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Tips On Your Scholarship Application

Tips On Your Scholarship Application

Posted: 03.24.21

It’s that time of the year again and excited current and future college students are applying for scholarships. Here at Central Scholarship we know the process might seem intimidating at times, but we are here to help. Below are some tips on preparing a great application and we hope to be reading yours soon!

Don’t hold back!

Tell us why you deserve a Central Scholarship award! The members of our selection committee want to know all about what makes you unique, what you have to offer, and how your ambitions will be enhanced by education.

Your essay speaks volumes.

We know not all students are writers, so we’re not expecting a professional dissertation, but if you take the time to write a thoughtful, cohesive essay, it can certainly boost your scholarship chances. Use this opportunity to talk about events and experiences that aren’t mentioned in the regular application. Tell us WHY you’ve done the things you’ve done. We love specific examples. Don’t forget to showcase your motivations and goals!

Tips for the reapplicant.

We want recipients to be participants, not observers. Students who are responsive, who answer emails and phone calls, and come to Central Scholarship events, always stand out. We also look for students to demonstrate growth, whether by success in their academic work or by giving back to individuals or the larger community.

Avoid common mistakes.

It sounds so simple, but the biggest mistake applicants make is not completing the application! Every year we get partial applications from students who would be excellent candidates, but since the application isn’t complete, we can’t consider them. Once the application is complete, check that it is accurate before you submit it. Read the questions and instructions carefully. Our awards are based on the program you will be enrolled in for the current academic year, but every year we have undergraduate freshmen tell us they’re pursuing a master’s degree because they hope to attend graduate school in four years—and they can end up missing out on opportunities because of it.

We’ll let you know when we’ve received everything.

We will send you an email confirming that your application has been received. If you do not receive this email, the application was probably not submitted correctly. We prefer that supporting materials be submitted electronically. Directions are included in the application. Unless specifically directed to do so, please do not mail materials to Central Scholarship. These materials will not be processed, and your application will be incomplete.

Notifications and Follow-up

If you’re selected as a semi-finalist, we’ll contact you by email and ask you to submit a few additional documents, such as transcripts, family tax returns, and the cost of attendance and financial aid information of your school. Then, if you’re selected as a finalist, we may ask you to come to our offices for an interview. Final awards are also announced by email.

If you have any additional questions or need any more information feel free to check out our eligibility page. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

Blazing a New Path

Posted: 03.11.21

Aaron is originally from Prince George’s County Maryland and a Bishop McNamara High School graduate who had his sights set on a career in medicine. This past year he became a Central Scholarship recipient when he received the Isaac and Catherine Hecht Scholarship fund award to support his doctorate studies in Nurse Anesthesiology at Johns Hopkins University. He told us, “The generous contribution from Central Scholarship helped me pursue my dreams of being an anesthesia provider by alleviating some of my financial burdens and allowing me more time to focus on studying.”

We recently caught up with Aaron to see how his year was going.

What is your favorite part about being in school?

One of my favorite parts of school is the camaraderie between the classmates who share the same academic journey.  My program is three years long. Simply put, it is a marathon, not a sprint. During school, you meet new people from various backgrounds who happen to share the same career path. There is a sense of solidarity when 20 students partake in the same rigorous educational quest.  We support each other through the challenge and, in many cases, form long term friendships. Despite continuous reading, all-night study sessions, and sleep deprivation that can accompany anesthesia programs, I find it essential to cherish the journey because it is an opportunity many do not have.

What is the biggest challenge you have experienced at school, and how did you overcome it?

My biggest challenge as a student throughout the years has been organization and planning.  During my undergraduate studies, I noticed this was an area I could improve.  Before starting graduate school, I made this a top priority.  I was able to overcome this with the aid of technology advancement and application development over the years. Today, applications allow me to create a schedule, set alerts, and prioritize using my phone, tablet, or laptop. It also makes for a paperless school experience, which fits my learning preference. I was never a fan of printing lectures and carrying binders. I was surprised but pleased to see how much the student experience had changed since I graduated from nursing school seven years ago.

How has life changed for you during the COVID-19 outbreak personally and academically?

Personally, COVID-19 has hindered me from attending events and socializing outside the home but has led to spending more time with close family members, which I have enjoyed.

Academically, the anesthesia program’s first year is designed to be 95% online, with 5% on-campus immersions for one of our courses. This immersion was changed to online due to the pandemic, which had its advantages and disadvantages. Being able to attend class in your own home is convenient, but virtual simulations have their limitations. Fortunately, this course was not an anesthesia course. In May 2021, we are expected to be on campus for course work and clinical residency until completing the program in 2023.

