Funds available at upcoming scholarship fair at DePaul

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DePaul sophomore Leslie Padilla spends countless hours searching for potential scholarships for political science majors, Hispanic women and even students with brown eyes.

All these categories have detailed qualifications students must meet in order to be eligible, but after two years of applying to over 20 scholarships, Padilla has grown frustrated with the scholarship application process.

Padilla estimates she has written over 20 essays for scholarship applications, each of which on average  required three essays.

“I just lost hope,” she said. “I just keep wondering, ‘am I not good enough?’ I have a high GPA, I was number four in my high school class, I’m involved in school activities, I volunteer. I thought I was qualified, but I get nothing.”

To help students like Padilla find and apply for scholarships, DePaul will be hosting its first scholarship fair May 14 in the Loop Campus and May 21 in the Lincoln Park campus from 10 a.m to 2 p.m.

Representatives will talk about the scholarships available in each college as well as answer any questions that students have about the scholarship application process.

According to Amy Moncher,  associate director of operations in the DePaul Office of Financial Aid, now is the ideal time to prepare students for the scholarship application process in 2015.

“We specifically pick this time of the year because we want students to have a chance to prepare,” she said.

“One of the things we have gotten feedback from students on is that they just are not aware of when scholarships are open or when the process happens, so we figured this would be a good way for students to come to one place and ask questions about their particular college office,” Moncher said. “We will be there as well to answer general scholarship questions.”

Most major colleges will be present at the fair including the College of Education, College of Computing and Media and College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.

The scholarship fair will also be a chance for students to familiarize themselves with DePaul’s newest scholarship search tool, DePaul Scholarship Connect.

DePaul Scholarship Connect, which was purchased by the university in 2010 and piloted in 2013, is an online scholarship tool students can use to search for internal and external scholarships. According to Moncher, all scholarship communication to students was done by the individual colleges. Since the introduction of the search tool, a majority of colleges and student affairs service departments are all using it to inform students about scholarships in their colleges.

For Moncher, this tool has created a formal online portal for students to quickly and efficiently find scholarships that apply to them.

“Most of our continuing students are receiving their scholarships through this tool now,” she said. “The question for continuing students is generally, ‘where do I find scholarships after I’ve come to DePaul?’ This is what this tool is for.”

For Padilla, the scholarship fair is the perfect time for her to find additional scholarships to supplement her current awards.

Padilla, who received two scholarships upon entrance to DePaul, has applied to various external scholarships since. Though unaware of the scholarship search tool, Padilla said that her largest concern isn’t with finding scholarships, but with the time-consuming process of applying.

“I think the hardest thing is getting all the materials necessary. You have to get letters of recommendation, write essays, get transcripts. It all just takes a lot of time,” Padilla said.

Padilla compares the scholarship application process to the college application process. Both are long and stressful.

“Finding the scholarships is the easy part,” Padilla said, “but the whole process involved is just hard.”

Padilla suggests that the scholarship fair be geared towards helping students apply for scholarships and add more resources focused on the scholarship application process itself.

“Sometimes students may need help with the essay portion of a scholarship and the writing center is so full. To get an appointment you have to wait weeks,” she said. “The whole process is extended further because of it.”

To combat this problem, Moncher said resources will be present at both scholarship fairs to answer any questions students may have and alleviate some of the stress of the process.

“Financial Fitness will be there to help with resume writing since a lot of scholarship applications ask for resumes,” she said. “They will also hold workshops that they will advertise there on how to write great essays for scholarship applications.”

For some students, the strenuous application process may not be worth the potential reward. Sophomore Megan Basham received a scholarship with DePaul after admission, but she hasn’t applied for any further scholarships.

“I haven’t really thought about it enough to apply for one,” she said. “But if a student really wants a scholarship they are going to have to work hard to get it. The school can only do so much.”

As for what tips Moncher has for searching and applying for scholarships, success comes with applying wisely and efficiently.

“We understand that students will see a lot of scholarships. We do our best in the description of the scholarships to indicate who might be eligible for this,” Moncher said. “Also, one of the great features of this scholarship tool is that once you fill out a general application and you consent to giving your student record information, the scholarship tool matches you with scholarships you qualify with.”