Posts Tagged ‘Scholarships’

Scholarships year-round

Monday, November 8th, 2010

I know lots of top students who graduate with huge student loans and sadly, the main reason is not that they were turned down for financial aid or for scholarships while they were in college. No. The main reason is that they didn’t know where to find the money! So, let’s get a few things straight so that you don’t carry the same burden on your shoulders when you graduate.

1. Every year, you must fill out the FAFSA as soon after January 1st as possible, so the government and your school can establish how much grant money you’re eligible for.
2. Visit the Financial Aid office regularly and befriend the staff there. Explain your situation and ask for tips on scholarships you can apply to (sometimes they know about local scholarships that few people know about,) special programs they are familiar with, etc. I know many students who got most of their scholarships this way, by making their presence felt at the Financial Aid office.
3. Use a few different Search Engines and Websites to look for scholarships. For example, use and Fill out the form with as much information about you as possible. These engines will find all sorts of scholarships available to your situation: religion, geographic location, major, labor affiliation of your parents, etc.
4. There are scholarships available after Freshman year as more corporations are interested in supporting students entering their industries and make money available for Engineering, Math, Science, Medicine, Business, Agriculture, Green Technology, etc. The secret is for you to continue searching.
5. Ask locally. Many small businesses want to support their local college and offer scholarships that are not listed on the search engines. Your librarian or Financial Aid person in your school should know. In addition, many alumni set specific funds for certain students. For instance, I know of someone with different colored-eyes who set up a fund for students with her same condition.
6. Consider applying for scholarships as an year-round sport. Schedule time to research, write your essays and put your packages together. Make sure you calendar any deadlines. When you look at the alternative, it’s time well invested!

Like Latinos in College on Facebook to take advantage of a wonderful community that is always there to give you ideas and support your growth!

Putting STEM on the Latino map

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010


On April 1st, top thought leaders from the public, private and non profit sectors got together for the Latino Education conference organized by Latino Magazine in Washington DC. The conference featured great speakers and panelists who are experts and practitioners in the space.

The main theme of the conference was furthering the involvement of Latino students in the STEM fields. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.) You wonder why is this so important as to warrant a conference on the topic? Well, thirty years ago, the US was number one in graduating high school and college students. We were leading the world in science and math scores. Thirty years later we are near the bottom half of the developing world. Given that 25% of our country’s Kindergarten students are Latinos, and our community has a 50% dropout rate, the situation presents a huge challenge for the United States future.

These are some of the key learnings I’d like to share with you:

  • Eight out of the top ten jobs of the future are STEM field related
  • There are no lack of programs that are helping students succeed in high school and pursue a college education with emphasis in STEM
  • There is no shortage of talent in the Latino community but institutions, organizations and companies need to learn how to identify it better
  • Training teachers to teach STEM subjects is critical to the success of students
  • Taking an AP course and passing an AP exam increases a Latino student’s chances to graduate college from 15% to 65%
  • Passing Algebra by 8th grade is a great predictor of college success
  • It’s critical to scale up programs that work and to work with partners
  • We need to continue informing Latino parents and students of what’s available in terms of resources, opportunities, organizations, etc. so they can take advantage of all these.

    My question to you is the following: Are you doing anything that is related to this field that others need to know about, or are you aware of resources, initiatives, organizations that help students engage in this important field? Let me know!

    I’d like to continue to give visibility to those who are working in this field to help Latino students succeed.

    Non traditional ways to pay for college

    Saturday, March 13th, 2010


      I was recently interviewed on CNN’s Newsroom about paying for college and I decided to tackle this issue from a different angle. Instead of talking about loans and scholarships, as I often do, I talked about students conducting their own fund raising efforts (via raffles, concerts, parties, email writing campaigns) and exploring micro lending.

      The idea is to encourage the Millennial generation that is so technologically savvy and so adept at social-networking to think about paying for college from a different perspective.

      At our Latinos in College initiative we’d like to start a conversation about what you are doing to pay for school other than taking out a loan or getting a job. We’d like for you to share with the world ideas that might help students become empowered when it comes to paying for college.

      Here are a few more ideas for all of us who are interested in this issue to consider:

  • Start thinking about micro-lending to fund individual student loans
  • Engage college alumni in micro-donating to students at their Alma maters. A group of Harvard grads has started a company to lend money to Harvard students and are looking to expand soon.
  • Support websites like Lily’s List that function as wedding registries where students can list their loan and provide it to their family and friends to help them repay it
  • Open 529 plans for young children and provide the number to friends and relatives so that they can deposit money over the years in lieu of expensive gifts. (Here’s a question for you: wouldn’t it be better for your daughter to have a good education paid for, rather than a huge Quinceañera or Sweet Sixteenth birthday party?)