Do you have any advice for students who are about to start their higher education career?

Financially, I would advise students to search diligently for scholarship and grant opportunities. There are many organizations such as central scholarship and others committed to helping students achieve fulfilling careers by providing support.

Academically, I would certainly recommend investing in a tablet to go paperless. The convenience of having all your course-related content, lectures, planner, schedule in one place is a huge benefit.

Mentally, I would advise students to take personal days to avoid burn out. Personally, after every exam, I take the day off to recharge, which gives my mind a break. As I said, school is a marathon, not a sprint and mental well-being gets you to the finish line.

 What do you have planned for the future?

After graduation, I look forward to positively impacting others’ lives by practicing in a hospital system that sees a diverse surgical population. I also intend to engage in research to improve health-related outcomes and advocate for the profession to increase access to high-quality and cost-efficient anesthesia providers.

Given the overwhelming underrepresentation of minorities in nurse anesthesia, I am compelled to contribute to the profession’s further diversification. Although awareness has improved over the years, there are still obscurities amongst non-healthcare professionals. Personally, the majority of people in the community I am from are unfamiliar with nurse anesthesia.  In fact, in the community where I am from, there is an obsolete outlook that nursing is feminine and inferior to medicine. I was often looked down upon for entering what my peers deemed an “unworthy profession” for men. I believe such misconceptions are the reasons why black males make up such a small percentage of the nursing demographic. However, I have never been one to follow the crowd but to lead it. Members of my community are missing opportunities due to this parochial view, and I intend to rectify this to improve diversity in the nursing profession.

We’re thankful to have the opportunity to catch up with Aaron  and see how Central Scholarship is able to help in his educational journey. Learn how you can make a difference and help other students remove financial barriers and build bright futures with higher education.

saving money

Finding Financial Aid Resources Through College Cash

Posted: 02.24.21

For students and parents, this time of year can be stressful as you think of ways to pay for college and what financial aid resources are available. At Central Scholarship we offer a free informational seminar called College Cash. The seminar is focused on college affordability and financial aid. College Cash helps not only Maryland students but aims to help educate parents about the financial aid process.

According to Sallie Mae COVID-19 hasn’t stopped students from moving forward with higher education but fewer families are completing the FAFSA which means money and resources are being overlooked. We understand finding financial aid can be intimidating but with our free seminar, students, and their families will learn how to navigate the process smoother by:

  • Learning how to maximize federal financial aid
  • Understanding student loans
  • Standing out from the crowd through a scholarship essay
  • Avoiding scholarship award displacement

For students who have not completed their FAFSA but want to continue their higher-level education, submissions, and financial aid decisions are made on a continuous rolling basis. So, it’s not too late to apply.

For students and parents interested in College Cash, the 2021 seminar dates will be posted soon and in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, we are happy to discuss virtual options as well. Please contact Michele Waxman Johnson, Vice President at 410-415-5558 or send Michele an email to schedule a session.

From Nepal to Future Doctor

Posted: 01.26.21

Namrata was born in a refugee camp in Nepal, where since the age of about seven she dreamed of becoming a doctor. At the young age of nine, Namrata and her family came to the United States, where she focused on carving out a path to achieve big, bold goals. Her studies were enhanced when she enrolled in a biomedical sciences magnet program which familiarized herself with medical terminologies, career options, and skills. Namrata’s hard work and dedication not only lead her to become a volunteer as a research assistant in the Hunterian Neurosurgical Laboratory at Johns Hopkins Hospital, but also a Central Scholarship recipient.

This past academic year, Namrata became the second recipient of the Kevin Kamenetz Scholarship Fund and is a freshman studying biology at University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. She told us, “Prior to receiving my Kevin Kamenetz award from Central Scholarship, it was a very difficult time for me. I glazed at my financial letter for a while and was worried about being in financial debt. I knew taking out loans at this age was the last option for me. After receiving the award announcement, I realized that I didn’t need to worry about taking out loans.”

Namrata embodies what it means to be a Central Scholarship scholar. We took some in between her fall and spring semester to see how things were going.

What is your favorite part about being in school?

The best part about school is that it drives my curiosity. The more I learn, the more my curiosity rises. Then, I understand that our true passion derives from curiosity. School teaches me to be ready for the “real” world. The lessons, skills, and philosophies all sum up to help me understand my purpose and work towards my dreams.

