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Scholarship dollars? There's an app for that

WORTHINGTON -- High school seniors logging numerous shifts as employees at fast-food restaurants, convenience markets or grocery stores would do well to set aside a couple of hours to fill out an online scholarship application, advise Marilyn McD...

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Worthington High School student Megertu Balcha (left) works with WHS counselor Lakeyta Potter on Wednesday at the high school. (Ryan McGaughey/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON - High school seniors logging numerous shifts as employees at fast-food restaurants, convenience markets or grocery stores would do well to set aside a couple of hours to fill out an online scholarship application, advise Marilyn McDowell and Lakeyta Potter.
Doing so might prove to be an excellent investment of their time.
“If you’ve worked hard to stand out and succeed academically, why not take advantage of some free money to help you pay for college and higher education?” queried Potter, a counselor at Worthington High School (WHS) and one of 11 board members for the Worthington Dollars for Scholars chapter.
“There are so many opportunities for scholarships out there, and if students would apply themselves and take an hour or so to work on an application, it might pay off.”
On a local basis alone, the Dollars for Scholars chapter has given nearly $500,000 in scholarships to 1,278 students since 1984.
In recent years, qualifying WHS students have received Dollars for Scholars awards ranging from $400 to $1,200 to put toward their higher education expenses.
“I’ve seen what a help these dollars have been to the students who receive the funds, as well as encouragement, in pursuing a post-secondary degree,” said McDowell, the current Dollars for Scholars chapter president.
And although applications for the Worthington Dollars for Scholars awards may be submitted only between Jan. 15 and March 17, McDowell’s important message is this: It’s not too soon to begin completing the online application form.
Additionally, students who create an application profile through the Worthington Dollars for Scholars’ website can opt in to have their data matched to up to 1.5 million other scholarship opportunities via Fastweb, the leading website for scholarship and financial aid information in the U.S.
“With the Fastweb link, students don’t have to duplicate much of the basic information they’ve already input into their profiles,” explained McDowell. 
“Clicking on the Fastweb link essentially connects them with dozens of other scholarships for which they might be eligible candidates.”
The Worthington Dollars for Scholars program is administered in cooperation with Scholarship America, a national service headquartered in St. Peter. In turn, Scholarship America is connected with Fastweb, which yields the nearly instant possibility of students linking to other scholarship chances across the U.S.
“The partnership between Scholarship America and Fastweb is literally a million-scholarship upgrade for local students,” said McDowell.
“Students who fill out just one profile through our website may be matched not only to our chapter’s scholarship opportunities but to every opportunity for which they may be eligible throughout Fastweb’s database.”
Potter says she strives each year to inform WHS seniors of the numerous scholarships her office is made aware of, and she is confident more students could take advantage of the dollars available if they’d just take the time to research the possibilities and apply.
“We communicate with them about scholarship opportunities via their school email accounts, plus we post them in the daily student bulletins and keep an updated list on the ‘Student Services’ page of the District 518 website,” listed Potter.
“We definitely encourage students to take advantage of the money that’s out there.”
Potter and her fellow WHS counselor Dan Schnelle stand ready to advise WHS seniors about scholarships and other post-secondary educational pportunities.
“The Dollars for Scholars application can be a good way to get started,” said Potter, noting the odds for receiving a local scholarship may be better than those affixed to many competitive national ones.
“We’re willing to sit down and help students look for scholarships that might match up with their skills and abilities, and be good ones for them to put their time into.”
McDowell, the parent of two WHS alumni who both benefited several years ago from Dollars for Scholars awards for their college educations, has enjoyed volunteering for the organization over the past decade because of the positive effect she sees it having on student scholarship recipients.
“I believe in the value of higher education and the opportunities it presents for people,” said McDowell. 
“And if seniors start on their Dollars for Scholars applications now, they can get a ‘one-stop shop’ for scholarship searches and applications, without having to put in a ton of extra effort.”
Added Potter, “We like to see students who have worked hard, volunteered and been involved in various activities both at school and in the community take advantage of chances to get some extra dollars to put toward their post-high school educations.”

Applications for the 2015 Worthington Dollars for Scholars awards may be submitted online at Worthington.dollarsforscholars.org beginning Jan. 15; applications will be accepted through March 15. A link to the Fastweb database and its scholarship opportunities is included in the online application. Questions about the process may be directed to dfsworthingtonmn@gmail.com . Donations for the Worthington Dollars for Scholars chapter may be sent in care of Worthington High School, 1211 Clary St., Worthington 56187.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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