This story was originally published July 14, 2017.
“I applied for that?” That’s how Julia Isabel Martinez Rivera felt after receiving a $20,000 scholarship from Chegg.
She had written so many essays and clicked “submit” so often that she’d lost track of all the awards she applied for. (She was also surprised because the textbook company showed up on her doorstep with a jumbo check.)
“I’d applied for so many,” Rivera said, “that I’d forgotten I’d even applied for that one.”
After all, the University of California, Berkeley, junior secured more than $50,000 total in scholarships for college students, plus grants, before her third year on campus — and only resorted to federal student loans once she maxed out her gift aid allotment.
Here are four helpful takeaways from her experience:
Rivera, 20, learned about the importance of scholarships for college students when she was in the eighth grade. She participated in a summer program called AVID, which gave her the college knowledge her parents couldn’t provide; they’d both attended school in the Philippines.
She started applying for scholarships, one at a time, online and off. Fastweb was an early favorite source of listings.
“Don’t stick to one website; search for a bunch,” Rivera said. “Even the little scholarships, $100, $200. If it requires a little bit of work, go for it. Because most people won’t apply.”
In addition to scholarships, Rivera sought California college grants to help cover expenses beyond tuition. She secured Cal Grant A, which helps students pay for tuition and fees at four-year colleges. (For the 2019-2020 school year, the value was $12,570.)
After filling out the FAFSA, which takes a hard look at your family’s income, Rivera found she was eligible for additional help.
“I was surprised that I got a lot [of aid] because my dad makes more than average,” she said.
|Think your parents make too much money for you to access financial aid?|
|Think again, and complete the FAFSA anyway. The application is the gateway to all sorts of funds beyond grants, work-study programs and loans awarded by the Department of Education. Your state and some private organizations also use your FAFSA’s results to determine your eligibility for grants and scholarships.|
The five-digit Chegg award that Rivera received was based on limited information about herself. She was tasked with condensing her story into a simple, straightforward application. It comprised her grades and extracurriculars, but not much else.
“I literally listed every single thing I’d been doing with my time,” she said.
It’s not uncommon to apply for scholarships without writing an essay. Scholly, a scholarship search tool, and top-rated student loan company CommonBond previously awarded a $10,000 scholarship to a student; he supplied not much beyond his email address.
Other opportunities might call for applicants to submit a college scholarship essay — and Rivera wrote her fair share.
“Stay true to what you say,” she said. “Some people say a really dramatic story will get you the money. Although that can be true, be honest about your story.
“I know a lot of students talk about financial struggles. I was honest about it: I didn’t have any financial struggles growing up.”
Instead, Rivera told the tale of breaking and displacing the tibia and fibula in her right leg during a school basketball game. She mentioned small details, such as the snapping sound caught on video, and larger life lessons she learned, including losing the ability to play sports.
Not fretting about how her story would play to an audience of donors freed Rivera up to talk about what mattered to her most.
|Maybe you’re worried about your grades more than your story…|
|If that’s the case, keep in mind that you don’t have to have a straight-A’s transcript to find gift aid for college. There are plenty of scholarships for average students, so to speak, where GPA won’t make or break your application. Don’t limit your scholarship search with preconceived notions like this one.|
If you’re fortunate enough, you may be invited to apply for specific scholarships without having to search them out yourself.
This happened to Rivera before she even stepped on Berkeley’s campus. Her college acceptance letter encouraged her to schedule an in-person interview for the school’s prestigious Regents’ and Chancellors’ Scholarship.
Visibly nervous, the then-teenaged Rivera told her interviewer about her desire to major in landscape architecture and connect her study to sustainable design in developing countries. That’s when her interviewer asked her to talk about another passion.
Rivera quickly returned to her love of sports.
“One of the main things that helped me get chosen was my martial arts background,” said Rivera, who took self-defense classes in the sixth grade before ultimately learning and competing in jiu-jitsu, karate and kickboxing.
“That was one thing I talked a lot about in my interview. I was just me. She really enjoyed that and said she liked talking to me,” she added.
The conversation netted Rivera $8,000 for each year of her university tenure. It wasn’t a full-tuition scholarship, but it furthered her goal of covering the approximately $14,000 of in-state tuition.
|Consider what skills or interests separate you from your peers…|
|For Rivera, it was landscape architecture and martial arts. For you, it could be mechanical engineering and community service. Or environmental law and classical music. The point is to identify what you’re passionate about, and ensure that your passion comes across during scholarship interviews.|
If there’s one thing Rivera has learned from racking up so much gift aid, it’s that being yourself on and off campus is the way to go. Decision-makers in charge of scholarships are often on the lookout for well-rounded students who live out their interests.
Rivera, for one, is now a member of Cal’s women’s boxing team, and last summer, she traveled to a village in Ghana to help build a water treatment center. She is not one to sit on her hands.
And as she could attest, she’d been that way since she was a teen. One of her first scholarships, a $1,500 award from her high school, came from her club advisor nominating her for the school’s student of the year award.
