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The UCF Alumni Association collects hundreds to thousands of dollars each year to give right back to its students through scholarships.

For senior Erica Chu, the Alumni Association awarded her the Alumni Legacy Scholarship — a $1,500 award for outstanding students with parents who graduated from UCF — to make her dreams of attending UCF possible.

“I was ecstatic when I found out I won the scholarship,” said Chu, a biomedical sciences major. “Every little thing counts when you’re paying for college.”

Chu said receiving the scholarship has not only helped her financially, but has also increased her networking with alumni, including those who selected her to win the scholarship.

“It’s great to meet people who graduated from UCF, and are now so successful and want to give back,” she said. “That’s something I want to do when I graduate.”

The Alumni Association awards 12 scholarships, as well as 11 scholarships from alumni chapters and clubs, said Carla Cordoba, the associate director of Alumni and Student Relations.

“Last year, we had a good year in our endowments, and we were able to increase the majority of the scholarships by $500,” Cordoba said.

In 2015, the Alumni Association awarded more than $55,000 in scholarships to UCF students.

Heather Junod, the director of the UCF Fund, said there are a lot of ways the Alumni Association receives this money to fund these scholarships.

The Fund utilizes e-solicitation, direct mail, phone campaigns, faculty/staff campaigns and a student philanthropy program to reach out to potential donors. The Fund prefers more face-to-face solicitation rather than phone calls because it often garners better results. For example, the average donation is $86 on the phone, $270 for e-solicitation and $130 by mail, but face-to-face gifts are much larger, sometimes in the millions.

Junod said the Fund asks every alumni with up-to-date information to donate — which is more than 226,000. Of this, about 7,000 donate, or a little more than 3 percent of alumni.

“At our call center, students like to talk to alumni about donating to scholarships because the student callers are often on scholarships,” she said.

To apply for alumni scholarships, students must fill out an application on their myUCF account. If a student is eligible for an alumni scholarship, it will automatically appear in their scholarship listing. Most scholarships also require an essay, recommendation letter and an activity summary.

“Scholarships aren’t going to come to you — you have to look for them,” Chu said. “The Alumni Association does a great job advertising the scholarships; people just have to take the next step and actually apply.”

She also said it is important for students to be themselves when writing application essays.

“They can tell in your writing if you’re being fake or lying,” she said. “Stand out and have a personal story that they can connect to.”

In Chu’s application, she wrote a personal essay about how UCF has opened so many doors for her father. She also described how the university has already given her innumerable opportunities, such as research and networking.

After the applications are submitted, the three-month-long reviewing process begins.

“We want to make sure we are being diligent in reading everything and paying attention because students took the time to put the application in,” Cordoba said.

A team of student assistants first checks the applicants’ eligibility to make sure they meet all of the necessary criteria for the scholarship. The applicants are then scored using a point system.

“For example, if you’re a member of a club, you get so many points. If you’re an officer, you get more points,” Cordoba said. “Everybody gets the same formula applied to them across the board.”

Once the applicants have been rated, the selection committee of alumni, faculty and staff reviews the top 10 to 15 students. The committee then submits the top-three candidates for each category, and another point system is implemented. The final three are discussed, and the winner is decided.

Reaching out through email, postcards and banner advertisements, there has been an increase in students who have been applying for these scholarships.

“We had over 500 applications, which is a third more than we had last year,” Cordoba said. “People are really taking advantage of the scholarships.”

However, with more applicants comes more competition.

“The caliber of students that are applying are amazing,” Cordoba said. “We’re truly picking those who are thoroughly involved and in the top echelon of students.”

To name a scholarship requires $10,000, and alumni who wish to contribute can name a scholarship or create an endowment.

“To endow something, you have to have $25,000, which gets invested and earns appreciation,” Cordoba said. “The idea is to keep building the endowment so it gains gratuity and lives on.”

How to apply for alumni scholarships from ucfalumni.com:

  1. Read all scholarship criteria and complete all required supporting documents
  2. Log on to myUCF
  3. Select “Student Self Service”
  4. Click on “Scholarship Application” > “Home Page” > “Add New Scholarship”
  5. Complete and submit application(s)

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Isabelle D'Antonio is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.

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