By KIM ESTES
Four Points News
More than one-third of the Vandegrift High School Class of 2017 reported receiving scholarship offers, which when totaled top $19 million in academic, athletic, fine arts, military academy and community awards. Specifically, 192 of 538 graduates, or some 36 percent, received awards, said Amy Rodriguez, lead counselor at VHS.
However, Leander ISD officials said the data could be incomplete.
“In the past, scholarship reporting has been an inaccurate process since students have to self-report. Some are really good about telling their counselors how much they’ve earned in scholarships, others aren’t,” said Jennifer Bailey, senior communications specialist with LISD.
Also of note, offers do not represent what has been accepted. For instance, in early June at VHS, 148 students accepted $7.31 million of the total awards.
“We’re always going to have greater offers than acceptance because students apply to multiple schools but enroll in one,” noted Steve Clark, LISD director of counseling.
As to total reported overtures, district-wide this year’s graduates received $55.1 million in scholarship offers. That is $7 million more than last year when LISD graduates reported $48 million in offers, said Clark.
Officials do not know why awards are higher for 2017.
“I don’t think we have an answer to this question as this is self-reported information. I hope we are doing better as a district at assisting students with scholarship applications, but it could be that more students are reporting their offers,” said Clark.
Among LISD high schools, reporting totals breakout as follows: VHS $19.07 million, Cedar Park $13.19 million, Vista Ridge $12.7 million, Rouse $5.26 million and Leander $4.87 million. The 2017 LISD graduating class numbered 2,574.
Looking deeper at VHS, among the known detail of these scholarships is that three students received offers from military academies and 35 received athletic awards. The largest awards given were from military academies. Also, among the athletic scholarship recipients, many received academic monies as well, said Rodriguez.
“The trend I see is that students who do well on their SAT or ACT are more likely to receive some merit aid from universities,” said Rodriguez.
For this reason, she encourages students to take these exams more than one time, and to do some sort of preparation for them. Students can prepare in multiple ways including making use of mock testing opportunities offered on LISD high school campuses in the fall, doing some test preparation with test prep companies, or free online prep through Khan Academy or by following the ‘test prep’ link on the VHS library homepage, she added.
Some scholarships, though, are not academic-based.
“Academically, our students are very competitive, but in the broader world of scholarships, it’s finding them in general; that’s the hunt,” Clark said.
Students should find scholarships that fit them and apply. Some scholarships are based on situational criteria, like those for students who have a parent with cancer, he said.
“In September and October, students should make sure all college applications are in and then focus on how to pay for it,” Clark said. He advises to set a goal to apply for a certain number of scholarships a day. The same or similar essays can be used for several applications.
At VHS, reported totals of scholarship awards have fluctuated over the years.
The class of 2017 totals surpassed the 2016 class, which equaled $17.13 million to 140 students, or 30 percent of 466 graduates. The class of 2015 holds the record amount of reported scholarships logging $20.89 million in offers to 173 students, or 41 percent of 423 graduates. In 2014, 33 percent, or 122 of 375 graduates, were reported to have received $13.6 million in scholarship offers.
Regardless of the totals, every scholarship dollar counts, especially local dollars.
“We have numerous organizations who go above and beyond to support our Vipers, especially in the scholarship realm. Our students greatly appreciate that support and more students apply each year to take advantage of these opportunities,” said Rodriguez.