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Jumpstart for dollars - Local scholarship program offers new online format

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WORTHINGTON — The post-holiday glow of cash and gift cards from parents and other relatives might have area teenagers feeling temporarily flush, but Worthington High School (WHS) students can take action over their winter vacations to bring bigger bucks their way in the future.

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“The new online application process for Dollars for Scholars allows students to get a jumpstart on applying,” explained Marilyn McDowell, vice president of the Worthington Dollars for Scholars chapter.

With online tests, forms and social interactions now being second nature to nearly all 14- to 18-year-olds, the online Dollars for Scholars application should make it even easier for current WHS seniors to complete an application for the local scholarship program.

Since 1984, Worthington’s Dollars for Scholars chapter has given nearly $438,000 to 1,200 WHS seniors, with average grant amounts in recent years ranging from $700 to $825 per awardee.

“We love knowing that we’re helping students with the cost of paying for their post-secondary educations,” said McDowell.

In the past, eligible students picked up hard copies of the Dollars for Scholars application forms in the WHS counseling office.

Now, Scholarship America (the parent organization of Dollars for Scholars) has partnered with Fastweb (a leading website for scholarship and financial aid information owned by Monster Worldwide Inc.) so students can create profiles through the Worthington Dollars for Scholars website that will suffice for their local applications as well as offer them the option of being matched to other scholarship opportunities throughout the U.S.

“Students who fill out just one profile through our website will be matched not only to our chapter opportunities for scholarships, but to all other opportunities for which they may be eligible through Fastweb’s database,” said McDowell. “It’s exciting to offer students this ‘one-stop shop’ for scholarship searches and applications.”

And it isn’t just current seniors who can take advantage of this innovation; younger students can establish a profile (though those younger than 18 need parental approval to do so) and begin using it to keep track of activities and honors as they accrue during their high school years.

“That makes it a lot easier when kids get to the point in their senior years when it’s time to apply for college and scholarships, because they will already have a lot of the information in place that they need to complete those applications,” advised McDowell.

“Essentially, this provides an online way for students to keep track of their activities, and that can be a huge benefit to them down the road,” she added.

To initiate a profile (a more immediate need for current seniors who plan to apply for a Worthington Dollars for Scholars award during the 2014 application window of Jan. 15-March 15), students should go to www.worthington.dollarsforscholars.org and follow the links under the “Students & Parents” heading.

“Applicants should make sure they have a permanent email account to input, because that is one of the requirements,” said McDowell.

McDowell also clarified that, while there is a “Financial Information” section in the online profile, local candidates need not complete that to be eligible for the Worthington Dollars for Scholars awards; however, other scholarships indicated via Fastweb may request that data.

Last May, 28 WHS seniors received $22,900 in funds from the local Dollars for Scholars chapter. The scholarship applications are evaluated anonymously, with students ranked based on personal data, employment and extracurricular involvement, teacher appraisals, GPAs and ACT scores.

“The objective ranking process gives everyone a fair shot at receiving an award,” said McDowell, who has volunteered as one of 11 local Dollars for Scholars board members for the past 13 years.

Funds for the Worthington Dollars for Scholars chapter are raised annually as donations from local individuals and businesses, and from the annual Dollars for Scholars golf tournament in July, which has now taken place for 16 years. There are also several endowed scholarships.

“We really appreciate everyone who contributes to the program,” said McDowell, adding that numerous businesses donate as “points sponsors” for WHS football and basketball contests (for instance, contributing $2 per point scored at home WHS football games).

Other scholarship application requirements —including a short essay and recommendations from a teacher and/or counselor —are also detailed in the online form.

Urged McDowell, “We want to encourage students to investigate this online sooner than later, so they can take full advantage of the scholarship dollars that are available, both locally and elsewhere.”

Visit www.worthington.dollarsforscholars.org for links to the online Dollars for Scholars application, and/or to establish a personal profile for that scholarship and others available via Fastweb. Questions may be directed to dfsworthingtonmn@gmail.com.

Donations for the Worthington Dollars for Scholars program may be made online with a credit card, or checks may be mailed to Worthington Dollars for Scholars at P.O. Box 73, Worthington 56187.

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Jane Moore
Jane has been a contributing writer to the Daily Globe since 1997. Previously, she held professional positions in corporate communications, alumni relations and journalism. She earned a B.A. in English with a minor in German at Carleton College. Jane handles the weekly "Looking Back" column and frequently writes education, fine arts and news features for the Daily Globe. Her blog can be viewed at www.timeformoore.areavoices.com.
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