UALR has awarded more than $1.3 million in private scholarships so far this academic year.
That total includes scholarship awards for enrolled graduate and undergraduate students of the university, as well as law students enrolled at the UALR Bowen School of Law for 2013-14.
However, there are still a number of scholarship awards expected throughout the rest of the academic year as more students complete private scholarship applications.
Today, UALR has about 450 private accounts established, with more than 2,000 privately funded scholarships coming from each of them, according to Bob Denman, UALR vice chancellor for advancement.
While the number may not be as substantial as larger institutions, it demonstrates the university’s continued commitment to fostering the educational and financial needs of as many students as possible, he said.
“For us, philanthropy as a strategic resource is still relatively young, but I’m absolutely excited about the positive trajectory we are on,” said Denman.
After completing its first comprehensive fundraising campaign in 2012, UALR raised nearly $104 million in gifts and pledges. Student support funding received 20 percent of that, primarily in the form of scholarships.
About two-thirds of new scholarship accounts are earmarked for endowment, which continues to grow.
“I have every confidence in the generosity of UALR donors. They are deeply committed to the school’s mission as a metropolitan university that serves a diverse student body with wide-ranging needs,” Denman said.
“Promising students have every reason to apply for as many private scholarships as possible,” he added.
One such promising student is Syd Sample, 24, a junior who is majoring in social work. She recently earned a $2,000 Pepsi America’s Scholarship, that combined with other scholarships, is helping offset the cost of attendance at UALR.
To qualify for the Pepsi America’s Scholarship, Sample had to write an essay about the ways she intended to use her education to make an impact.
She wrote about her experiences in South Africa and other countries as a member of a mission-oriented organization following high school. The essay described the young children she saw stuck in a vicious cycle of poverty and neglect and her desire to “be part of infusing hope into the darkest of circumstances.”
Sample said when any scholarship requires an essay, students should find a way to convey what they are truly passionate about.
“There’s a misconception you have to write academic, stale, or simplistic pieces of work,” she said. “The opposite is true. You have to express your heart.”
Sample encouraged students to “apply for anything and everything you can even if you think you cannot get it. I’m one of those who didn’t think I’d ever win, but you never know.”
Too many left unclaimed
Stephanie Conrad, coordinator of private scholarships at UALR, said one of her main concerns is how many private scholarships are left unclaimed.
She said only a fraction of current or transfer students has used the online application to apply for general private scholarships for the next academic year. Although the scholarship awards are sometimes smaller amounts, they can be just enough to offset costs of attendance without having to resort to loans.
“Sometimes students are not aware this funding is available, or they find out too late and miss the deadline,” said Conrad.
Another problem, she added, is that some students are not as thorough as they should be, and they fail to submit a complete, quality application.
The deadline for filing the 2014-15 General Private Scholarship Application for current and transfer students is March 1. Decisions on the awards will be announced by June 1.
First-time entering freshman can apply for private scholarships by completing the academic scholarship application.
Conrad reminded students that each college also has its own scholarship application and selection process. In addition, if a student applies for a scholarship that lists financial need as part of the criteria, he or she must apply for federal student aid by March 1.
Federal student aid applications are available at: fafsa.ed.gov. The UALR school code is 001101.
All scholarship recipients are required to write a personal letter of thanks to the donor before scholarship funds are posted. Private scholarship funds are awarded based on availability of funds.
“It is a lot of hard work, but the rewards for that work are enormous,” said Conrad.