    I’m looking forward to hearing what you are doing that is working. This is just the beginning of a larger conversation!

  • Women leading women

    Sunday, November 15th, 2009

    dsc06735I’ve just presented at a Latina Empowerment and Development conference organized by Latinas Unidas de Harvard, a group of unbelievable young female leaders helping each other become our leaders of the future.

    Many of the organizers and participants are the first in their families to attend college. When you add to that the fact that they are in Harvard, one of this country’s most prestigious universities, (and other top universities represented by many attendees such as: MIT, Wellesley College, Brandeis University) you can imagine the impact this has on their families and in our community at large,

    I interviewed several of the students and here are a few tips they shared with me.

    1. Although students admitted at Harvard have a strong academic profile, that is not the key element that admissions officers take into consideration. They look at the individual and in their quest for a diverse campus that offers a rich experience to their students, they admit students with unique and interesting life experiences.

    2. Many students, both US citizens/residents and foreign students have taken advantage of Harvard’s Middle Income initiative and are getting a full free ride! You’ll hear them talk in upcoming clips we’ll post. Which means, these students are getting a 200,000 education for FREE. Leaving college with NO DEBT. How many of you, are either making the decision to attend or already attending a community college or state university because it’s less expensive than a private school?

    I met several students who work at the Undergraduate Minority Recruitment Program and the Admissions office and they are willing to help any of you who is interested in finding out more about how to apply to Harvard, to give you feedback on your essays or anything you may need to consider attending a top school.

    I hope you take advantage of their generosity and post comments here and through so we can connect you with them. It doesn’t matter if others say you are not cut for a Tier 1 school. It’s up to you to create a remarkable future for yourself.

    How to write a scholarship essay

    Saturday, April 18th, 2009

    As one of the judges for the RMHC/HACER national scholarship I have the opportunity to read a lot of student essays. Considering that we are talking about 4 scholarships of a $100,000 each, you would expect students to put their best efforts into writing a fantastic essay. Well, unfortunately this is not always the case and students who would be perfect to win this huge award miss out on the opportunity.

    I’m not going to focus here on what you need to do during high school to actually qualify for a scholarship, (I’ve written plenty about that in other posts) but on how to write your essay once you have what it takes.

  • Consider each scholarship application separately from others so you can understand what the goal of the scholarship is. Does it focus on a specific area of study? Does it focus on leadership skills? Or on community involvement? Once you identify what aspect the scholarship donors wish to reward, you’ll be better able to choose the topic and focus of your essay.
  • Think about a topic that corresponds to what the scholarship is interested in. In the RMHC/HACER case, the emphasis is on community involvement, so in your essay you should talk about how you have been involved in your community and how you plan to continue having an impact in the future.
  • Write the essay and re-write it until it sounds good to you. It should be a compelling story about you that lets readers know what kind of person you are, where you want to go in life, what kind of impact others had on you, what kind of leader you will be, how you have overcame adversity, etc. Judges don’t want to read “a list” of things you’ve accomplished but how those things define you as a person; they don’t want to read a sad story but how that sad story has made you stronger or has helped you make a certain decision for the future. They don’t want to read your ramblings about your heritage but how that heritage has helped you commit to do something for your community in the future.
  • Ask your English teacher, or an English speaker who is a professional to review your essay and give you feedback. Ask them to help you with your grammar and spelling. It is inadmissible that having time to have someone review an essay that could help you get money for college, you don’t so.
  • Re-write your essay until is perfect. Make sure that if you are using this essay again for another scholarship application, you go through step one again: carefully read the requirements for that award so that you adapt the essay to the program.

    These simple steps should substantially increase your chances of getting lots of money for school!

  • Aspirantes

    Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

    They are the energetic, professional leaders of the future and they are here now! The high school students members of ASPIRA, called Aspirantes, develop a strong bond amongst themselves that last a life time. I met several the other day at the Aspira of New York Annual Circle of Latino Achievers luncheon.

    Whether they are still in high school or they were Aspirantes 20 years ago, everyone expressed great passion for the people they had met through this organization. And just like when you are a member of any meaningful group, they help each other along the way.

    Joining organizations like ASPIRA ( that help them develop leadership skills while still in high school is a wonderful way for teenagers to open doors. Above and beyond all the mentorship and guidance they received during their years as Aspirantes, all of the students attending the luncheon got scholarships for college.

    Asking questions to expand your network

    Monday, April 28th, 2008


    Last Friday I presented a Networking workshop for the scholars of the Young Latinas Leadership Institute, a group of the 100 Hispanic Women organization. They are students at the City University of New York (CUNY) who receive a $1000 scholarship every year during their four years of college plus mentorship, internships and support from 100 Hispanic Women.

