Applying to Scholarships: A Concept

How you can go to college debt-free!


Sowad Ocean Karim

From left to right: Mohammed Islam ‘19, Jonathan Nicastro ‘19, Elinor Poole-Dayan ‘19, Amena Khatun ‘19 all give advice regarding scholarships and college.

May has arrived, and that means hundreds of college decisions (including waitlists) have already been delivered to seniors throughout Bronx Science. But along with those also come scholarship decisions.

Amena Khatun ’9 applied to colleges via Questbridge, one of the most popular college application portals in the U.S., along with the Common Application and the Coalition Application. While seniors generally apply to colleges via the Common Application, many from low-income families took the initiative to apply with Questbridge, in hopes of becoming a finalist and reaping the benefits. QuestBridge partners with forty different colleges, including Columbia University, Dartmouth College, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Through Questbridge, some of these forty colleges would offer a full ride for four years, with zero parental contribution and student loans. “I couldn’t say no to such a lucrative offer. My parents couldn’t pay for all four years so, I needed the scholarship to pay for college,” said Khatun. She will be attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology upon graduation.

“I applied as a long shot but I ended up winning some money, and it feels great,” said Elinor Poole-Dayan ’19.

Many juniors of Bronx Science took the PSAT exam back in early October. While the exam might be a great indicator of their potential SAT score, the PSAT also functions as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). In his junior year, Jack Nicastro ’19 received a high score on his PSAT and got word that he became a semifinalist in the National Merit Scholarship. “After achieving semifinalist, I decided to apply to become a finalist and be recognized for my scholastic dedication and commitment to learning,” said Nicastro. He eventually became a National Merit Scholarship Finalist in mid-February and received $2,500. Jack Nicastro will be attending Dartmouth College upon graduation.

When applying to colleges, many students are also given the opportunity to apply to college-specific scholarships. Some examples of such scholarships are Stony Brook University’s Andrew and Merrill Silver Scholarship, St. John’s University’s Ozanam Scholars Program, University of Southern California’s USC Dream Dollars Scholarship, and more. Elinor Poole-Dayan ’19 applied for McGill University’s McGill entrance scholarship. “My family won’t get financial aid so I applied to some scholarships. I applied as a long shot but I ended up winning some money, and it feels great,” said Poole-Dayan. Though she had only applied for the entrance scholarship, Poole-Dayan ended up being awarded an even greater scholarship from McGill University. Poole-Dayan will be attending McGill University upon graduation.

Throughout his senior year, Mohammed Islam ‘19 had spent his time researching and applying to over twenty scholarships, some of which he ended up becoming a semi-finalist, and finalist, and winner for. Of the twenty plus scholarships, he became a winner for the Horatio Alger Foundation Scholarship, an organization dedicated to distributing scholarships for low-income youth to pursue their dreams through higher education. Mohammed Islam will be attending Cornell University’s College of Engineering upon graduation.

There are plenty of scholarships for everyone here in Bronx Science, but the problem is not everyone knows where, when, and how to apply.  “Work diligently and plan out which scholarships you really want to apply for. Make sure you do your research and select a scholarship program beyond just for monetary value,” said Mohammed Islam ‘19, when asked about his advice to underclassmen seeking scholarships. “The application was due late September, so I had to let my teachers know in junior year that I wanted to try for this opportunity. I also talked to my counselor about it because I needed my counselor to sign off on all the colleges that I wanted to try for,” said Amena Khatun ‘19, when asked about more in-depth information with regard to QuestBridge. When asked about general advice to underclassmen, “Pursue subjects and extracurricular activities that you are truly passionate about. Don’t feel pressured into doing things people say ‘look good’ for college,” said Jack Nicastro ‘19.

Overall, the message is clear: Do your research, because it will be well worth it in the end.