Smart Money: Honors College Committee Helps Students Pursue National Scholarships

By Laura McDonough

The Youngstown State University Honors College is making an effort to prepare students to apply for nationally competitive scholarships.

The Honors College created the National Scholarship Committee to raise awareness of national scholarships such as the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, the most successful national scholarship at YSU, and the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, which received its first ever finalist from YSU last year.

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship has been awarded to five YSU students, with three other honorable mentions, since its establishment in 1986.

Ashley Orr, a junior and president of the Student Government Association, became YSU’s first ever finalist for the Harry S. Truman Scholarship since it was established in 1975.

The National Scholarship Committee will hold 30-minute workshops for both students and faculty to better prepare them for the application process of scholarships.

Amy Cossentino, University Honors Program director, is working with Angela Messenger, Writing Center director. Messenger will be training the student staff at the Writing Center on the workshop material.

Student workshops will focus on educating students about completing scholarship application materials, such as essays and what goes into a successful application.

Faculty workshops will help faculty with the do’s and don’t’s of writing recommendation letters for those who aren’t as experienced, and how to gracefully decline to write a letter of recommendation.

“We want to showcase our knowledge of the scholarships and convince students they are good writers who are great at applying for these [scholarships],” Messenger said.

The Writing Center staff is able to help students and faculty with scholarship material throughout the year, not only during workshop days.

“We want people to recognize that the Writing Center isn’t just for your composition essay or even your history essay,” Messenger said. “There’s other opportunities to benefit, even as faculty and staff, from the Writing Center.”

Ronald Shaklee, the Harry S. Truman Scholarship adviser, worked with Orr throughout her application.

“That application is probably one of the most complex,” Shaklee said.

The application includes three letters of recommendation based on different areas, several essays with different prompts and an interview process for finalists.

Despite some scholarships being demanding, students should not be intimidated enough to not apply.

Orr has been sharing her application with other students interested in applying to show them what got her to the finalist stage. She said it is important for YSU to continue to pursue these opportunities.

“One of the biggest things I got out of the experience was I learned a lot more through the experience and interview process than any other YSU student has,” Orr said.

Scholarships such as the Truman provide networking opportunities that Orr said are more valuable than the award money.

“The community the scholarship puts you in is way more important than the actual funds,” Orr said.

Though Orr did not ultimately win the award, she will always be able to say she was a finalist for the very prestigious award.

“Even with somebody who’s an honorable mention, there’s a lot of prestige that’s involved,” Cossentino said.

The biggest piece of advice Shaklee had for students thinking about applying for any scholarship was to contact an adviser and speak with them about it.

“They may say you’re an exceptional student, but I don’t think this is one you should be applying for, let’s take a look at this other one,” Shaklee said.

Not everyone is suited for every scholarship, but there is a scholarship for everyone and someone with more experience could point a student in the right direction.

Applying for a scholarship can be intimidating, but it does not have to be a solo venture.

The National Scholarship Committee is working towards better preparing the Writing Center staff to handle scholarship applications, holding workshops for students and raising awareness of national scholarship availabilities and deadlines.

“Go after it, the only way to guarantee you won’t win a scholarship is not to apply,” Shaklee said.

Students interested in applying for any of these scholarships should contact Amy Cossentino.

Student workshops are scheduled for Sept. 17 from 2 to 2:30 p.m. and Sept. 18 from 8:30 to 9 a.m. in Kilcawley Center’s Pollock Room. Faculty workshops will take place Sept. 24 from 2 to 2:30 p.m. in Kilcawley’s Stambaugh Room and Sept. 25 from 8:30 to 9 a.m. in the Pollock Room.