By Carson Sawyer
For many students pursuing education after high school, an affordable college is their dream college. One way students are paying for the cost of tuition and other college fees is through the help of scholarships. Throughout the halls of Cedar High School, some scholarship names can be heard: the Regents’ Scholarship, the Sterling Scholar Award, and the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE). However, many scholarships do not apply to most students. Finding the right scholarship may save students time, and more importantly, money.
The Regents’ Scholarship was formed under the Utah State Board of Regents to prepare high school students for the rigor of college work. It encouraged them to take more advanced classes. With the Utah State Board of Regents redesigned into the Utah State Board of Higher Education, which is now incorporating Utah’s technical colleges, the known form of the Regents’ Scholarship continues to change. Today, it requires FAFSA documents to be filled out, although qualifying for benefits from FAFSA is not required. Nonetheless, the Regents’ Scholarship remains a prominent merit-based scholarship in the state. It is a last-dollar scholarship, meaning that the scholarship funds are used after other state aid is awarded to the student. Furthermore, institutions may transfer excess funds not needed for tuition costs to the students towards other school-related expenses such as books, supplies, or housing.
The Sterling Scholar Award acknowledges seniors who compete in one of 15 categories at two different levels: high school and region. At the high school level, seniors in each category must compete against their peers and be selected by that specific school’s nominators. At Cedar High, each category selection is made by the teachers in each department, except for the General Scholar category. This category is determined by all of the department chairs, administration, and counseling. At the regional level, Cedar High nominees must compete with other high schools within Southwest Utah to determine the regional winner and the two runners-up of each category. Many colleges and universities in the state of Utah offer tuition waivers by winning at the regional level. For example, Southern Utah University offers an annual $3,000 scholarship for a maximum of eight semesters to regional Sterling Scholar category winners and runners-up. When deciding whether or not to apply for the Sterling Scholar Award, consider the amount of time, work, effort, and experience that is needed. If any of these are lacking, then the Sterling Scholar may not be the best choice, as that time will be better spent applying for many other scholarships. Ms. Brinkerhoff, or “Ms. B” as many students know her by, is the Sterling Scholar coordinator for the school. Her advice to students is to start working towards the Sterling Scholar their freshman year and to “take pictures” of their experiences and service, even though it “feels really weird” to do so. Remember, the Sterling Scholar is an academic program, but it also looks at leadership, service, and extracurriculars to have well-rounded students. Apply if up for the challenge, prepared, and ready to work a couple of months after school.
The Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) is a useful scholarship for students looking for a college in over 160 participating public colleges that are outside of Utah. The WUE, administered by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) and consequently only over the 16 WICHE states, allows for nonresidents to pay no more than 150 percent of the enrolling institution’s resident tuition fee. However, like most scholarships, there is a limit to the number of recipients depending on the individual school. Make sure to be one of the first few to apply.
There are many more scholarships out there. Nonetheless, the advice of one of Cedar High School’s counselors, Mrs. Denhalter, is to start with the ‘New Scholarships’ link on the Cedar High website. From there, interested seniors should put together a portfolio and go to the Scholarship Fair on March 1st – dressed in business attire, copies of their portfolio in hand, and interview ready. The concluding initial stage is to look at scholarships from specific colleges or universities. Once more familiar with the world of scholarships, the decision can then be made to compete at the national level. However, Mrs. Denhalter warns, “[National scholarships] are just really big, and you’re competing with kids across the nation.”
In the quest for the right scholarship(s), there is never enough time and energy. Use time wisely in applying for the scholarships that seem promising. The more scholarships applied to, the higher the chances of receiving money for college. After all, textbooks aren’t going to pay for themselves.
(Image from creativecommons.org)