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In Our Opinion
Every year the Cheney Free Press awards a $500 scholarship to a male and female Cheney High School graduating senior. All that is required is their parents have to be a subscriber and they must write an essay about why they would like the scholarship.
In the past we have had several male and female applicants, but that has dropped in the past couple of years. This year we had just two, one male and one female, both of whom are very qualified applicants.
The decline in Free Press scholarship applicants created concerns with us because it comes with claims from people in the community that a lot of scholarship money is not applied for and therefore not awarded. The escalating costs of post-secondary education at two- and four-year schools, and the fact that states like Washington are getting out of the business of funding higher education, leads more and more families to take out loans to cover students’ needs. One would think every opportunity at essentially “free” money would be utilized.
Scholarships do carry certain requirements such as achieving and maintaining a specific grade point average, agreeing to participate in volunteer work and like ours, a little writing ability. Scholarships do require motivation and desire to put in the effort to apply and meet requirements. Some students might be turned off by this fact, but others might not.
Information from local school districts revealed some insights into post-graduation paths of seniors. Medical Lake officials said 29 percent of last year’s graduates went on to attend a four-year university while 26 percent went to a two-year school.
Many students graduate with college credits from taking AP classes, and it’s typical to see these students applying for scholarships. Medical Lake had a record amount of scholarship dollars available to students, with organizations such as Dollars for Scholars also helping by awarding 41 scholarships worth $39,800.
While requests for information from Cheney High were not returned, past discussions with counselors have indicated an average of 35 percent of graduating seniors attending four-year schools and 45 percent enrolling in two-year institutions. Associate superintendent Sean Dotson also said in an email that he was unaware of any drop in scholarship applications among graduating seniors.
Counselors and other officials at both high schools routinely organize events such as student/parent information nights where higher education options and opportunities are presented and explained. The focus is on both juniors and seniors, and can cover everything from financial aid to how to complete an application.
Through testing, counselors also track individual students’ aptitudes and skills, and can then direct post-secondary opportunities their way tailored to that student. But while the schools do a lot, students and parents are wise to not place all their college-eggs in one basket.
Uncovering higher education scholarship money shouldn’t be left up to school counselors as they have a lot on their plate as it is. Parents need to use all the resources available to them and do as much of the legwork themselves.
It’s also important to start as early as possible, and not wait for a student’s junior or senior year. Understand the requirements that will be down the road and start making a path in that direction.
In a way it’s like sports – we put a lot of time, effort and often money into developing our students’ athletic abilities, sometimes with the hope of achieving a sports scholarship. It would be wonderful if we showed a similar focus for academics.