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Paying for college? Scholarships can help.

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A happy graduate in her cap and gown.

Puzzled by how to pay for a college education? Scholarships can help.

One of the very best parts of my job is presenting scholarships to members of the credit union who are working toward their college education. Over the years, I’ve attended dozens of senior awards assembly programs where I’ve had the pleasure of meeting one or more of the students chosen by our Scholarship Judges.

VACU has offered its scholarship program since 1991. Over that time, the program has provided more than $1 million to help students working toward an undergraduate or associate’s degree. Growing from very small beginnings, the program now awards 30 scholarships of up to $2,500 to help recipients with tuition, room and board, and other college fees.

Many organizations offer generous scholarship programs. At every school where I’ve presented the VACU scholarship, there have been civic clubs, local businesses, and community organizations making similar presentations. To find out about these programs, research the options online or check with a school guidance counselor.

One of the great things about the scholarship program at VACU is its focus on well-rounded students. Good grades are important, but for this program, the emphasis is on a student’s involvement in the community, extra-curricular activities and work that helps to earn money for school.

VACU applicants also write an essay about financial responsibility. In their essays the students have told us:

  • How they learned about money from parents or grandparents
  • How they handled the income and expenses that came with their first job
  • What they discovered the first time they saved to buy something important
  • The creative ways they learned to juggle the cost of college and why completing their degree means so much

The program is open to students of any age. In a typical year, about two-thirds of the applicants are high school seniors getting ready to graduate. The other third are current college students who apply for help toward expenses in their sophomore, junior or senior year. Some of the applicants are entering college after years in the military, raising a family, or working another career. Those essays are always inspiring and insightful.

More information on Virginia Credit Union’s scholarship program can be found here. Applications are due by March 1. I hope you’ll check it out and recommend it to friends and neighbors.