If you think your grades aren’t good enough to qualify for a scholarship, think again, says Sussie Gyamfi, BMCC’s scholarship coordinator.
“Students often labor under the misconception that there’s no point even applying for a scholarship if their GPA isn’t at least 3.0,” she says. “While grades are important, scholarships are often based on a range of factors, such as financial need, campus activities, special talents and skills, and community involvement. Grades may be only part of the picture, and well-rounded students sometimes have an advantage over those with higher GPAs.”
A wealth of possibilities
In addition to scholarships offered by the BMCC Foundation, financial aid is available from many outside organizations and even, in many cases, from the employers of students’ parents.
BMCC Foundation scholarships for full-time students require a 3.0 GPA and provide $2,800 a year; scholarships for part-time students require a 3.3 GPA and pay $1,440 a year. But criteria for scholarships available from other sources vary widely and may or may not include GPA thresholds.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a full- or part-time student, a U.S. citizen or undocumented,” says Gyamfi. “Don’t take yourself out of the running because you’ve simply decided you don’t have a chance.” The mission of the scholarship office, she adds, “is to ensure that every eligible BMCC student seeks out and applies for a scholarship.”
When it comes to researching scholarships, starting early is critical. “Completing the application can take time, and there are deadlines for filing,” Gyamfi says. “Don’t wait till the last minute to pull your paperwork together, get your recommendation letters and write your essay. Also, be aware that if you apply and are selected this semester and you’re awarded a scholarship, it won’t be till next semester—or possibly next year—that you’ll receive money.”
First things first
As a first step, she encourages incoming freshmen to visit the scholarship office as soon as possible—“ideally on their first day of classes”—and schedule an appointment to see her. “I can provide you with a list of useful web sites and walk you through the search process,” she says. Starting early and enlisting Gyamfi’s guidance “will definitely increase your chances,” she adds. “We can brainstorm about the types of scholarship you might be eligible for and the best ways to apply for them.” She also encourages students to set aside time at least once a week to search online and be aware of application deadlines.
Students are sometimes overwhelmed by the prospect of having to write an essay and wind up not applying. “That’s a mistake,” says Gyamfi. “In most cases, all that’s required is a brief statement articulating your goals and dreams and the qualities that you feel set you apart.” In any event, she maintains a list of faculty members who are willing to edit application essays. “But, again, get to them early, so you know they’ll be available,” she advises.
While the competition for scholarships can be intense, Gyamfi says, “There are ways to improve your chances. The important thing is to start early, think ahead and talk to me. I’m here to help.”