Monday, November 10, 2014

Scholarships = Free Money

Image of graduation cap stacked on top of books next to diploma

Among the greatest concerns of new and returning students— and families funding their education— is how to pay for college now and the debt after graduation. Scholarships are one of the best ways to cover expenses because you don’t have to pay them back, yet so many students don’t take advantage of them, leaving thousands of dollars unclaimed. Why?

There seem to be a few misconceptions about scholarships. Among the most common is that applicants need to have a 4.0 GPA, long list of outstanding achievements and awards or a great financial hardship. While others think they don’t have the time, know-how or ability to submit a good essay or don’t think a $200 scholarship is worth their time.

This is definitely one of those scenarios where you won’t know for sure unless you investigate and give it a try. The few hours you spend on a scholarship application will be well worth the investment, at the very least, a good learning experience and practice at mastering the application process.

Case in point— there are dozens of scholarship opportunities made available through the Maricopa Community Colleges District Foundation (MCCDF) and students only have to complete one application for multiple scholarships.

image of two students working side-by-side in a classroom.

Included are many opportunities for U.S. citizens with a GPA of 3.0 or higher, a record of volunteerism and a determination to pursue higher learning, especially students who have a financial need. There are also a few opportunities for students with lower grade point averages.

The Nina Mason Pulliam Legacy Scholars (NMPLS) Program is also included. It is available to Maricopa Community Colleges students who are: college-age youth and adults living with physical disabilities; adults 25 years or older with dependents; and incoming freshmen ages 18-25, raised through the child welfare system and have no form of financial support. The program covers full tuition, fees and books, while providing each student with an academic advisor and mentor. It also includes a $2,750 annual living allowance. Visit for eligibility definitions and more details.

There are ten scholarship opportunities specifically for Rio Salado College students and employees, including the We Are Rio Employee Scholarship fund and the new Arizona Public Service Foundation I2teach Scholarship Fund, which is helping adults who have a bachelor’s degree transition into teaching careers, especially those interested in teaching STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics) related classes.

Time is of the essence for the spring 2015 application. The deadline for most of the current listings is Nov. 15.

The web site for the application is Type “Rio Salado” into the search engine to find opportunities unique to the college.

MCCCDF scholarships are available annually, in the spring and fall. A Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) may be required in order to apply. To learn more, visit

Visit this Maricopa Colleges web page: to watch a video tutorial about successful tips and strategies to consider in all of your scholarship applications. Rio Salado students who need additional help can reach college counselors at

There are dozens of other local and national scholarship opportunities—and other funding options to help reduce college debt. Visit this Rio Salado resource page to learn more:

This story can also be found in the Nov. 8, 2014 edition of the Tempe Republic. By Annette Flores, Manager of Rio Salado College Media Relations