Congratulations to July’s College Cash® winners, Devon Campbell (photo left) and Victoria Ekeanyanwu (photo below). Devon attended the “Finding Money for College” session where he learned about the vast world of scholarship opportunities available to him. He writes, “After reviewing what I had learned, I felt like I won the lottery.” Devon’s newfound knowledge helps him pay for Morgan State University, where he is studying electrical engineering. With two more school years ahead of him, Devon has plenty of time to brush up on techniques to save money on tuition and living costs in college. Following the event, we ask College Cash® scholarship applicants to write an essay describing what they learned. Devon wrote:
Upon receiving an invitation to the College Cash® event, I immediately thought “This will be a waste of time.” What could the people at this event tell me that I did not learn from my guidance counselor or any other financial advisers? I decided to attend the event anyway because it was free, close to home, and I had nothing planned for the day. When I arrived, the staff offered me refreshments, a folder full of scholarship and grant information, and a free pen. My attitude toward the event changed instantly because I am a sucker for free gifts. I entered the lecture hall and prepared to take notes on my phone.
By the end of the event, I had overloaded my brain with endless information. It felt like I wrote down every word that was spoken and filled the folder with thousands of annotations. I learned of many scholarship and grant opportunities, the important components to a strong essay, and what not to include in the essays. For example, a strong essay tells a story but does not ramble. I learned much more information, but the most important points were to keep my opportunities open, choose opportunities where the odds are in my favor, and email the committee to start networking with them. I found these to be the most important points because they can greatly improve the chances of winning. I can also use them outside of applying for scholarships. I could apply these tips when applying for a job or an internship. For instance, after a job interview, make sure to contact the employer to show interest in the job position. The event made me realize that I was limiting myself to a rather small amount of opportunities and that resulted in no scholarship money.
After reviewing what I had learned, I felt like I won the lottery. I had learned all of the keys to winning a scholarship and maybe even a job title. I was so excited and I felt like I would eventually burst if I did not share my newly obtained knowledge. I went home and sent my notes to my college roommates, fellow band members, and even students still in high school. I also informed them of the event taking place the following day. I knew that I was decreasing my chances for winning money but I needed to help others. As long as I could help someone save money and avoid debt, I felt like a winner. Since then, dozens of people have told me that they have decided to apply for scholarships using the notes that I sent them. Assuming that they will also share my notes, I have to change my application strategy for scholarships and other opportunities.
I plan to expand my search by looking for scholarships through companies, government agencies, schools, and more. A number of scholarships get declined because the essay did not express what the committee was looking for, so I will seek help from others to review my essay. If my strategy does not win scholarships, I believe that I have pulled away many lessons from the event that can be applied in many other places. I am glad that I attended the event and I will make sure that I take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way. I would like to thank the Central Scholarship team for giving me the opportunity to pay for college and further my education. Hopefully I can make an impact on others in the same way that Central Scholarship impacted me.
Victoria Ekeanyanwu is a student at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. As a third year law student, Victoria knows a thing or two about graduate school loans. She attended a College Cash® session about managing student loans that is geared toward students who are getting ready to graduate. She wrote:
As a current graduate student with existing student loans and continuing to receive loans, my attendance at Central Scholarship’s College Cash® Student Loans event was very necessary. After I stopped working in July 2014 to begin graduate school full time and no longer had a source of income, I stopped making student loan payments. Instead, I deferred my payments and neglected to monitor my account not realizing the repercussions of my actions. At the event, I learned what could happen when one defaults on a loan. I learned that I could be reported to credit bureaus and no longer be eligible for federal student aid. The information relayed at this event, especially the Student Loan Repayment Tips handout, reminded me that I am doing all the wrong things.
The first message that impacted me was to get organized, develop a plan, and stay on course—never missing a payment. Following the event, I finally logged on to my Nelnet account to find out how much I owe. I also visited AnnualCreditReport.com to check my private loans balances to confirm that I had none. Using the Know Your Loans: Student Loan Quiz that we completed at the event, I made a chart to organize. I listed the types of loans I have, the total amount borrowed, the interest rates, and the due dates. Based on how long I expect to take to repay my loans, I developed a plan. I plan to pay off the most expensive loans first. And to avoid delinquency and default, I plan to pay each month and on time. I hope to resume work as soon as possible and will stay on course.
The second message that impacted me was to pay more now to save more later. Like most students, I made minimum student loan payments when I did make payments. Thanks to the event, I now realize it is wise to pay more as it saves me time and money. By paying extra principal each month and paying biweekly instead of monthly, I now realize I will pay less interest over the life of my loans and repay my loan earlier. Moving forward, I will put any extra money that I earn, towards my student loan payments so that I can get out of debt sooner.