By Adam S. Hoeg
“Fitchburg State is awarding more scholarships than students realize; many students believe they do not qualify for these scholarships, and this is untrue,” said Pam McCafferty, the dean of enrollment management at Fitchburg State University. “We have 80% of our student population receiving some form of financial aid through the FAFSA, but nothing close to that [is] applying for the numerous amounts of scholarships we offer every year.” said McCafferty.
Rising college costs are, of course, a central area of concern for students. However most people don’t realize that there are other sources of financial aid that don’t come directly from the FAFSA. This is a resource many students would benefit from, if only they knew about it.
“I have been a student here for three years, have a high need for financial aid, but never in a million years thought I would qualify for a scholarship. I never applied for one because I did not know much about them, and always assumed they were saved for students with the ever desired 3.8 or higher GPA or who had family that graduated from the school and so on,” said Fitchburg State senior Stephen Beckner.
This is a common assumption. According to Christopher Hendry, Vice President for Institutional Advancement, “Students have the idea that you need to be top of your class and involved in every club and organization possible, and this is beyond untrue. Every student has a story, and a need. We would never deny a student with a 2.5 GPA who works a full time job instead of being involved on campus the help of a scholarship, because for all we know, the reason they are working full time and not involved on campus is because that is how they afford their education.”
Most students are shocked to learn just how many scholarships are awarded every year. According to McCafferty, “We awarded $3 million in scholarships and grants this past academic year, and a good amount of that was awarded to non-need based students, meaning that we did not see enough scholarship applications from students with financial need. We encourage any and all students to apply, but especially the ones who really need the help.” With all this help available, there’s no reason not to apply!
“I ended up applying simply because my friends who receive scholarships each year kept telling me how easy it was,” said Beckner. The Alumni Office will send out an e-mail with a link to the application when the time is right – the application period is from February 1 – March 1. It’s a single application that is filled out and submitted to the different scholarships the student is applying for.
Beckner says, “I submitted my application, and a month or so later got an email that I was receiving the Don and Karen Irving “Pay it Forward Scholarship.” I had only known what that scholarship was because I had done some research on it after checking it off on my application. It turns out that the scholarship is for $5,000 a year. It took me an hour to fill out the application…. that was by far the quickest $5,000 I have ever made. I never in a million years thought I would qualify for a scholarship, but simply because I applied, my next and final year of undergrad will be significantly easier for me to afford, and that will impact the rest of my life.”
“Students do not necessarily receive scholarships because of how involved they are, or how hard they work, they receive them because they need them” said Hendry. “ If I can give one piece of advice, it is to apply, that is all a student needs to do. Hendry wishes to remind the students that “we [Fitchburg State] don’t go searching for students to give this money to, it is their job to come to us.”
“This past summer, the office of Institutional Advancement (Alumni Office) raised $95,000 in scholarship money at our 16th annual Fitchburg State Foundation Scholarship Golf Tournament. It is essentially run by FSU staff members who take a day off of work, and pay to be a part of this event, an event that raises money for our students. “Our goal this summer is $100,000,” said McCafferty. This money changes the lives of so many students, most of which never thought they would qualify for it.
“You do have a story, share it with us, and we will decide if there is a scholarship for you. Let us help you shape your future.” said McCafferty.