WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?
While there are many online ‘scholarship search’ websites, these tools tend to offer a ‘one size fits all’ approach to publicizing scholarship opportunities. Students often spend hours searching for scholarship opportunities to find that they are eligible for very few. Once students identify potential matches, they must craft a specific application for each scholarship. This process is complicated, time consuming, and falls at a time when students are also applying for college, completing their HS studies, and assuming more after-school responsibilities. The time commitment and lack of guidance on the process, often results in the submission of very few scholarship applications from low-income students.
For this reason, many local scholarships either go unclaimed or lack diversity in their awardee pool. The problem is compounded by local businesses and associations who may be reluctant to award scholarships to low-income students because of the perceived ‘graduation gap*.’ Others may be unwilling to take a chance on students who lack the traditional college-prep resume, which usually includes volunteer work and extracurricular activities.
With proper communication in place, we believe that local businesses, associations, and colleges would be willing to invest in the education of talented low-income students. We also believe that low-income students would welcome community funding if it were easier to identify and apply for scholarships for which they qualify.
* For multiple reasons, students from low-income families are more likely, on average, to postpone or discontinue college education.
Nichols, Andrew. “The Pell Partnership: Ensuring a Shared Responsibility for Low-Income Student Success.” The Education Trust. September 2015. Web. 2 Nov 2015.
HOW WOULD IT WORK?
Our idea consists of an online platform in which high school students create their profile with information about their skills, grades, achievements and dreams/wishes related to college education. These profiles would be something similar to a Linkedin page, but less profession-oriented, to allow students of all types and backgrounds to show off their skill-sets.
We also thought about having volunteers assist students building their profiles to help present themselves in the best light possible. In the future, these volunteers could be the past students that have successfully used the platform. These students could also offer workshops linked to their majors or skills to help high school students develop new skills to become more competitive scholarship applicants.
Applicants would also provide information about their and their parents financial status. This information won’t be public and would be kept confidential for use only when expressly requested by the student. We believe this would help to simplify qualification for financial-need based scholarships.
Universities, organizations and associations could also promote their scholarships and search for students that fit the profile they are looking for. They could target applicants by sending invitations to students to apply for their scholarships.
WHY WOULD STUDENTS BE INTERESTED?
Students spend a lot of time trying to understand the system and they see some colleges as simply too expensive for them to afford. The platform could bring information to those students to help make some universities more accessible through scholarship assistance. Furthermore, they will have a place to show themselves and their skills.
WHY WOULD UNIVERSITIES BE INTERESTED?
Most American universities are trying to promote diversity. The platform could be a way to connect the students with the students that they are looking for. Furthermore, it always can serve as a marketing tool, allowing universities to target specific demographics based on their profiles.
WHY WOULD COMPANIES BE INTERESTED?
This platform would allow companies to identify and communicate with a cohort of students previously inaccessible to them. Companies would not need to invent new ways to promote opportunities for hard-to-reach populations. The platform would expose them and their message to a much larger and more diverse pool of applicants. During the recipient selection process, the platform would provide a variety of search and filter features made possible through standardized data collected with a common application form. Lastly, we believe that the portfolio system may offer a more holistic picture of the student and their personal development than is generally captured in an essay and a high school transcript.
HOW COULD WE PROTOTYPE IT?
We would start with high school guidance counsellors and teaching staff. Many high schools offer basic information on college and career planning, but simply don’t have the staff to provide in-depth guidance. High school teachers, coaches, and tutors, as well as students, would best understand the barriers the students face and well as their aspirations. We would like to develop a prototype in collaboration with a local school. Once a model is drafted we would present it to universities and businesses/potential funders for assessment and feedback.
The design of our prototype will be student-centered, however feedback and buy-in from the community (colleges & funders) will play an integral role in the design.