Small Scholarships Make a Big Difference

November 26, 2013 | Borough of Manhattan Community College

Small Scholarships Make a Big Difference

Applying for federal tuition aid is built into the registration experience at BMCC. In other words, it’s virtually impossible to skip that step of the process.

But what about smaller scholarships, ones that might be offered by a foundation or private organization, and aren’t usually based on a student’s income?

“I constantly Google scholarship contests and research them, to make sure they’re legitimate and appropriate for our students,” says BMCC Scholarship Coordinator, Sussie Gyamfi.

Next, she says, “I use email to get the word out about scholarship contests coming up. For example, the Courage to Grow contest, which awards a gift of $500, has a 2.5 GPA cutoff, so I sort students by GPA and send an email to all who qualify.”

Understandably, she emphasizes the importance of students checking their BMCC email.

“Otherwise,” she says, “they miss out.”

A wide array of contests

The BMCC website lists scholarship opportunities, and off top of her head, Gyamfi mentions a few with cash prizes large enough to cover almost half of a student’s tuition for one semester, or help out with books or other expenses.

“There’s the David A. Garfinkel Essay Contest from the Historical Society of the New York State Courts,” she says, “and the University Student Senate scholarship, which is CUNYwide.”

She adds the CUNY Ethics and Morality Essay Contest to her list, “plus there’s the Dream Deferred Essay Contest about civil rights in the Middle East, and the Bird-X Essay Contest from Generation Green where you write a short essay about how you live green. And if you’re the creative type, there’s the Frame My Future Scholarship Contest, from a custom-frame manufacturer that invites students to submit a collage, poem, drawing or photograph.”

Support for the contest essay

The scholarship contests “are all very different and appeal to different strengths students might have,” she points out.

Christian Meyers, a computer network technology major, received several scholarships, including the David Garfinkel award for his essay on cyber-bullying, “The Day of the Internet Gangster.”

Whichever contest students enter, “The common denominator is that most of them involve writing an essay,” says Gyamfi, who helps applicants with that part, while the BMCC Writing Center is available for more guidance.

“Plus I do BMCC scholarship workshops where we walk through the application process,” she adds, “and students can talk to their teachers for help. I have a list of faculty members who have volunteered to help students with their scholarship essays.”

Scholarships within BMCC

Scholarship funds generated within BMCC include the English department’s Writing & Literature Faculty Awards of up to $1,000—funded through faculty and staff donations and co-sponsored in the past by publishing companies including Pearson Publishing, Cengage Publishing and Norton Publishing.

Another resource for students is the BMCC Foundation Scholarship Fund, which helps out high-performing, full- or part-time students who demonstrate financial need and meet other requirements.

“We send emails about the Foundation Scholarships to students who have at least a 3.0 GPA and have completed 12 credits,” says Gyamfi. “We also send a mass email through the BMCC Help Desk, to encourage faculty and staff to nominate students for the scholarships.”

‘Check your BMCC email!’

Gyamfi uses every available mode of communication to reach students and inform them of well-known and sometimes obscure scholarship opportunities that might interest them.

“It’s email, word-of-mouth, faculty and staff nomination, workshops; I go to the student clubs and promote the scholarships, and we post flyers and put notices on the BMCC website,” she says, “but mostly, students learn about it through their email so I can’t say too many times—‘Check your BMCC email!’”