What is the biggest challenge you have experienced at school and how did you overcome it?

I started high school as a timid student and used to be afraid of asking questions. My lab experience changed this for the better. As a high school student, I looked forward to learning new things in the lab through observation and practice. At the end of brief explanations, my teachers always asked, “any questions?” I always had questions and learned that the more you seek for answers, the better you learn. By overcoming this challenge, I was able to find myself, my potential leadership qualities, and passion. I know that if I had not asked questions, my skills would not have grown as much.

How has life changed for you during the COVID-19 outbreak personally and academically?

The COVID-19 outbreak brought many changes to my life, especially my plans. My plan was to volunteer until I graduated from high school, but I had to stop in March due to policy changes. I also had to take remote classes during the fall semester. Personally, it has been a very stressful period, but I have learned a few things. First, I learned that anything can happen unexpectedly in life and it is up to us how we react to situations and handle them. Second, I learned time management is very important and even though it has almost been a year since the pandemic, I could make decisions on how to utilize my time.

Do you have any advice for students who are about to start their higher education career?

One of the biggest lessons I learned in school is to ask for help when necessary. It is not very easy for some students to advocate for themselves, but learning to do so will only be helpful for you!

What do you have planned for the future?

I have wanted to be a doctor since I was very young and although it seemed to be a difficult dream in Nepal, I always knew it was possible. When I came to the United States, new opportunities began to open-up, but it was a personal tragedy that had a huge impact. During my second year of biomedical sciences course, my grandmother passed away from gallbladder cancer. One thing I understood was that if we had better healthcare, she would have had a better prognosis and treatment. Having the experience of losing a family member to cancer made me realize that I want to become a surgical oncologist. I know that my purpose is to help people battle cancer.

We’re thankful to have the opportunity to catch up with Namrata and see how Central Scholarship is able to help in her educational journey. Learn how you can make a difference and help other students remove financial barriers and build bright futures with higher education.

Portrait of Scholarship recipient Erka Maher

Student Spotlight: Erika Maher

Posted: 11.11.20

Meet Erika Maher, a bright, hard-working STEM student at the University of Maryland, College Park. She hopes to one day apply her problem-solving skills to create environmentally friendly methods of air transportation. Erika credits the generous financial aid she received from Central Scholarship for allowing her to fulfill her dream of studying aerospace engineering at one of the top programs in the country. Erika explains, “Central Scholarship has made a world of difference for me, both in terms of financing my education and as a support system.”

Erika grew up in Baltimore and earned a full-tuition scholarship to Catholic High School. Her education during these years prepared her for college and introduced her to the opportunities college financial aid could provide. The product of a single-income, single-parent household, Erika was determined to find a way to pay for college on her own. She explains that her mother is her role model, and works hard as a nurse to support Erika and her brother. To achieve her goal of self-financing her college education, and to show appreciation for her mother’s hard work and support, she held three jobs to pay her tuition.

The COVID-19 pandemic derailed Erika’s plans by eliminating all but one of her jobs. Erika was uncertain how she would pay for school and worried that she would not be able to achieve her goal of independently paying for her education. While researching scholarship opportunities online, Erika learned about Central Scholarship and was thrilled to find that the organization matched her needs and academic goals. Furthermore, she appreciated the way in which Central Scholarships’ support system guided her through the process of applying for financial aid. She describes her experience saying, “The people at Central Scholarship are genuinely kind people, who truly care about their work and have added a very personal touch to academic scholarships. Their generous donation to my education has been a very appreciated blessing.”

Thanks to Central Scholarship, Erika is thriving at the University of Maryland. When not busy with her studies, she serves as Secretary on the Executive Board of the Society of Women Engineers, a programming board member of FLEXUS, the Living, Learning Community for Women in Engineering at UMD, and a sub-group lead for the Peru team of Engineers Without Borders. Erika is also active in Alpha Omega Epsilon, a professional sorority for women in STEM, and Women in Aeronautics and Astronautics. These activities help her develop her professional skills, bond with other STEM women and minorities, and empower her to lead in the classroom.

We are excited to see what the future holds for this young engineering student and are thrilled that Central Scholarship is able to help her achieve her goals! Learn how you can make a difference and help other students remove financial barriers and build bright futures with higher education.