      I talked about the importance of establishing relationships while they are in college and that an excellent way to develop a good network is by becoming visible to others. That means, to get others to know you and notice you for your uniqueness, relevance and for what you have to offer.

        One way to achieve this is by asking questions at workshops and presentations you attend so you get noticed by presenters and participants alike. The key is to ask the right question! So here is a description of what a good question sounds like:

          • It makes you look smart while it doesn’t make you look smarter than the presenter

            • It allows the presenter to continue to show off his or her expertise

              • It gives the audience additional information that they hadn’t heard yet• It doesn’t put the presenter on the spot

                • It’s not confrontational

                  My suggestion is that before you ask a question at an event, you introduce yourself and thank the presenter for the presentation or for his/her insights or for his/her inspiration, whatever the case may be. Then go ahead and ask a question that is:

                    • Short

                      • Well phrased
                      • To the point

                      The idea is that when you ask good questions, most of the time, people want to meet you and find out more about who you are and what you do. And that is a powerful way to expand your professional network.

                      Future Latino journalists

                      Friday, March 14th, 2008



                      I was at the 19th Annual Scholarship Banquet of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists yesterday at the Hilton in New York. It was a wonderful event where a large number of journalists and other members of the media got together to celebrate young, future journalists. Soledad O’Brien from CNN was the Mistress of Ceremonies and John Quiñones from ABC Primetime was the Honorary Banquet Chair.

                      The NAHJ Scholarship Fund is named after Ruben Salazar, a columnist of the Los Angeles Times and news director of Spanish language TV station KMEX back in 1970, when he was killed by a tear-gas projectile fired by a deputy sheriff during an Anti-Vietnam War Moratorium that Salazar was covering in Los Angeles. Salazar will finally be immortalized on a US postage stamp to be released this year.

                      The students who won scholarships from NAHJ and its supporters are promising journalists who have participated in internships organized by NAHJ where they learn how to handle and integrate all different kinds of media from the printed word to the Internet.

                      If you are a student of journalism, or would like to become one, contact this leading organization to get all the help and mentorship you need to succeed. Top professionals who are experienced and passionate about their work are there to guide you:

                      Using fake identification

                      Friday, February 29th, 2008


                        I’m almost done with my month long duty as a member of a Grand Jury. Our job is to hear all the cases of this month and either indict the defendant or acquit so he/she can not be taken to trial.

                          One of the cases we heard today involved an undocumented student who used the social security number of a deceased person in order to obtain federal loans. The student filled out the FAFSA with this information and signed it confirming that all the information on the form was legitimate.

                            The department of education runs frequent checks to verify that social security numbers used to secure loans do not belong to deceased individuals. Once they detect an irregularity, that student gets “flagged”. Both the school for which the loans are being requested and the student are informed of the situation. The school can then request further proof that the student is in effect the owner of such social security number.  

                              In this particular case brought to the Grand Jury, the student presented a social security card with the number in question (which belonged to someone else) and a fake birth certificate.

                              The birth certificate was deemed fake because the agency that issued it verified that at the time of the student’s birth, the officer signing the certificate was not working in that office, and that the file number belonged to a different person.

                                Although we raised the question that perhaps the student didn’t know that these id’s were fake (maybe the parents had supplied the student with them), the jury still voted to indict. Which means that this young person will be taken to trial.

                                  I know it’s very hard for students who have been brought illegally to the country by their parents when they were children to accept that they can not receive federal aid to go to college. But there are many other ways of paying for college without using fake identification. (There are scholarships being offered at many schools, and others available privately. Please read more about that in other articles on this blog.) The trouble you can get in for resorting to identity theft is absolutely not worth it. It may even cause your deportation!

                                  Never miss a chance to network

                                  Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

                                  Two things happened recently to confirm my belief that you should never miss a chance to network.

                                    The other day, as I was about to get into a cab, a woman approached me and asked: “Are you going uptown?” After I confirmed that yes, I was going uptown, she asked to share the ride with me. I readily accepted, although this only happened to me once before when it was pouring.

                                      We talked until I got to my friend’s house and realized that there were people we wanted to introduce to each other. She was an executive at a TV network looking to change careers for which I could recommend a great coach and in turn she had a friend, the owner of a Think Tank with whom she wanted to connect me.We followed up with each other two days later and I already have an appointment set up with the gentleman she recommended.

                                        Then yesterday, while doing research for my upcoming interview on “Wake up with Whoopi”, I found a wonderful resource on the Internet. It’s a free guide to help people improve their chances of getting scholarships. I contacted the author, Christopher Penn, and he called me today. We agreed on cross linking our sites and on many future collaborations. His website by the way is:

                                          So give it a try, talk to strangers and contact people you find on the Internet who are doing something interesting.