One of the hardest things about college? Paying for it. 

Three in four college students are stressed about money, according to a 2020 survey. A third say they’ve considered dropping out over financial concerns.

For mechanical engineering junior Benjamin Andrew, the worries about his bank account never stopped — until last year, that is, when applying for scholarships through Virginia Tech's General Scholarship Application yielded enough money to cover a year’s tuition. “My life as a student is way less stressful now, so I can focus more on my classes,” Andrew said. “I’m super thankful for scholarships.”

Completing Scholarship Central’s General Scholarship Application each year — by Jan. 22 for maximum consideration — takes five minutes and allows Hokies to be considered for over 3,400 privately funded scholarships at Virginia Tech. 

Being a great candidate for a scholarship isn’t always about GPA. Scholarships are available to students from specific towns or high schools, students who pursue leadership and community service, students with unique skills or backgrounds, or students who plan to pursue certain career paths. “Our donors love to support students that dream to do great things in the future,” said Rachel Smucker, director of scholarships. “There are all kinds of scholarship opportunities, and if you don't apply, we can’t award them to you.”

Scholarships are a key component of Virginia Tech Advantage, the university’s commitment to providing the full educational experience to students who have financial need. Here, four Hokies share why the General Scholarship Application is worth filling out.

“I didn’t have to ask my parents for help.”

Joane Mukeni

Junior majoring in mechanical engineering

Hometown: Dumfries, Virginia

As a freshman, I didn't know much about Scholarship Central. But as a sophomore, I learned that in addition to the General Scholarship Application, there are hundreds and hundreds of specific scholarships you can apply to, and those are the ones that I've gotten a bit lucky with. I check Scholarship Central before the semester starts and during winter break, and I'm learning to turn applications in as early as possible.

I’m the fourth out of six kids, and at one point, there were four of us in college. It was a lot. My parents immigrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo when I was 4, and they always pushed us to get our education. Receiving multiple scholarships from Virginia Tech has truly been a blessing.

I’ve had times when I’ve been in a rough spot financially, and it was so stressful that I couldn’t even wrap my brain around studying for my exams. With the scholarships I earned last semester, I got a tuition refund and was able to pay for rent and groceries for several months, so I didn’t have to ask my parents for help. Taking that burden off my parents is something that I strive to do.

Joane Mukeni

“Scholarships have helped me find time for what I love.”

Morgan Hendrickson

Senior majoring in political science

Hometown: Blacksburg, Virginia

Coming to Virginia Tech, I was very stressed about money. But luckily, there are a lot of people who want to support those going into the Corps of Cadets. I was awarded an Emerging Leader Scholarship that really helped lift the financial stress so I could focus on my academics and all my leadership activities. I’ve won several other scholarships too. I always take a look at Scholarship Central over my breaks when I’m less busy to see what I qualify for.

Because of scholarships, I can actually do the things that I love and not have to be like, “How am I going to afford my next meal or stay in school?” I’ve been a platoon sergeant in charge of 30 or 40 people, I participate in about 12 student organizations, and I play clarinet in the Highty-Tighties band. If I had to have a job it would be impossible.

That's why I’m so thankful for scholarships. I hope that in the future, I can give back to students with a scholarship, because it helped so much to reach my goals. Just a little bit makes a big difference.

Morgan Hendrickson

“It’s taken the financial burden off of my shoulders completely.”

Caley Hunt

Sophomore double majoring in accounting and financial planning and wealth management

Hometown: Saltville, Virginia

I was in one of my high school classes when I opened an email from Virginia Tech saying that I’d received the four-year President Scholarship Initiative scholarship. I was like, “Is this a scam?” I had to really look into it to make sure it was legitimate, and then I was like, “I did not know this could happen.”

I’d been planning to rely heavily on Pell grants and need-based financial aid, then take out loans to cover the rest of it. Luckily, the Presidential Scholarship Initiative covers tuition, room, board, and mandatory fees. I’ve gotten a few other scholarships too.

Because of that, I'm able to focus more on school and extracurriculars, like the Accounting Society and the Crochet Club, rather than spend every free moment I have looking at my bank account or working. The Presidential Scholarship Initiative even helped me go on a study abroad trip this winter to Germany and Austria. I don’t think I would ever have gone abroad if I didn't have this scholarship. It's just nothing I thought I could ever do.

I haven’t had to take out any loans at all. It's taken that financial burden off my shoulders completely. My mom and I are very, very excited that I will be graduating debt free.

Caley Hunt

“Having scholarships reduced my stress by orders of magnitude.”

Benjamin Andrew

Junior majoring in mechanical engineering

Hometown: Fredericksburg, Virginia

I transferred from community college in fall 2022, but I didn’t fill out the General Scholarship Application in time to get financial help that year. By the end of the school year, I was really struggling financially. For the first time ever I had debt on my credit card that I couldn't pay off.

This year I went to Scholarship Central and applied to every single scholarship I qualified for, even the ones I thought I would never get. I set reminders on my phone for deadlines, and I set aside a day to write essays.

I never thought that I'd get even a $2,000 scholarship, let alone enough to cover almost all of my tuition. But one day I got an email telling me I’d won a scholarship, and I was like, “Whoa, that’s sick.” Then another email came and another. It added up to about $15,000. I was amazed. This makes it a whole lot easier on me for the rest of the semester — and on my brain, because I was always worrying about money. 

Benjamin Andrew
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