Piggy Bank surrounded by coins

Thinking About College Financial Aid

Posted: 10.01.20

It’s that time of year where many students are beginning to think about financing their future college education. Central Scholarship offers a College Cash workshop every year that focuses on teaching students and their families about college affordability. Stay tuned for upcoming College Cash dates in 2021, but in the meantime here are some of our top questions attendees typically ask

Q: What is a financial aid package?

A: A financial aid package is generated by your college or university to illustrate how the cost of school will be paid for, including things like tuition, room and board, and books. Financial aid comes from four sources: the federal government, the state government, your school, and private organizations like Central Scholarship.

Q: Is financial aid “free money,” or do I need to pay it back?

A: Often it is both. Colleges do not have to list loans separately in your financial aid package, so it can be very confusing. If you are confused about what is a loan (money you do have to pay back) and what is a scholarship or grant (money you don’t have to pay back), you should contact your school’s financial aid office and ask them to walk you through it and explain in detail what is and isn’t a loan.

Q: What’s the deal with loans? Should I use them to help pay for school?

A: If possible, you should avoid loaning money to help pay for school. In addition to the initial amount of money you loan, you will have to pay back something called “interest,” which is a percentage of the initial amount of money that is added on over the years it will take you to re-pay. Basically, you will have to pay back more than what you borrowed, and it adds up! That being said, many students do not have a choice but to borrow money to help pay for school.

Luckily, Central Scholarship has an interest-free loan program to help you pay! What you borrow is exactly what you pay back – there is 0% interest on our student loans. You can read more about that program here.

Q: How do I access financial aid for college?

A: First thing’s first: you need to complete your FAFSA to access almost all forms of financial aid. If you are applying with Central Scholarship, you can apply with us between January 1st and the first Monday in April every year via our website. If you are interested in Maryland state financial aid, you can browse through their different scholarships and their corresponding requirements and deadlines on their website. Central Scholarship also encourages you to call your school directly and ask them if there is a separate process for applying for scholarships with them.

 

Conversation with Ben-Oni

Video Chat Series

Posted: 08.31.20

This month, Abby Case, our Annual Fund and Stewardship Manager had the pleasure of chatting with Ben-oni (Ben) Vainquer. Ben grew up in Silver Spring, MD, and became a Central Scholarship recipient last year. He is a rising sophomore at Northeastern University in Boston, MA.

Fun Facts:

  • Ben is on the “Four-year, three-month coop plan” at Northeastern.
  • He is majoring in Computer Engineering and Computer Science and minoring in Math.
  • An enthusiastic tech fan, he loves pursuing Robotics at school.

Dream Turned Reality

Ben was always involved in extracurriculars and clubs in high school, but he was never quite sure college was in his future. He didn’t know if he’d be able to finance it. “It didn’t click that I could go to college until I got my first acceptance letter in the mail. I remember thinking, ‘Wow. This is really happening!’”

Most Surprising Thing About College

Upon reflecting on his Freshman year, Ben concludes that the biggest challenge was learning how to be completely independent. “I knew that it would be tough, but I didn’t realize how challenging it would be to balance my classes, schedule, and responsibilities.”

At the end of his first semester, Ben said he had a pivotal moment where he had put about 100 hours of work into building an autonomous robotic car for class. The deadline was approaching, and in the wee hours of the morning, as he was pulling an all-nighter, he finally got the car to work. “If you would have asked me at the beginning of the semester if I could do that, I would have said no way. But I looked at all the code I had written and realized how much I had learned that semester. I felt really accomplished.”

The COVID-19 Effect

Ben explained how he took the pandemic seriously, early on. “I was worried about getting out of Boston and back to Silver Spring quickly. Luckily, I was able to store stuff at a friend’s house in the area, and as soon as we were clear to leave campus, I avoided the airport and took a bus home. There was hardly anyone on the bus, and I traveled with a mask and hand sanitizer, so I was ok.” He, like so many other students, was looking forward to so many things in the Spring. “It was weird saying goodbye to friends because we didn’t know when we’d be seeing each other again.”

In Ben’s opinion, the most difficult thing about adapting to online classes has been not really being able to ask in-depth questions. “I really like bouncing ideas off my classmates and professors. It’s so much harder to do that online versus in person.”

What do students need?

“I think the most important thing colleges can do for their students is to communicate transparently about what is going on and what could happen next. Also, students and professors should support each other as online learning is a huge adjustment.”

Heading Back for the Fall

At Northeastern, they have made it optional for students to be on campus to work remotely. Ben is choosing to move back on campus. “There’s an on-campus testing site, and they are making sure social distancing orders are in place. Teachers will be wearing face shields, and students will be wearing masks. It’s worth it for me to go back because I’m taking three labs this semester, and I thrive in a classroom setting.”

