When is the best time to start preparing financially for the spring 2021 semester? Right now! Buffalo State College’s Financial Aid Office offers close to 200 scholarships through the Campus Application Portal for Scholarships (CAPS), and about 20 scholarships are still available for the spring semester; the deadline to apply is January 10. And time is of the essence, stressed scholarship coordinator Colleen Long, noting that scholarships for fall 2021 will become available in CAPS as soon as late January.
By creating a profile and submitting a general application in the portal, students are automatically matched with the scholarships for which they immediately qualify. They can also see a list of additional recommended scholarship opportunities for which they may qualify. Regardless of their economic or employment status, all students can benefit greatly from institutional scholarships. As Long explained, a scholarship in any amount that contributes to tuition, class materials, or other academic expenses can make the difference between a student’s being financially secure and juggling higher student loans after graduation.
“We have a lot of students who struggle to cover all of their charges, and they will often end up taking on additional loans through private banks, or their parents may have to take out loans,” Long said. “If a student can get even a small scholarship, that will reduce the borrowing over the lifetime of that loan.”
Even a relatively small loan of $1,000 can balloon over the repayment period, requiring a student to pay back much more than the $1,000 he or she borrowed, Long pointed out.
"I think there’s a feeling out there that scholarships are only for students with a 4.0 grade point average or taking extremely heavy course loads, but that’s not the case at all.”
While student loan debt has been a national concern for years, the ongoing pandemic’s negative effect on the job market may make it harder for students to repay their loans. Thus, there is no question of the advantage of a $1,000 scholarship over a $1,000 loan.
Furthermore, as Long explained, even a small scholarship is worth the minimal time and effort that goes into submitting an application.
“I tell students to think about applying for a scholarship like a job’s hourly wage,” she said. “Maybe you get a $500 scholarship; that could be a $250- or $500-an-hour wage, essentially, so it’s worth the time to look into it.”
Rennel Williams, a senior sociology major and social welfare minor, was recently awarded the Back on Track scholarship after running into unexpected financial difficulties.
“The goal was to work and pay for school. Then the pandemic happened,” Williams said. “I was looking around for scholarships online and didn’t realize Buffalo State had so much opportunity.”
Williams found her scholarship by searching Buffalo State’s different resources and consulting with the Financial Aid Office. She emphasized the value of taking time to research available opportunities, especially for incoming freshmen who are among the most eligible for the college’s scholarship offerings.
“Most freshmen are already overwhelmed with attending a new college and all of the other things that come with it,” Williams said. “And many may feel that if they have financial aid already, they don’t really need the scholarships or aren’t eligible.”
Neither belief is true, she said, pointing out the importance of seeking scholarships as soon as possible, rather than as a last resort.
Long added that many scholarship dollars go unclaimed simply because students do not apply for them.
“We’re very lucky in that we have donors and community members who have been extremely generous and donated to the scholarships,” Long said, “so we really just need students to apply. I think there’s a feeling out there that scholarships are only for students with a 4.0 grade point average [GPA] or taking extremely heavy course loads, but that’s not the case at all.”
While some scholarships have specific requirements, such as a certain major or GPA, Long explained that others are less tailored and expand opportunities for eligibility to almost all students, including full-time, part-time, and nontraditional students, as well as veterans.
The Financial Aid website also offers links and advice for applying for outside scholarships. Long advises students seeking scholarships elsewhere to start small, such as within a certain concentration, field, or organization, and branch out. She also encourages students to e-mail or call her at (716) 878-4902 with any questions about finding or applying for scholarships.
Photo by Bruce Fox, campus photographer.