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A guide to scholarships

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Students, add another thing to your workloads: applying to scholarships.

Many students rely on scholarships to afford tuition, but not all students know where to find scholarships or how to apply for them. Applying is often seen as a daunting task. 

The University of Arizona offers four different main types of scholarships. There are merit-based scholarships, need-based scholarships, private-funded donor scholarships and athletic scholarships. Students can receive a variety of these scholarships at the same time, paired with Pell Grants and loans determined using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. FAFSAs are due every year in the spring; they were due this year in the first week of March.

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Marc Acuña, director of Alumni and Student Engagement at the UA Alumni Association, manages 37 different national chapters and events aimed at raising money for UA student scholarships.

The UA Alumni Association awards over $1 million to over 300 students every year, according to its website.

“We’re not only awarding scholarships, we’re creating an impact that will connect these students to the university forever,” Acuña said. 

In total, there are 57 different local and national scholarships available through the UA Alumni Association, which can be found on Scholarship Universe. Scholarships are often based on merit, need, location or area of interest.

The multicultural scholarships are all renewable for a four-year program as part of the UAAA Propel 

U Forward retention program, which aims to increase access to higher education for minority students. Students who are part of the Propel U Forward program have access to dining experiences, guest speakers and other opportunities.

So, what can you do to be sure you have full opportunity of being awarded as many scholarships and grants as possible? The best and easiest way to apply to as much aid as possible is via the website or application Scholarship Universe. 

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Kerry Cowen, the student financial aid and Scholarship Universe project coordinator, said holding back from applying to scholarships is ill-advised. 

“Scholarship Universe should be accessed right away and early,” Cowen said.

Meghan McKenney, director of counseling for the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid, advised students “apply for any and all scholarships and don’t be discouraged by small amounts.” 

McKenney said if students consider applying to scholarships a part-time job and just set aside some time to apply every week or month, they will start reaping the benefits. She advised to make a portfolio of essays to tailor and alter for each specific application.

“We have invested so much in that resource to help you get money,” McKenney said. “We want you to get the most money possible.” 

Cowen echoed that sentiment.

“The more you apply to, the better your chances are,” Cowen said. “It’s sort of like when you apply for a job one at a time and just wait to see what happens. If you’re qualified, apply for it! It’s better to turn down offers than to not have any.” 

To start, students can go to arizonascholarshipuniverse.com and make a profile. McKenney said Scholarship Universe begins filtering criteria to match students with tons of scholarships they are eligible for. The more questions the students answers, the more applications file into their queue. 

Funds for the scholarships are raised through donors, typically UA alumni, and signature events. Some of these events include the SoCalCats Bear Down Scholarship Brunch, multiple golf tournaments and the OCCATS Angels baseball game.

“We also have collegiate license plate, the Arizona Wildcat license plates that you see,” Acuña said. “We get a percentage of that for all the people that do that every year, and we award about $300,000 of collegiate license plate dollars every single year, just from people buying those license plates, which is awesome.”

The peak time for applying to scholarships is from November to April, Cowen said. Once spring grades are announced, the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid awards are announced. The external non-UA award postings are announced at varying times, based on the specific donors. 

“We like to see students succeed. I don’t like to hear when students don’t have enough money to go to school,” Cowen said. “Just apply. We are doing all the work; all you have to do is follow up.”


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