Ben, we’re so proud to call you a Central Scholar. Keep up the exceptional work, and let us know how your fall semester turns out!

Portrait of Christopher Robinson

Student Spotlight: Chris Robinson

Posted: 08.03.20

Chris is a rising sophomore at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES), majoring in Environmental Science. We were able to snag him for an interview before going back to campus for resident assistant training.

Like so many others, Chris’ freshman year on campus was cut short, due to COVID-19. “Besides disrupting the routine that I had become accustomed to, switching to an online format was not as easy as it would seem,” Chris explained. Some struggles came from having professors who had never taught in a digital format, while other challenges came from being isolated at home with siblings. “In the end, we figured out how to make it work, and I was able to end the year with a 3.8 GPA.” (Impressive work, Chris!)

Part of the reason Chris chose UMES was because he could be involved with the American Fisheries Society (AFS) on campus. “[My school has] a 5-year M.S./B. S program in my field with a focus on Marine and Estuarine Science. I decided right away that was the track I wanted to follow.”

The AFS is a national professional organization “focused on strengthening the fisheries, advancing fisheries science and conserving fisheries resources,” according to its website. UMES has a sub-unit that is a conglomerate of students (both grad and undergrad) with a major connected to environmental and fisheries sciences. “We are an outreach program, focusing on community events such as open houses, beach clean-ups, and campus-wide education. It is a way for us to share knowledge and resources with other students and community members,” Robinson said.

Chris first learned about Central Scholarship from Harford County Public Schools scholarship page. “As a first-generation college student, one of my biggest concerns was how I was going to afford school. Being a scholarship recipient has helped take some of that pressure off and allowed me to focus on my education,” Robinson said.

While graduation still seems far away, Chris hopes to continue his education, possibly to the Doctorate level. “My ultimate end goal is to be able to have a job in environmental research that can have a lasting impact on our natural environment.”

We look forward to Chris’ future accomplishments and wish him well as he returns to campus this fall! Learn how you can make a difference and help other students remove financial barriers and build bright futures with higher education.

Kyarah Mair

Education and Advocacy

Posted: 07.21.20

Kyarah Mair is a Central Scholar and senior at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she is studying Public Policy & Racial Economic Inequality, a major she created. “In my junior year, I discovered that I could combine [all my interests] Economics, African American Studies, Sociology, and Public Policy into one area of study,” Mair explains.

Kyarah discovered Central Scholarship when she was figuring out how she was going to fund her education, as she was applying to colleges. “My mom’s colleague suggested we look into Central Scholarship.” It worked out! “Without [Central Scholarship’s] generous support, I would owe thousands in student loan debt.”

With more financial freedom, Kyarah has been able to hone in on what her future has in store. She landed an internship in her sophomore year with Prosperity Now, an organization working to ensure that everyone in the U.S. has a clear path to financial stability, which influenced her decision to create her major. She worked on the Racial Wealth Divide Initiative at the nonprofit. She supported their work with the Northwest Area Foundation on the African American Financial Capability Initiative: a $4.35 million investment aimed to develop and implement innovative solutions to racial, economic inequality in the U.S.

“This experience inspired me to dedicate my career to creating solutions that address racial, economic inequality, and other social and economic issues more broadly,” says Mair. “I was also inspired to find other think tanks and nonprofits doing this work. These experiences have kickstarted my career in being a racial justice advocate and scholar.”

Mair will graduate in August of this year. After graduation, she plans to take time off from school to gain work experience before pursuing a Ph.D. in Social Policy/Public Policy Analysis, Economics, or Sociology. “After I complete my Ph.D., I want to continue collaborating with think tanks, nonprofits, and government agencies centered around people of color and creating solutions that address racial inequities.” Eventually, she plans to create a public sector consulting firm that will help local, state, and federal governments address the racial equity issues their constituents are experiencing and use the profits to give back to the community.

We are so excited to see what the future has in store for you, Kyarah. Thanks for the inspirational work you are doing!

Paying it Forward

Posted: 01.27.20

Freddy Freedman grew up in Baltimore, in a Jewish Orthodox home and he knew he wanted higher education in his future. He started looking at colleges in 10th grade. He now attends Salisbury University and is studying philosophy. “College is place for personal and professional growth. I’m thankful for Central Scholarship and I’d love to have a scholarship that I fund myself one day,” said Freddy.