After starting early, telling herstory and acing her interviews — Rivera found herself with $50,000-plus worth of scholarships to cover tuition costs.
What would she have done without all the gift aid?
“Loans, for sure,” said Rivera, who has taken out Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans to cover some of her non-tuition expenses. “My parents wanted me to focus on school and not work, but without scholarships that wouldn’t have been possible.”
No matter where you are in financing your next year of school, take Rivera’s tips into account. Be proactive by applying for as many scholarships as you’re eligible for. If you’re eyeing scholarships for current college students, you might start with Student Loan Hero’s $5,000 award.
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|1.19% – 11.98%1||Undergraduate|
|1.62% – 11.73%*,2||Undergraduate|
|0.94% – 11.44%3||Undergraduate|
|1.64% – 11.45%4||Undergraduate|
|1.89% – 11.92%5||Undergraduate|
|0.00% – 23.00%8||Undergraduate|
|* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
1 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through Firstrust Bank, member FDIC, First Citizens Community Bank, member FDIC, or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC.. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a first year graduate student borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7.10% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $141.66 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $16,699.21. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.
Information advertised valid as of 4/19/2022. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.
2 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
3 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.
Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 3.49% APR to 13.03% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 1.19% APR to 10.14% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Although the rate will vary after you are approved, it will never exceed 36% (the maximum allowable for this loan). Please note, Earnest Private Student Loans are not available in Nevada.
4 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Ascent loans are funded by Bank of Lake Mills, Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: AscentFunding.com/Ts&Cs
Rates are effective as of 05/01/2022 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 1.00% (for undergraduate outcomes income-based loans). Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: AscentFunding.com/Rates.
1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions, please visit AscentFunding.com/Cashback. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student borrowers must meet certain minimum credit criteria. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner. Lowest APRs are available for the most creditworthy applicants and may require a cosigner.
5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 3.47% to 11.16% annual percentage rate (“APR”) (with autopay), variable rates from 1.89% to 11.92% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.60to 11.06% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 2.59% to 11.82% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.48% to 11.16% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.69% to 11.92% APR (with autopay). For the SoFi variable-rate product, the variable interest rate for a given month is derived by adding a margin to the 30-day average SOFR index, published two business days preceding such calendar month, rounded up to the nearest one hundredth of one percent (0.01% or 0.0001). APRs for variable-rate loans may increase after origination if the SOFR index increases. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. If approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, the repayment option you select, the term and amount of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. Information current as of 05/04/2022. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. Loans originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 3.48% – 11.64% (3.48% – 10.78% APR).
Graduate Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 4.89% – 11.64% (4.89% – 11.34% APR).
Business/Law Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 4.49% – 10.39% (4.49% – 9.68% APR).
Medical/Dental Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 4.43% – 9.19% (4.44% – 8.89% APR).
Parent Loan Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 4.80%-8.23% (4.80%-8.24% APR).
Bar Study Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 7.39% – 12.94% (7.40% – 12.83% APR).
Medical Residency Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 6.99% – 10.49% (6.98% – 10.09% APR).
ERL Variable Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates are based on the 30-day average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”) index, as published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. As of May 1, 2022, the 30-day average SOFR index is 0.29%. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the SOFR index, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable interest rate is the greater of 21.00% or the prime rate plus 9.00%.
Fixed Rate Disclosure: Fixed rate ranges are based on applicable terms, level of degree, and presence of a co-signer.
Lowest Rate Disclosure: Lowest rates are only available for the most creditworthy applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, immediate repayment, a graduate or medical degree (where applicable), and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer. Borrowers should carefully review federal benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are considering possible loan forgiveness options, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision on our website including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
Eligibility Criteria: Applicants must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or eligible non-citizen with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer is required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. Citizens Bank private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/Promissory Note, verification of application information, and if applicable, self-certification form, school certification of the loan amount, and student’s enrollment at a Citizens Bank participating school.
Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
7 Important Disclosures for Funding U.
Funding U Disclosures
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are made by Funding University which is a for-profit enterprise. Funding University is not affiliated with the school you are attending or any other learning institution. None of the information contained in Funding University’s website constitutes a recommendation, solicitation or offer by Funding University or its affiliates to buy or sell any securities or other financial instruments or other assets or provide any investment advice or service.
8 Important Disclosures for Edly.
1. Loan Example:
About this example
The initial payment schedule is set upon receiving final terms and upon confirmation by your school of the loan amount. You may repay this loan at any time by paying an effective APR of 23%. The maximum amount you will pay is $22,500 (not including Late Fees and Returned Check Fees, if any). The maximum number of regularly scheduled payments you will make is 60. You will not pay more than 23% APR. No payment is required if your gross earned income is below $30,000 annually or if you lose your job and cannot find employment.
2. Edly Student IBR Loans are unsecured personal student loans issued by FinWise Bank, a Utah chartered commercial bank, member FDIC. All loans are subject to eligibility criteria and review of creditworthiness and history. Terms and conditions apply.