Financial Aid Secrets

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)? Pell Grant? Board of Governor’s Waiver (BOGW)? Scholarships? Will any of these funds have to be paid back?

Many students need extra cash while in school. The usual method of student loans is well promoted at City College. What about other methods? What about all those exotic scholarships, grants and study-in-Paris arrangements?

There are many advertisements by companies that will gladly ask for payment to show students opportunities that they might find on their own.

Jane Bryant Quinn, a well-known financial journalist, wrote an exposé on these sharks with a news story titled, “Beware Services Pledging To Find ‘Secret Scholarships.” She warned against ads promising “the shocking truth” and “amazing facts … never before revealed.”

And then Quinn asked the key question: Why would providers want to keep scholarships secret? The answer, of course, is that they don’t. They spend lots of money trying to get the word out so that their scholarships will go to only the best qualified applicants.

But there are scholarships that aren’t publicized. Jeff Wade got a scholarship because he is one-third Armenian. Here were his requirements: be of Armenian descent and a full-time student. No grade point average (GPA) requirement, no transcripts. Easy money. Did anyone at City College hear about this? Additionally, there are also three other scholarships for Armenians.

The Financial Aid Department at City College doesn’t necessarily help with scholarships. The Office of Student Affairs (room D-106) may help, however, with the approved scholarship list on the City College website:

There are about 48 scholarships (as of Nov. 2013), some of which are administered by City College Office of Student Affairs. By clicking the links on the website, they will lead to an application. Detailed background information about these scholarships is minimal and the amounts awarded tend to be small, but chances of receiving one are good. Take a moment to consider the donors, many of whom are on the City College staff, who make these available.

In addition, the college’s new dean of student affairs, Michael-Paul Wong, is looking into making scholarships easier to find and is considering ways to expedite payments to students.

There are a few interesting and unusual scholarships, mostly from the larger world outside City College.

Are you a writer? Would $50,000 help finance your education? “In order to qualify for this financial aid writing scholarship, a person must be born in the United States. In addition, he or she must be willing to spend a year away from the continent to improve their literary skills, unless a situation of pressing need develops. The winner does not have to be a published poet, or be enrolled in any educational or university program,” according to That’s the Amy Lowell poetry scholarship. This and more from

Some basic online research will help to find these, but there is something for everyone. Alphabetically, some examples are:

Asian Women in Business Scholarship:
Must be Asian, a US citizen, have a high GPA, show leadership and entrepreneurial success, full-time undergrad student. They offer up to $5,000.

City College Foundation Faculty Scholarship:
Up to $300 funded by faculty and staff. This and other in-house scholarships are available at the Office of Student Affairs (room D-106).

disABLEDperson Inc. College Scholarship Award:
Be a full-time student, write an essay and you might get $750.

Harry West Scholarship:
You’ve seen the Harry West Gym at the City College campus, right? One man and one woman can receive $1,000 if qualified. Office of Student Affairs (D-106).

Hispanic College Fund Scholarships:
Among the requirements: U.S. citizen; Hispanic; 3.0 GPA. Up to $50,000.

Islamic Scholarship Fund:
Up to $10,000 awarded to Muslim students who’ve been accepted at top-ranked schools.

Maria Elena Salinas Scholarship Program:
$5,000 for high school seniors, undergraduates or first-year graduate students who plan to pursue careers in journalism in Spanish-language television or radio. Write an essay in Spanish outlining your career goals and provide Spanish-language samples of your work.

Minority Scholarship and Training Program:
Journalism or broadcast major; 3.0 GPA; non-white U.S. citizen. Possibly $10,000.

PFLAG San Diego Scholarships for LGBTQ Students:
For 15 years, this organization been awarding up to $2,000 to local gay students. See for details, or visit, where you’ll find more scholarships.

Some of the best scholarships require planning ahead. Some you might never qualify for. Some you will want to share with siblings, significant others, neighbors or colleagues who you think will qualify.

Semester at Sea scholarship:
These scholarships are awarded by the Institute for Shipboard Education. Students must be an undergraduate at UCSD and submit an ISE need and/or merit grant application to qualify. Awards of $1,000 are available for summer voyages and $2,500 awards are available for spring and fall voyages.

Left-handed Scholarship:
From “The only scholarship for left-handed students is the Frederick and Mary F. Beckley Scholarship of up to $1,000. This scholarship is awarded to left-handed students who will be attending Juniata College.”

Zolp scholarship:
This one’s tough to qualify for, but worth the effort: “The Zolp Scholarship is restricted to students at Loyola University in Chicago who are Catholic and whose last name is Zolp. The student’s last name must appear on their birth certificate and confirmation certificate. The scholarship provides full tuition for four years.“

And there are still more …

The American Foundation for the Blind:
Removes barriers, creates solutions, and expands possibilities so people with vision loss can achieve their full potential. They can connect you to several scholarships. Go to for more information.

Note that both City College (upstairs in the A Building) and the new San Diego Central Library have a special room dedicated to those with vision difficulties. Braille and large-print books as well as special computers are available.

A website dedicated to the accessibility needs of blind students
is — a standards organization that encourages web developers to make their sites accessible to the blind.

For the deaf:
The best list of scholarships may be the one at, or just search online for “deaf scholarships.”

Veteran’s scholarships:
First, stop at the Veterans Center upstairs in the A Building and meet other vets and volunteers who can help you get started. The vast number of financial aid arrangements that are aimed at specific categories of military veterans preclude listing them here, but a search of “veteran scholarship SDCity” will get you started. Try this:

For various ethnicities, some search terms to start with:
Apple scholarships
Bill Gates Scholarship
Target scholarship
LULAC Scholarship
African American Scholarships
Walmart Scholarships
Oprah Winfrey Scholarship
Mexican scholarships
Google Scholarships
Sallie Mae Minority Scholarships

Single parents receiving cash aid assistance:
The L Building houses EOPS and CARE programs, both of which offer many valuable services. The CalWORKs/BELIEVE program is in the same building, run by Bernice Lorenzo. They can arrange childcare, transportation and more.

Also in the L Building: Price Scholarship. Offering up to $10,000 over two or three years, these will be available for up to 24 students. These are for local high school graduates willing to do community service. There are a few other requirements.

Undocumented students:
There are students from far and near who often face difficult financial barriers to higher education. Without a social security card or permanent residence, they don’t qualify for much of the available financial aid.

First, a Google search for “undocumented scholarships” will bring a wealth of information. Next, near the top of the Google results, there is an organization called Dream Activist. Despite the spyware at that site, they seem to be a helpful resource for undocumented people. Third, be cautious when dealing with companies, even nonprofits. Ask to see their financial statements and other proof that they actually perform as advertised. Fourth, know that City College and the entire United States benefit when undocumented students become a contributing part of the economy.

One final bit of advice from the 2011 Consumer Action Handbook:
“’Secret scholarships.’ If a company claims to have inside knowledge of scholarship money, it’s lying. Information on scholarships is freely available to the public. Ask your librarian or school counselor.”