Elizabeth Justice, Assistant Vice President Office of Scholarships at UTEP, gave Latinitas the scoop on how to get involved with your community, how to get land the scholarships you need and the importance of Latinas going on to college.
1. What are the most important factors of most scholarship applications?
I believe the presentation of the application and the supporting documents that are requested are the key elements. You can see a big difference from an application with a simple one paragraph essay to one that has a cover page, is formatted properly, has an introduction, body and closing, etc. A committee member can easily see who put in time and effort on their application and who didn’t. The most important fact is that you should never feel that you are not good enough to apply for scholarships. There are many resources available to students and they should take advantage of those opportunities.
2. How important is having volunteer experience for a scholarship application or any kind of college/professional application?
I do believe that community service is important for a young person to experience as they develop, becoming involved in your community allows you to grow as human beings by comprehending what others go through. Meeting people and learning about their experiences not only provides you with an insight as to what other people have to go through but helps you to value what you have. The donors who provide scholarships are giving to students support to advance their education - as a student you should also give back to someone less fortunate than yourself.
I believe that volunteer service demonstrates to a committee member that an applicant is not only a good student but a good person as a whole. Being a recipient of a scholarship not only means that you are getting financial support from that donor/organization but more importantly that you are a representation of what they stand for and what is important to them.
3. How would you recommend teenagers get involved?
There are various opportunities that students can take advantage of to get involved in their communities. High school counselors can provide them with various groups and organizations that are looking for student support. They can join various groups and organizations at your school such as Student Council, National Honor Societies, Band, Athletics – holding officer positions especially demonstrates leadership and potential as a successful college student.
4. How can teenagers benefit personally from volunteering?
In addition to the groups and organizations at school, looking at your own church and even family can help you find something to get involved in. For example, since my mother’s breast cancer diagnosis, I began donating platelets which help cancer patients get through their chemotherapy sessions. Find out what is most important to you, what you feel passionately about and see what you can do to help that cause be it AIDS awareness, helping the homeless, volunteering at a women’s shelter, helping animals or just being there for someone in need of some love and support. There is no better feeling than knowing that you are helping someone out there who may not have anyone else in this world that believes in them. These experiences will also help you to figure out what it is that you want to do in this life. You never know when maybe working with animals changes your thought about being a doctor to being a veterinarian.
5. What other advice would you give to young girls to help them expand their resumes and gain hands on experience that is important for college and the work force?
From my experience I have seen too many students come in with great plans for themselves and then just get lost along the way. It is important to keep focus on school and make your studies a priority. Our culture tends to pull students away from making their higher education a priority due to family responsibilities, etc. You definitely need to be there for your family, however, most importantly they need to be there for you to support you through your college education. Organization and time management will definitely be a big help once you enter the workforce being able to manage school, work and family commitments. Being a well rounded person will help you succeed as you become a professional in your career.