Kim Hudson: Scholarship numbers tell a good story

High school seniors are wrapping up their final days before graduation. I can only imagine what an exciting, busy time this is for them. Wicomico County schools will see approximately 935 students cross the stage to receive their diploma at the end of May.

Some students have prepared for this moment since elementary school and some may be graduating by the skin of their teeth. Hopefully all of them have made plans for what comes next in their lives whether that is college, trade or technical school or a job.

I know for certain many students in our schools have worked very hard to secure their goal of attending college. Knowing how competitive and expensive college is today, I was curious to find out how many students receive scholarship money. The final amounts for this year have not been totaled yet, but I do have last year’s figures and I have to say I was a bit shocked.

Take a moment to calculate how much money you think Wicomico County Public School graduates received in scholarship dollars last year. The total number of graduates was 836 students from all four high schools. Of those, 269 students received at least one scholarship. So, how much money do you think those students earned?

My guess was $2 million. I was way off. In 2014 Wicomico County Public Schools’ total scholarship money was $14,989,127.00. That’s right, almost $15 million.

That figure includes all merit, athletic, academic, senatorial, etc., scholarships offered to graduates of the Class of 2014. Keep in mind acceptance into Military Service Academies includes full tuition for all four years which is valued at over $350,000. But that only accounts for a portion of the total $15 million since those academies are extremely competitive.

With that said, three Wicomico County Public School students were accepted into Service Academies this year. One student from Wicomico High School will attend West Point, a Parkside student was accepted into the Naval Academy and a second Parkside student was accepted into the Coast Guard Academy. And last year five students were accepted into Ivy League Schools.

I looked back over the last 6 years and there was a considerable increase in scholarship dollars from 2011 to 2012. We all know how the economy was at that time and Lori Batts, Supervisor of Guidance Services for WCPS, confirmed that families became much more aggressive in their search for scholarships to help offset the costs of college. In 2011 the total scholarship dollars was $8.5 million; 2012 increased to $15.7 million; 2013 saw $15.5 million.

The schools have remained fairly consistent in their portions as well. Last year Bennett led the pack with $4.8 million in scholarship dollars. Parkside was close behind with $4.3 million and Wi Hi was third with $3.7 million. Mardela, which has the lowest number of students, still brought in a little over $2 million.

So what should you know as a parent? WCPS has a new online system for scholarships. Naviance is a resource designed to help students navigate the college admissions process and it also houses all of the scholarships that are available. Don’t underestimate the value of all our local scholarships. Those dollar amounts really add up. The number one piece of advice I heard was to be sure students are familiar with Naviance. Don’t wait until your child’s senior year to encourage scholarship exploration. It’s a good idea to look now so you can help your child set goals and become more aware of what criteria the scholarships are looking for.  Information about Naviance can be found on the WCBOE website or through your child’s high school guidance office.

It is also important to encourage your child to build relationships with teachers, guidance counselors and administrators. Many times, they are the ones recommending students for scholarships.

I can’t wait to see the total scholarship dollars this year’s graduates brought in. Those figures will be available in June. I wish the seniors all the best. And hats off to everyone who works so hard to help secure a bright and successful future for the students of Wicomico County Public Schools.

Contact Kim Hudson at tkhudson@comcast.net.

 

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