of scholarships is they don’t have to be paid back, but there’s so much more about scholarships that leave a lasting impact—because even grants don’t generate the same level of excitement.

For example, I asked some of CampusLogic’s very own employees, who received scholarships in college, what it meant for them to receive one. Here’s what they said:

“The scholarships I received helped me graduate from college debt-free, which is something I never thought was imaginable.”

—Brittan Jenkins

“Being a low-income student made earning a college degree seem unattainable. Receiving scholarships changed everything! I was able to graduate with honors and contribute financially to my family along the way.”

—Bari Richardson

Scholarships: Opening Doors

Scholarships don’t just create warm and fuzzy feelings. They open doors that other types of aid can’t. Many scholarships are part of a more extensive program loaded with all kinds of benefits like service and research components, mentorship, tutoring, and skill-building. Many scholarships introduce students to a broader network of current and previous scholars, as well as faculty and professionals. Programs with these offerings include: Dell Scholars, Coca-Cola Scholars, or programs within colleges and universities like Stamps President’s at Georgia Tech, or Eminence Fellows at The Ohio State University.

These are just a tiny fraction of the countless scholarship programs that exist, but they all share one thing in common; help drive degree completion and help their scholars grow. It takes more than financial assistance to be a successful student, and these programs show it. How many loan programs do all that? Nada.

Scholarships: The Why

Philanthropic and charitable opportunities to choose from are limitless. So, when someone decides to create a scholarship, or give to higher education, there’s a good reason.

If you spend time with scholarship donors, and if you ask the right questions, you’ll likely discover there’s a story behind their give. Why they give is often motivated by deeply meaningful experiences; sometimes tragic, sometimes inspirational. We can look to former New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg’s record 1.8B gift to Financial Aid at John’s Hopkins University and his inspirational why for giving, “I want to be sure that the school that gave me a chance will be able to permanently open that same door of opportunity for others.”

Making Scholarships Easy

Because scholarships often have a story behind their creation, we see the uniqueness in their eligibility criteria. Unique eligibility can pose a challenge for schools and organizations trying to find students who fit the scholarship. Applications become extraordinarily long, creating friction both in applying and in selecting recipients. Fortunately, a solution exists that helps bridge that gap, so more students can receive the aid they need, and institutions can support their students throughout their education. CampusLogic’s ScholarshipUniverse allows schools and organizations to honor the story of their donors, while eliminating friction with advances in adaptive matching, streamlined applications, and soon, a portal just for donors to see the impact of their gifts.

Scholarship season is off and running now through March/April. Hopefully, this post will inspire your work these coming months because as you can see, scholarships are so much more than a check. 

Learn more about ScholarshipUniverse >

About the Author

Ken Downs, Product Evangelist

Evangelizing how technology and best practices can remove friction for students, schools, and organizations in the scholarship and financial aid space, Downs is CampusLogic’s Product Evangelist. He was instrumental in leading the development of the University of Arizona’s national award-winning ScholarshipUniverse product, now part of CampusLogic’s platform. A longstanding member of the National Scholarship Provider’s Association, Downs has given workshops titled: Big Data and the Coming Scholarship Sea Change, Scholarship Hacking, and the Scholarship Universe Story.

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