Ohio State Spotlight: The Application for Special Scholarships

Recently I had the chance to talk with Ellen S. who works in Student Financial Aid, specifically with Special Scholarships. She was able to provide me with answers to my questions as well as give me some advice on certain things that they like to see on the application.

What is it?

The Special Scholarships application enables Ohio State students to be considered for several thousands of special-eligibility scholarships that encompass a wide variety of eligibility criteria. The application is also free, just like the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).

How many scholarships are offered?

Thousands upon hundreds of scholarships.

What do I need to do to apply?

First, access the application through the Student Financial Aid website. Students are encouraged to fill out both their FAFSA and the Application for Special Scholarships by the priority date of February 15.

The application asks basic questions regarding a student’s activities and affiliations, family information, and diversity. It also asks for a personal statement. [Cue dramatic music]

I’m only a freshman–How could I ever have enough to write a personal statement?

Don’t panic: the Financial Aid office understands that by the time this application is due, first-year students have been in college for less than a year. While it’s okay to highlight personal accomplishments from high school, take some time to reflect back on your first year and the things that make you proud. Maybe you can write about a professor that you’ve gotten a chance to know better, or about some affiliations–student organizations, religious groups, residence hall, etc.–that you have on campus.

The personal statement prompt has no structure or format but does require that you stick to the 900-word limit. The application gives students some prompts to get your started, but you are not required to stick to those. Make sure to talk about some things that you can bring to the Ohio State community, as well as some of the struggles that you’ve had to overcome. It is recommended that you complete your personal statement in a Word document or similar software that can be copied and pasted into the application text box; if the application timer (found at the bottom of the application page) runs out, your response will not be saved.

Common mistakes to avoid?

NOT CHECKING YOUR SPELLING AND GRAMMAR!

In a world where everyone is more text-savvy, it’s easy to forget how to properly use certain words and punctuation. Make sure to have someone proofread your work before submitting any of your essays. You can check the Writing Center’s walk-in hours in Thompson Library to get some quick feedback on your writing.

Having an “okay” personal statement

The personal statement is where you need to shine. When talking about how a scholarship can help you, an “alright” answer would be “College is expensive.” A better way to answer this question is to take some time to reflect on how a scholarship can help to alleviate some of the stresses in your life , or how it can help you accomplish some of your long-term goals.

I hope this has inspired you to get started on your Special Scholarships application! Financial Aid wants to award as many of its scholarships to as many students as possible, so take some time–winter break is a terrific option–to complete your application by February 15!

Food For Thought

Campus dining plans at Ohio State seemingly change every year, and this year is no exception. Though the new plan may be confusing to novice users, I am going to go through each component of our current plan and share with you what I think are the best possible ways to use it!

Weekly Traditional Visits

Ohio State has three “traditions” dining facilities on campus. On South Campus you have Kennedy Commons, on North Campus you have the brand new Scott Commons, and one on West Campus is Morrill Commons. These are buffet-style facilities where you can eat as much as you want for as long as you want!

You cannot take food out of these places. You must eat inside the building. This is where you can use your Traditional Visits that you are allotted each week! Your Traditions Visits reset every Sunday night at midnight.

Your Traditional Visits can also be used at the market places on campus! We have three market places: MarketPlace (South), Union Market (South), and Curl Market (North). At these market places you can trade a traditional visit for a “market meal exchange”, which gives you your choice of select sandwiches, salads, sides, and a fountain drink…a great option if you are looking for a quick grab-and-go meal. This will save you from having to do a “$5 Exchange”, which is not cost effective at any dining location with the word “Market” in its name.

$5 Exchange

Different meal plans are comprised of different amounts of Weekly Traditional Visits (5 to unlimited). If you find that you are not using them all in a particular week (before they reset), you have the ability to exchange one for a $5 purchase at any non-traditional dining location (like Mirror Lake Creamery).

Dining Dollars

Personally, I think Dining Dollars are super cool and I wish we had them when I still had a meal plan. Dining Dollars can be used at basically all of the dining facilities on campus. Places like Sloopy’s, Oxley’s, 12th Ave. Bread Company, accept Dining Dollars as a cost efficient way to pay for your food (you’ll receive a 10 percent discount for all food purchases made with Dining Dollars). The coolest part of Dining Dollars is that they stay on your BuckID card FOREVER…well, at least until you graduate. They keep rolling over! Unlike BuckID cash, however, Dining Dollars cannot be added. If you use all of them during the semester, you cannot get more until the next semester you have a meal plan.

BuckID Cash

BuckID cash is cash that is on your BuckID that you can use at off campus locations. You can use it like a gift card, but you can always add more money on to it. Most off campus locations accept BuckID cash like Chipotle, Buffalo Wild Wings, and even the Kroger on High Street! Some clothing stores accept it also like Pitaya! (Ladies, go to Pitaya. It is great!)

Suggestions for maximizing your dining plan

Find the deals

In my first year on campus, Kennedy Commons would have chicken finger Fridays, and my friends and I–without fail–went to every chicken finger Friday. The Traditions facilities have great food! Take advantage of it!

Try every Campus Dining location

I lived on South campus and never ate anywhere on North. The first time I ever went to Oxley’s was my sophomore year and found out how amazing it was! I no longer had a meal plan so I was never able to eat there again unless I paid for it myself.

Appreciate your meal plan!

Speaking as a senior who has had to buy her own groceries and make her own food, I can personally tell you that meal plans are the best. There is such a wide variety of food on campus and you can truly find healthy options–take advantage of all of it!

3 Ways to Save Some Cash

April 15. Tax Day. What better day to talk about how to manage your finances as a college student? I know what you’re thinking…“Ugh, do we have to talk about money? It’s so boring.”

Yes, yes it is. But it’s also important. Especially as many of you will be moving off-campus and will eventually leave the Ohio State bubble! And hopefully, by paying a little attention to these easy tips, we’ll all be able to save a couple of cents here and there (which add up to dollars!)

saving-money-for-college

Create a Budget

Seriously. The importance of this cannot be overstated. How are you supposed to make best use of your money if you don’t even know what it’s being used for? A budget is a great way to keep track of all of expenses, so you can always make sure you’re on track for your savings goals, or to pay all of your bills. There are great online budgeting resources, like Mint.com, that allow you to integrate your bank account and see how well you’re working toward your budgeting goals.

Know Your Stuff

College graduates are faced with a lot of debt. Make sure you know what you’re getting into before you graduate! Read up on the types of loans and grants you receive, and the size of your debt after graduation. That way, you’ll be better prepared to pay it all off as quickly and easily as possible. Financial Coaches in the Student Wellness Center can help you navigate through your various forms of debt and set up a realistic plan for managing your finances.

textbook meme

3. Shop Smart

We all have a love/hate relationship with textbooks. Can’t learn without them, can’t save your money with them. Fortunately, there is a compromise. Make smart choices about where and how you purchase books! Always compare prices across bookstores, and know that online book shopping is a great option. Consider renting if you don’t need the textbook beyond the semester. E-books are often available for purchase online, and can be ridiculously more economical than the physical textbook! Always compare prices, and the beginning of the semester will be a lot less painful for your wallet.

Keep these ideas in mind, and you’ll be financially savvy in no time.

Happy Tax Day!