By Isabelle D’Antonio
Contributing Writer, Central Florida Future
The UCF Alumni Association collects thousands of dollars each year to give right back to students through its many scholarships.
Senior Erica Chu received the alumni association’s UCF 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,” the biomedical sciences major says. “Every little thing counts when you’re paying for college.”
Chu says 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 says. “That’s something I want to do when I graduate.”
The alumni association awards 25 scholarships annually, including scholarships from alumni chapters and clubs.
“Last year, we had a good year in our endowments, and we were able to increase the majority of the scholarships by $500,” explains Carla Cordoba, associate director of alumni and student relations.
In fact, in 2015, the alumni association awarded more than $55,000 in scholarships to UCF students.
Heather Junod, director of the UCF Fund, says there are many ways the alumni association receives the money to fund these scholarships.
The UCF Fund utilizes e-solicitation, direct mail, phone campaigns, faculty/staff campaigns and a student philanthropy program to reach out to potential donors. Staffers prefer 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 says the UCF Fund asks every alumnus and alumna with up-to-date information to donate, which is more than 226,000 Knights. 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,” Junod explains.
To apply for alumni scholarships, students must fill out the applications on their myUCF account. If a student is eligible for an alumni scholarship, it will automatically appear in his/her scholarship listing. Most scholarships also require an essay, recommendation letter and activities summary.
“Scholarships aren’t going to come to you — you have to look for them,” Chu says. “The alumni association does a great job advertising the scholarships. People just have to take the next step and actually apply.”
She also says 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 says. “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 four-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 submit their applications,” Cordoba says.
A team of student assistants first checks the applicants’ eligibility to make sure they meet all of the necessary criteria for the scholarship, and then the applicants are 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 explains. “Everybody gets the same formula applied to them across the board.”
Once the applicants have been rated, a selection committee of alumni, faculty and staff reviews the top five to 10 students. The committee then gives its recommendations and a staff committee selects the final winners.
Reaching out through email, postcards and banner advertisements, there’s been an increase in students who have been applying for the alumni association’s scholarships.
“We had more than 500 applications in 2015, which is a third more than we had the year before,” Cordoba says. “Students are taking advantage of the scholarships!”
However, with more applicants comes more competition.
“The caliber of students who are applying is amazing,” Cordoba says. “We’re choosing from the top echelon of students who are extremely involved with their university and in their communities.”
Alumni who wish to contribute can name a scholarship for $10,000, or they can endow a scholarship for $25,000, which gets invested and earns appreciation.
“The idea is to keep building the endowment so it lives on in perpetuity,” Cordoba says.
How to apply for UCF Alumni Association scholarships:
- Visit ucfalumni.com/scholarships. (The application window opens Feb. 1 and closes Feb. 28 each year.)
- Read all scholarship criteria and complete all required supporting documents.
- Log on to myUCF.
- Select “Student Self Service.”
- Click on “Scholarship Application” > “Home Page” > “Add New Scholarship.”
- Complete and submit application(s).
This story appeared Dec. 4, 2015, in the Central Florida Future online. It has been updated and edited in accordance with AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original article.