By Cillea Houghton
For most college students, wondering how you’re going to pay for your education is a significant concern. Thankfully, Fitchburg State University is here to help, in a way that most students don’t know about.
Every year, the University offers a wide variety of scholarships to aid students financially. Vice President for Institutional Advancement Christopher Hendry is a chief fundraiser for scholarship support and is a member of the committee that determines the number of scholarships awarded and how much they’re worth.
“We would like to see more students apply for scholarships,” he said. “We have an application process that I don’t think students know about.”
“We would like to see more students get involved,” added Pamela McCafferty, dean of Enrollment Management.
Applications are available online through the Financial Aid page on FSU’s website, along with the full list of available scholarships. The application is universal and requires a letter of recommendation.
Hendry also described a common misconception about the scholarship application process.
“A lot of students think when they complete their FAFSA, that’s their scholarship
application,” he said.
Hendry explained why he believes students are unaware of the scholarships.
“I’m not sure enough students know additional financial aid is offered to them. When we talk to students, that’s the most common thing we hear,” he said.
Hendry revealed that about $3 million is available through Financial Aid,
which helps coordinate scholarship support. Though a sufficient amount of money is
offered, only 5 percent of the student body applies for scholarships, which is 150-200
“We’d like to see that number go up. A vast amount of the money donated to the
University is for financial support; it’s the most pressing need on campus,” he said.
McCafferty mentioned that scholarship money can also be used for other educational expenses, such as purchasing textbooks at the campus bookstore.
FSU alumni are a main source of scholarship donations. A new scholarship this year is the “Pay it Forward” scholarship, provided by Donald (class of 1972) and Karen (class of 1990) Irving, awarded to four full-time, undergraduate students with a GPA of 2.7 or higher who live in Massachusetts. The recipients are asked to “pay it forward to the scholarship program to help students in the future” when they are financially able.
Scholarships are also awarded to students in individual majors, including Education, Nursing, and Communications, and to those living in a specific region of the state.
“Anyone can apply because there’s both merit-based and need-based
scholarships,” said Hendry on the diverse scholarships available, adding that students
should consult their department for major-specific scholarships, as there may be others
available besides those online.
McCafferty helps manage the scholarships in collaboration with the Development Office and reviews students’ applications and criteria to see if students are an appropriate fit for the scholarships they’re applying for. She also revealed that an effective application and letter of recommendation, along with a convincing transcript, are factors that make students stand out.
“Academics definitely come into play,” she said.
A personal essay about how the scholarship would benefit the applicant is another significant piece to the application.
“It’s definitely about quality and not quantity,” McCafferty said, adding that comprehensive essays on why the scholarship is needed are more persuasive.
But the most important advice McCafferty offered is simply for students to apply. “I think it’s important for students to just apply,” she said, “It’s worth their time to apply.”
To see the fill list of available scholarships and get the application, visit FSU’s Financial Aid homepage, or go to the Fitchburg State homepage under the “Alumni – Give Back” tab. All completed applications are due by March 1 to the Financial Aid Office.