Financial Aid and How to Receive It
Money was a big factor in deciding which college was right for me. UCI has been very generous with me and my family in the financial aid department, but college is expensive no matter which way you spin it. I was looking for ways to ease the financial burden, so I applied for some scholarships in the spring of my second year. I was lucky enough to receive the H.B. and Isabelle Yolen Memorial Scholarship last year, which is offered to four students in the Claire Trevor School of the Arts studying either art or drama each year. This scholarship has helped me and my family tremendously! I am forever indebted to the generous folks who have helped make my academic career at UCI possible, and now I want to spread the word about how wonderful scholarships are, and how to apply for them (which is easier than you think)!
There are two types of scholarships: need-based and merit-based. Need-based scholarships are awarded based on financial need, and merit-based scholarships are awarded for accomplishments, often academic or leadership based.
We have a total of 80 scholarships available to undergraduates, many awarded to multiple students, and that’s just what’s listed on the Financial Aid and Scholarships website! There also may be opportunities for additional scholarships through various academic departments, and there are even more external scholarship opportunities that you can explore through UCI’s Scholarships Database.
Note that this post focuses on scholarships, not financial aid in general. More information about grants, loans, and work-study can be found here.
So, how do I apply for scholarships?
First, go to the “Scholarships” section of the Financial Aid and Scholarships website. Then, check out the links for your academic status, whether you’re a current undergrad, transfer student, graduate student, or an incoming freshman.
Once you’re in the right section, browse through the scholarships and see which ones fit for you. Some might be directed toward students of a certain school or major, while others might have a minimum GPA requirement, and others are open to everyone. Take some time to go through them, and make a list of which ones you might be eligible for. If any have any extra requirements, such as a letter of recommendation or a resume, take note of that and be sure to have them ready before the deadline.
Once you’ve done that, take a look at the online application. I recommend responding to the questions in a separate document, and then copy and pasting them into the application once you’re all finished. That way, you can be sure to save your work if you don’t finish all of the questions in one sitting.
You will first select which scholarships you’re applying for. After that, you’ll fill out sections about any previous colleges you’ve attended (if applicable), list research, leadership, and/or service projects, any scholarships/honors/awards you have received, and any past or current employment. If you don’t have a ton of stuff to put in these sections, that’s okay. Some of the scholarships. Not having the boxes overflowing with information doesn’t mean you won’t be considered!
Then, there’s the essay. Some people get freaked out when they hear the word “essay,” but it’s not as scary as it sounds. Here’s what the prompt says:
“Please include a personal statement of approximately 700 words that highlights your accomplishments and intellectual interests. Please describe any extracurricular or volunteer activities, especially those related to your academic or professional pursuits. Should you wish to write a separate essay for each scholarship, you may do so by completing a separate scholarship application for each.”
Write about what you’ve loved in your academic career, whether it’s your professional fraternity, a religious club, or studying Sociology. Let the people reading this essay get some insight into what sparks your passion.
Once you’ve written the essay, there’s a section called “Your Qualifications,” where you can talk about why you are a good candidate for the scholarships for which you are applying. There are also details listed for what to include if you are applying for scholarships that require extra materials.
So the basic steps to applying for scholarships are:
Find applicable scholarships
Fill out the online application, including a 700-word essay
Keep in mind, the online application I’ve gone through is specifically for UCI-based scholarships, so if you decide to apply for scholarships outside of UCI, there will be separate application processes.