More than 500 students throughout Sampson County will be awarded financially for their academic achievements and work in the community.
Graduating seniors from Sampson County Schools (SCS) qualified for more than $15.2 million in scholarships during the 2014-15 school year. Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy congratulated the students and other people involved in the process, which included counselors, advisers and parents.
“This is an outstanding group of graduating seniors, and we are thrilled that their academic honors are being rewarded with funds to attend college,” Bracy said. “We feel that our district should do all that we can to help students attend college debt-free.”
College advisers/scholars coordinators Bambi Dove and Rosemary Simpson were pleased with the totals as well. They said the students worked diligently to receive the scholarships.
“It’s all because of their efforts,” Dove said about the students applying. “They have done an excellent job and we’re proud of them.”
Simpson added that the total amount was overwhelming. Previously, an unspoken goal of $10 million was set by Bracy and other county school officials to increase the total amount. Last year, the total was $9.2 million.
For Dove and Simpson, they believe it’s an example of how hard work pays off.
“I think the kids are surprised at the amount of money they get based on merit,” Simpson said about the students becoming self-motivated. “It’s an eye-opener for them.
The work and the awards allow the underclassmen to see what it takes to receive the funds.
“Too many of our seniors have came back and said ‘wow, I wish that I have motivated myself a little more,’” Simpson stressed.
In the district, all students are allowed the opportunity to apply to universities during College Application Week, which occurs in November. It gives the students the opportunity to take advantage of a waived application fee from private institutions. In return, students saved about $40,000 on 1,200 applications.
“They can also apply other times too, not just during College Application Week,” Dove said. “That’s a great time and we try to push it.”
Simpson and Dove encourage students to apply early for both private and public schools. Many state universities are using a common application, which allows students to apply to multiple places at once.
“It’s easy,” Simpson said. “Once you do it that one time, it filters out to those schools that you wanted to go to. However, it a time-consuming process.”
Along with students being responsible for sending appropriate documents such as test scores, they also have to submit a personal statement. Simpson stated that college officials want students to go beyond just their experience in extracurricular activities.
“They want to know something unique about that student,” Simpson said. “That’s where they have the hardest time. It can be discouraging because they don’t know what to write. Once they fine-tune it, they can use it for multiple applications.”
Dove emphasized that such work is one of several duties involved with making sure students are ready for college. According to SCS, the last day for students is June 9 and graduation ceremonies are scheduled to conclude June 11. Afterwards, many of the graduates will become first-generation college students.
Some of the scholarships received by the Sampson’s graduating seniors include the State Employees Credit Union, Golden Leaf, NC Community Foundation, Kiwanis, Lion’s Club, Breathe New Life, The Simple Gifts Fund, NAACP. The students also received awards from sororities, churches, school-based clubs or in memory of someone else.
“The philosophy that we have is that there’s scholarships out there and somebody is going to win it,” Simpson said. “You just have to apply.”
In addition, Simpson said the district received assistance from the SAT and ACT process through a program which encourages students to apply to four colleges or more.
“The more applications they put out there, the better their choices are at the end,” Simpson said. “They can narrow down their choices by making sure the college they’re going to is the best fit.”
As an alternative to beginning at a four-year college, Simpson and Dove mentioned how the community college route is also available. Doing so, saves a lot of students money in the process.
“Sampson Community College Foundation awards our students lots of dollars,” Simpson said. “They make it very easy for the community college.”
While discussing costs such as tuition and living on campus. Simpson and Dove believes students can save about $40,000 by staying home and attending SCC for two years.
“With the amount some of the students are going, they can go to Sampson Community College, virtually debt free,” Dove said.
At the beginning of the year, Simpson said students think they know where they want to attend college, but they may other plans after visiting several institutions.
“Our goal is to assist them with the application processes so when they do go to that school, they’re not burdened with student loans,” Simpson said. “We want them to be as financially free of loans and have scholarship money so when they walk out the door, four years from now, they are not hit with the students loans that are so publicized.”
Bracy applauded the leadership in high schools, counselors, teachers, and others who support students and their parent in completing the college application and scholarship process.
“These efforts are paying off and will benefit the student long-term,” he said.