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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Students find alternative scholarships

Finding money for your college tuition has always been a difficult task to master. While some invest their skills in part-time jobs, others apply for financial aid and scholarships to earn money they need for their education.

Fortunately, UC Davis offers restricted Cal Aggie Alumni Association (CAAA) scholarships that focus on more than just grades and income that may make the hunt for financial solace easier.

The alternative CAAA scholarship differs from a “normal” scholarship in the restriction step. When applying for a CAAA scholarship, students can check off certain things that apply to them – what county they are from, what field they are studying in, or extenuating circumstances that might make them stand out among others.

Standing out from one’s fellow peers is among the greater challenges of obtaining a scholarship.

“If a student is eligible for a restricted scholarship, he or she increases the chance of receiving a scholarship,” said Mark Foncannon, assistant director of undergraduate scholarships. “He or she is no longer competing with all other scholarship eligible students for more general, unrestricted awards, and may only be up against one or a few other students competing for a restricted scholarship.”

These restricted scholarships help by sorting students into more specific categories in order to narrow down the competition.

“Restricted scholarships can be used strategically to support students from various demographics, such as those from rural counties, disadvantaged homes, low-performing high schools, other countries, etc.” Foncannon said in an e-mail interview.

Aside from the competition one faces, alternative scholarships can also give those who feel they don’t qualify for other scholarships a running chance.

“Just because you don’t come from financial hardships does not make college cheap. It is still a large burden,” said Cody Torgersrud, junior design major. “My grades are not stellar and I come from a middle class family which cuts out a lot of conventional scholarships.”

Torgersrud received a scholarship based on his home county.

“These alternative scholarships allow help for students that would normally be left out,” Togersrud said in an e-mail interview.

To receive these scholarships, which rage from $1,000 to $10,000, students must still withhold a minimum 3.25 GPA. Student financial need is often used as a tiebreaker to determine who gets the scholarship, said Richard Engel, assistant vice chancellor for alumni relations.

“The difference comes in the wishes of the donor. CAAA scholarships are often regionally based (Yolo County student, Stockton area, etc.). The donors determine whether financial need is a criteria or not,” Engel said in an e-mail interview.

These donors award different types of scholarships that fulfill various backgrounds. A handful of scholarships cater to extenuating circumstances. Marchez Shurn, a junior sociology major, received a scholarship due to these circumstances.

“I am a single mother, which I don’t want to call a disadvantage because I love my child more than life itself,” Shurn said. “Having said that, raising my son alone poses obvious challenges.”

Shurn factored in her familial and economic situation when applying for her scholarship, and qualified for the Fang J. and Ellen C. Lee Scholarship.

“This scholarship is for financially needy undergraduate students who are single parents, with preference to women, who have a child or children – none of whom shall be older than 6 years of age,” Foncannon said.

Other types of scholarships that students can be awarded are broader and focus on aspects like leadership experience.

“I got the Cal Aggie Alumni Leadership scholarship which was awarded off of leadership skill,” said first-year biological sciences major Irene Rios.

Rios gained her edge through volunteer work. She participated in numerous extracurricular activities in high school, from president of the Hispanic club to tutoring for various sports classes at her elementary school.

“It was difficult to compete with peers who were sporting a 4.5 GPA when I had a 4.13,” Rios said. “Being involved with a lot of extracurricular activities that I enjoyed doing helped me be more well rounded, giving me more of an advantage.”

Students don’t need to rely solely on achievement or extenuating circumstances to obtain these restrictive scholarships. In fact, many are awarded based on factors that students automatically fall into such as major choice.

“The only restrictive scholarships I’ve applied for have been related to field of study, such as a major and research related to agriculture and environmental sciences. Or, scholarships with preference for students who graduated from high school in a certain county, of all things,” said Christina Connell, a graduate student in land, air and water resources in an e-mail interview.

INDU SUDHAKAR can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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