Q&A with Bremen and Mahenthiran: Receiving Scholarships
Laurie Stroke assists Susie Bremen in the college counseling area of the guidance department.
Applying and Receiving College Scholarship: A successful student vs. NC staff’s college expert.
Ash Mahenthiran is a current senior at North Central. Mahenthiran recently applied and received the Wells scholarship at IU. The scholarship includes the cost of tuition, room and board, and tuition money. Mahenthiran has not yet committed to IU.
Susie Bremen is a North Central staff member with a history of studying college admission at several private colleges, including the University of Miami in Florida, Boston University Overseas in Germany and Butler University. She’s an NC alum and returned for this position eight years ago. She works with students and their parents/guardians on everything college-related.
NCHSLive!: What is the best way to go about applying for colleges in order to receive the most scholarship money?
Mahenthiran: A lot of schools have separate scholarship [opportunities]from the common application. In these scholarship applications, I think it’s best to write essays about things that you really didn’t talk about in your Common application essay because it [allows the college]to learn more about something new. Also, there are plenty of external scholarships from different organizations and even from North Central. So I would definitely recommend looking for and taking advantage of those.
Bremen: The greatest amount of scholarship dollars come from colleges and universities. Generally, there will be a deadline date for the college application and students are often applying for admissions and freshmen scholarships when they do that. Those are the best [scholarships]because there are many and because they are generally renewable for each year that the student is in school for up to length of their [respective]program. Renewable scholarships are the key.
NCHSLive!: What materials can be utilized at the school to help find scholarship opportunities?
Mahenthiran: Many schools such as IU send an invitation to apply for selective scholarships to students that have already submitted their regular application for admission. Learning more about the specific scholarship that a school is offering and what they are looking for in a student that will receive the award is really useful too. Almost all college websites will have information about merit and financial based scholarships available to students.
Bremen: We use the program Naviance, its our web-based college and scholarship search and management program. Every student has an account to use. It’s a really nice database. On the main page, there are links to a lot of scholarship data and websites. They have a terrific college search function on [the]college board website. It’s a different login than the regular [school login]and it’s very long. [Students] can request the code from [the department], and once a semester I will send out everybody’s information. [However], if they don’t know what Naviance is [they]will miss the email.
NCHSLive!: What activities and courses allow for the most scholarship opportunities?
Mahenthiran: As you might think, the harder courses and the better grades you have in these courses will definitely make you a stronger candidate for any type of scholarship. But in terms of extracurriculars, it doesn’t really matter what type of activity you are involved with. What does matter though is that you are able to show the scholarship committee that you are dedicated to and have a passion for the activities that you are involved in.
Bremen: Definitely academics. They look for [more]than grade point average. Some will take the weighted GPA right off of the transcript and some will refigure a GPA based on just core courses. Scholarships are [also]based on leadership, diversity, [desired]major, test scores, and many other factors. How a student has challenged himself/herself is also important. there is a wide range. In addition to what’s available and posted in Naviance, [the school]will receive emails for other scholarship opportunities. Mrs. Stroke, who is in charge of scholarships, then compiles a list of these scholarships. The time to apply for these scholarships is from January to May. Everything that doesn’t come through a college or University is considered an outside scholarship. They will come from foundations or other businesses. Just about any kind of big company you can think of probably offers some kind of a scholarship. Students can find them on their own by searching online. Many scholarship websites are listed in the college handbook [that]juniors receive. For registering for colleges, it’s important to have an email that seems professional and may just include the individual’s name.
NCHSLive!: To your knowledge, what colleges seem to give out the most scholarship money and for what activities/grades?
Mahenthiran: Indiana University gives scholarship money to almost all of its students just for having good grades in weighted classes. In addition, they offer scholarships for various schools like Kelly for business and other selective scholarships that allow students to get research stipends and grants when they are undergraduates. I got the Wells Scholarship at IU, which covers the cost of tuition, room and board, and comes with some money to do research as well. I can’t speak on behalf of other local schools because I don’t know that much about them, but a lot of the more competitive schools, such as the [Ivy League schools], give almost no merit scholarship aid because they devote the majority of their funds to financial need assistance.
Bremen: [Colleges] are going to give out a great deal of scholarships. Clearly the bigger schools have a larger budget, and have more students to give scholarships to [as well]. Any school will have a sizable financial aid budget. Students shouldn’t shy away from a school that costs more initially because you never know what could happen with financial aid. There are scholarships, grants, loans, etc.
NCHSLive!: How should scholarship money influence where a student goes to college compared to other factors?
Mahenthiran: I definitely think scholarship money should play a role in the college decision process. However, I think it varies student to student. If money is one of the main obstacles to a student going to college, then I would definitely say that scholarships should play an even larger role in going to a specific college. But, if money isn’t that big of a hurdle then I would be cautious in going to a school that you may not like that much but gives you a lot of money. Overall, you will be living at these colleges and you want to make sure you will enjoy the time you spend at your college.
Bremen: It’s going to be an individual call for everyone. Generally, money seems to talk, and students who get that full ride or great scholarship tend to follow [the financial aid]. That’s not to say don’t follow your gut, it’s just for some kids that just might be the best option. I’ve seen students who have done both and have loved it and others who have transferred after their first year. You have to know what else you’re looking for in a college in order to decide which one will suit [your needs].
NCHSLive!: Are there any other ways that a student set themselves up to be noticed by colleges?
Mahenthiran: For me personally, I focused on getting solid grades and having one or two extracurriculars that I was really passionate about (North Central Men’s tennis and volunteering at Community Hospital North). Proving to a scholarship committee that you are dedicated to a particular cause of have learned life skills through an extracurricular is really important. Grades and test scores, however, will always have some influence on who gets the scholarship in the end.
Bremen: Start early. Freshmen year [of highschool]is the perfect time. Most students are not thinking seriously about college and are just trying to adjust to a new school. It’s a great time to work on establishing great study habits and getting involved in a couple of activities. It’s not about stacking the resume, it’s about finding things that you care about. and staying with them. Starting as a member in the group and working your way up as an officer shows progression and leadership. Work with your counselor with challenging yourself with your courses. You want to not always do a course that is [a guaranteed]good grade. [However], don’t push yourself so much that you’re getting C’s or lower. You want to be able to take the most challenging courses you can and still do well.