Receiving scholarships is no easy task. Neither is applying for them. Yet, we, as students, do because the chance we could receive one is enough to motivate us to apply. I remember when I first toured Riddle, back in the days of 2018, and met a girl who applied to numerous scholarships and received so many that she didn’t have any student debt when she graduated. I aspired to be that girl, to have that perseverance.
Of course, the ERAU Financial Aid Office offers many good options, but they are only the starting source. I’d say, about 80% of applying to scholarships is dependent on your self-determination. Some students receive competitive scholarships through their ROTC programs, if that is what you like to do. I am not one of those students. Initially, I looked for programs through the clubs I was active in. Sometimes, clubs and national organizations may be funding scholarships for their members. I found that there were quite a few in aviation clubs, although despite going to an aeronautical university, I knew little about. In Cyber Defense Club, a group closely related to my interests, I learned about a few opportunities supported by WiCYS and applied to those. Sadly, no luck.
Then, I moved online. Gauging my status as a college student from my metadata, advertisements were popping up with sources of scholarship search engines, like FastWeb and Scholarships.com. Having had applied to many scholarships prior, I was tired of asking my professors for glowing recommendation letters, answering essay questions, and writing slightly tweaked cover letters for each scholarship. The minimal requirements for the generic scholarships online were greatly appealing, so I applied to many. Yet again, I had no luck.
At this point, I had an Excel spreadsheet of over 50 scholarships I had applied to. Fatigued but still determined to not have student debt, I traversed on. This was around year two of college, so I had already started accumulating debt. I decided that I needed to look outside my previous methods. I turned within my College of Security and Intelligence and Department of Cyber Intelligence and Security specifically. Perfect timing! Dr. Sampigethaya, the Department Chair of Cyber Security, was just promoting applications to the Department of Defense Cyber Scholarship Program. In 2019, our Cyber Lab was designated a National Center of Academic Excellence for Cyber Defense Education, Cyber Defense Research, and Cyber Operations by the DHS and NSA, making ERAU students applicable for this program. Recognizing the magnitude of this opportunity, I jumped right into the application process. Five months later, I received a phone call, a scholarship, and a post-graduation job! In retrospect, the process of scholarship applying doesn’t seem that rigorous; however, when I was in it, it was horrible. The longer it takes to receive scholarships, the more debt you accumulate. If you have many disappointments like I did, don’t give up! Working hard now can only benefit your future self, and honestly your bank account.
The scholarship application process is challenging; if you need assistance on any step, a smart move would be contacting the Office of Prestigious Awards and Fellowships. This ERAU Office can support you in just about all aspects of the application process, from formatting your resume to requesting recommendation letters from professors. To contact them, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Security Agency.