Students debunk scholarship myths

If you think being an international student, a senior, or having less than perfect grades disqualifies you from receiving a scholarship, you’re mistaken. Learn why from fellow undergrads, as well as how to apply once for several scholarships.

The student’s life is rarely easy: It’s often filled with long hours of study, little sleep, rigorous lessons, and a tight schedule. But for those who stick with it, the payoff is often more than a secure job where they can apply and grow their newfound knowledge — it’s the pride of completing a program of study and earning a degree that no one can take away.

The W. P. Carey School of Business’ Department of Information Systems is committed to the women and men who take the university path. From the moment students step on campus, they have support and resources to transform their lives through education. And when, years later, they look back on their years on campus? They want to share their best advice with the next generation of CIS students.

The college path starts with motivation: the desire to better oneself with education, to gain the skills needed for a fruitful career, or to drive transformational social and environmental change. For those who want to step up their game in life, W. P. Carey is the stadium. With faculty, fellow students, and staff cheering them on, the school is the right environment.

What is often forgotten is that the path to a college education isn’t affordable for all students. And while there’s money out there to help with their academic needs, students are not always aware of the available scholarships, don’t believe they can get them — or worse, they don’t apply for them.

Help wanted: dynamic IT professionals

“There is a huge need for people who understand technology and its role in the success of just about every business,” says Catherine Silverman, the enterprise program manager of global business transformation at Avnet.

Silverman, who graduated in 2013 with a Master of Science in Information Management (MSIM), says companies are looking for leaders who can both manage technology and communicate with others up and down the organization, and who can build diverse, cross-functional teams and create a culture of innovation.

“We nurture that kind of talent both in the business world and in our classrooms,” she says.

Apply once for several scholarships

Silverman is also the director of education for the Society of Information Management (SIM), a national organization of IT business leaders. The group donates several scholarships to W. P. Carey students every year and works in middle school classrooms to raise awareness about the impact of technology on education and the students’ future careers.

When choosing a scholarship recipient, the SIM committee looks for students who are serious about building a career in IT leadership and demonstrate financial need. Silverman says they also seek a balance of academic achievement, extracurricular activities that show leadership, and career aspirations in the area of IT management.

“Our candidates should have a healthy mix of these qualities, which we believe will result in smart, capable, and compassionate IT leaders for the future,” she says.

IS offers three scholarships to students: the Society of Information Management Scholarship, which awards $2,000 to each student; the Richard Malone CIS Scholarship, which gives $1,000 to each student; and the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) Phoenix Scholarship, which awards $1,400 to two students.

Getting a scholarship is possible and made even easier by the W. P. Carey General Scholarship Application. Students can apply once, and their application will be submitted and considered for many different scholarships.

International students need to apply

Lun Sai (BS Accounting/Computer Information Systems/Business Data Analytics ’19) says winning a SIM scholarship was a surprise. She didn’t think she stood much of a chance as an international student, and she didn’t think scholarships were awarded to international students often. Her doubts were unfounded.

Some scholarships don’t differentiate between in state, out of state, or international students. Sai’s $2,000 scholarship money took some financial pressure off and allowed her to add another major.

She says getting a scholarship doesn’t depend on where you’re from, your background, or your financial situation. “Share about your hard work and goals in your application,” she says. “Just be yourself. Tell your story.”

College seniors can get scholarships

Another scholarship myth is that awards are only given to high school seniors. Ian Harris (BS Computer Information Systems ’18) debunked that reason for not applying when he received a SIM scholarship, helping him finish his last year of school.

Somewhat of a scholarship pro, Harris applied for many scholarships throughout his college career, sometimes every semester. He thinks committees aren’t focused on a candidate with perfect grades or a certain financial need. Harris believes they’re interested in investing in the person.

“In my opinion, they are not only looking for people that are in need of a scholarship. They’re looking for those who will use their donation to contribute back to the community in some way,” he says, “or that will try and use the education experience to develop themselves and be productive.”

Harris suggests searching for smaller, lesser-known scholarships. “Sometimes those have a very low number of applicants, and your chances of winning are better.”

Quantity, plus quality are keys

Donald Alexander Henderson (BS Business Data Analytics19), Jaron Lowis, and Danielle Hess (BS Computer Information Systems ’20) are also recipients of the SIM scholarship this year.

“If there is anything that I would have done differently, I would have applied for more scholarships my senior year of high school and in general,” says Hess.

Her recommendation to scholarship hopefuls is not to take the application process lightly. Take the time and do it right, she says, and have friends or family look over your application before submitting it.

“And then forget about it,” Decker Rainey (BS Business Data Analytics ’18) advises. If you win, great, and if not, keep trying, he says. Rainey is one of the two ISACA Phoenix Scholarship winners. David Lu is the other recipient of the award for the 2017-2018 school year. The ISACA Phoenix Scholarship is sponsored by the Phoenix chapter of the Information Systems Audit and Control Association and is given to a junior or senior pursuing an information systems degree. Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA, be in-state Arizona residents, and show financial need.

Rainey, a senior with a double major in CIS and business data analytics, applied for as many scholarships as he could. As an Army veteran, Rainey attends school on the Montgomery GI Bill. The funds from it combined with the scholarship have helped him be successful in and out of the classroom.

The key to winning a scholarship, Rainey says, is to stand out. Make a compelling case why you deserve the award, and back it up with achievements and grades, he explains. “Everyone’s situation is different, and your differences can help you stand out from all the others,” he says.

Just apply

Soumya Shetty (BS Computer Information Systems/Supply Chain Management ’18) admits she believed some of the myths surrounding scholarships, but it didn’t stop her from trying. Shetty is one of three Richard Malone Scholarship winners this year.

As a transfer student from India, Shetty didn’t think she’d be considered for a scholarship. She also confesses that she is not a straight-A student. While she has maintained an impressive 3.5 GPA, Shetty says grades aren’t the most important factor when being considered for a scholarship.

“Prove to the sponsor how you are different from other students and why you deserve the scholarship,” says Shetty.

Angel Wong (BS Computer Information Systems ’20) and Sandy Chen (BS Computer Information Systems ’20) are the other Rich Malone Scholarship winners.

Chen says the most important step in the scholarship process is to go for it. Apply for as many scholarships as you can and be positive, she says.

The Richard Malone CIS Scholarship is the longest running of the three CIS scholarships. Supported by Edward D. Jones & Co., it awards $1,000 each to three students. The award honors retired Edward Jones’ CIO, Rich Malone, who was passionate about teaching the basics of business to technology students.

To be considered for the scholarship, applicants must be studying information systems, maintain a 3.25 GPA or higher, place in the top 10 percent of their high school class, or have scored in the 80th percentile on the SATs.

Chen says scholarship committees consider applications holistically, taking into account an applicant’s essay, their involvement in the university and community, and their GPA.

“Regardless of whether it’s a $10,000 or $500 scholarship, it’s always better to put all your eggs in the basket than none at all,” she says.

Additional award opportunities and tips on framing your scholarship essay question responses can be found on the Scholarships & Resources page.