Scooping up unclaimed scholarships in SWFL

There is a lot of free money going down the drain, all because students aren’t applying for it.

Harry Brooks is a senior at Dunbar High School and he wants to be an aerospace engineer.

“I’ve always been fascinated by planes and I’ve always been really good at math– so I figured I’d just put them together,” Brooks said.

Brooks knows the value of a dollar, which is why he applied for nearly 100 scholarships and is still going strong.

“I have four siblings so my parents said they wouldn’t really be able to help,” he says.

His first choice is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but the tuition is also the highest there, which would be a problem for him.

As a result, he treats the scholarship process like a part-time job, spending a few hours a week applying.

Guidance Counselor Heather Davis says it’s important to complete the free application for Federal Student Aid form, or FAFSA, no matter what your financial situation is.

FAFSA is like an umbrella. Under FAFSA, students can qualify for grants, work study opportunities and student loans.

And while grades are important, you don’t need a perfect GPA to be eligible for scholarship money.

“It can be need based, it can be merit based, it can just be based on community service hours,” she said.

She says that seeing so many unclaimed scholarships is heartbreaking.

“These businesses — they’ll contact me saying we haven’t received any applications, can you push it out again? We’ll postpone the deadline,” Davis said.

But for students like Brooks, it’s music to his ears.

“I’m like, ‘Sweet!’ I applied to this one and there’s only one other person that is really going for it as well so I have a better chance,” he said.

When applying to scholarships, consider both national and local.

Also make sure you check with your place of worship and heritage organizations.

Davis adds that parents and students should also start preparing letters of recommendation and personal statements.

Financial Aid Nights

Collier County

Virtual Financial Aid Information Night
Thursday, September 13 at 6:00 p.m.

Charlotte County

Financial Aid Meeting
Thursday, October 4 at 5:20 p.m.
Port Charlotte High School

Lee County

Lehigh Senior High School
Tuesday, October 16, 2018
6:00 p.m.—8:00 p.m.

South Fort Myers High School
Thursday, October 18, 2018
6:00 p.m.—8:00 p.m.

Dunbar High School
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
6:00 p.m.—8:00 p.m.

Cape Coral High School
Thursday, October 25, 2018
6:00 P.M.—8:00 P.M.

SCHOLARSHIPS:

Foundation for Lee County Public Schools

Collier County Public Schools Scholarships

Southwest Florida Community Foundation

CollegeBoard Grants and Scholarships

Hispanic Heritage Foundation

Reporter:Allison Gormly
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