SCHOLAR SPOTLIGHT: Christopher Guilcapi (Scholars ’10, Union County Magnet School ’14, Lehigh University ’18) Meet Christopher Guilcapi and hear his tips for scholarship applications!
How awesome is it to hear about young people who see something that they want, and say, ‘I am going to go get it!’? Imagine taking that approach with all of the decisions in your life, including the college application process. You must be willing to sacrifice your free time – including Facebook, Instagram, and Vine surfing time – to research, write, and research some more to do whatever it takes (with integrity, of course) to make your journey to your dream college come true. In making those dreams come true, you sometimes have to think outside the box, and apply for big and small scholarships.
Meet SEEDS’ alum Christopher Guilcapi, who recently graduated from Union County Vocational Technical High School, and is heading to Lehigh University in the fall of 2014. Attending schools like Lehigh University can be super expensive, and Chris knew that his dream of going to Lehigh was not going to happen with his financial aid package. Therefore, he took the chance and time to apply for scholarships.
What are some of the scholarships that you have obtained, Chris?
I originally applied for 7 scholarships, and received the Gates Millennium Scholarship, which covers all unmet financial needs, and can be used to fund up to a doctorate degree in specific courses. I received the Buick Achievers Scholarship, which varies in the amount of help it provides; I received $25,000 that goes directly to the school to help my tuition. I also received the Hispanic Business Council Scholarship, which have me $3,000 that I can use to pay for books and the Coca-Cola Regional Finalist Scholarship, which awarded me $1,000 that I can use to purchase a computer for school. Lastly, I received the College Week Live Scholarship, which awarded me $2,500.
What motivated you to research scholarships for college?
I did not want to worry about having to pay for college or making my college expenses a burden to my family. I heard about some of these scholarships through summer programs that I did (such as E2@MIT). I also had relatives and academic advisors from SEEDS talk to me about researching scholarships. I realized that all you have to do is tell your story, and you might get picked. So I decided to give it a try and go for it. I did a lot of my own research to find out about all of these scholarships like the Buick Achievers Scholarship and the Hispanic Business Council.
What helped you in your research for scholarships?
I researched the scholarships through multiple scholarship websites like fastweb.com, scholarships.com, and cappex.com. I also did simple Google searches for specific scholarships that connected to my interests and identity. For example, I would Google search terms like “Hispanic scholarships” or “popular college scholarships.”
How did you find out the scholarship deadlines?
Usually, the deadlines for many of the scholarships were due in the winter and early part of the spring (December, January or February). It is important that you look for the application deadlines on the scholarship’s website and mark it in red on your calendar. The earlier you complete the application, the more time you have to proofread your work. I would recommend taking two hours each weekend to complete the application essays. It is also wise to complete the application one month prior to the due date. This will allow you to receive feedback from your English teachers and Guidance counselors.
What did you notice about completing the scholarship applications?
I noticed that many of the scholarships asked similar essay questions. I realized the biggest step was typing the first drafts for all of the essays, because writing the essays for scholarships gets easier with practice. I noticed that I was able to reuse some of the main ideas for some of the essays I had written.
I also realized all of the applications needed multiple essays and teacher recommendations. So I approached teachers that really knew me well enough to not only talk about my academic performance, but my character as a young man and asked them to write multiple recommendations for me, because each scholarship was different. Some had recommendation forms and other required a letter of recommendation. Recommendations are very important and can really make you stand out from other applicants.
How did you pace yourself in completing the applications, while balancing school work and your extracurricular activities?
The most important thing I did was remember to not forget my main obligation, which was doing well in school. During my spare time, instead of watching TV, surfing the web and/or playing video games, I completed my applications and brainstormed ideas for my essays. I was able to manage my time and stress levels because I paced myself while completing college and scholarship applications. Each week, I completed a task for each of the scholarships to ensure I did not stress myself.
How many times did you have someone read over your essays?
I had my essays proofread by my English teachers and my school counselor. In all, I had three people proofread and edit each essay. I did because I wanted to know what their perspective was and to learn if my story was clear and concise. I wanted to hear their feedback as it related to grammar, structure, and if the essay sounded as if I was being true to myself and to ensure I was representing myself effectively.
Do you have any final thoughts you would like to share, Chris?
Sure! What I have learned is that you cannot be afraid of anything, especially when it comes to your future. You have to apply for scholarships, even if you think you may not have a chance to get them. You have to do this, because your story might just be what the scholarship committee is looking for. Perseverance is key, so give yourself options and run with it!