Funding Your Future is a series on General Intelligences intended to promote larger, fall-deadline scholarships for rising high school seniors. This way, seniors can access a wide array of scholarships all in one place. I hope that you can use this series as a resource to avoid as much student debt as possible! Read until the end to find out how the Coca Cola scholarship program can help you with both finances and networking, as well as to read the student perspectives of two recent scholarship recipients: Kyle Lambert and Aissa Dearing.

THE AWARD: The Coca Cola Scholars program gifts each of its 150 annual recipients with an award of $20,000. In addition to this, there is also a leadership institute offered to recipients. 

THE ELIGIBILITY: All applicants to the Coca Cola Scholarship must currently be a high school senior, a US Citizen or permanent resident, receive a high school diploma in the spring, and be planning to pursue an undergraduate degree. No relatives of Coca Cola employees can apply for the scholarship. For a full list of qualifications, please visit the Coca Cola Scholarship website. There are no income or ethnicity requirements for this scholarship.

THE APPLICATION: The Coca Cola Scholarship application consists of general information, an activities description, awards and honors descriptions, community activity descriptions, employment information, and some essays. 

THE PROCESS: The initial application is open to the general public and will open on August 1st, 2020. Then, from those applications, 250 regional finalists are chosen. Even more selectively afterwards, 150 Coca Cola scholarship recipients are chosen. 

STUDENT PERSPECTIVE: Kyle Lambert is the founder and director of Med For All Global, where he utilizes hands-on work and online advocacy to promote mental wellness, elderly care, and health education on a global scale. Through independent research, as well as programs at Columbia University and Weill Cornell Medicine, he has explored his passion for the interconnections of neurobiology and mental health. A proud scholar of President Barack Obama’s ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ initiative, Kyle extends greater educational and overall growth opportunities for his peers. After being awarded the largest national scholarships for the highest ranked schools in the nation, Kyle has chosen to matriculate to Stanford University for the class of 2024. In his free time, he enjoys writing poetry and divulging in the works of African and Caribbean writers and artists. 

Kyle states that receiving the Coca Cola scholarship was quite literally a “dream come true” for him. When he moved to the United States, he could barely even imagine himself “attending a four year college” due to the cost, but receiving the Coca Cola scholarship means that furthering his education “is well within reach.” However, this did not exactly come easily.

Kyle says that “The application process was extremely long,” including “several essays and developed extracurricular descriptions, as well as… a nerve-wracking interview.” He believes that he was able to show the scholarship committee that he should receive the generous scholarship by emphasizing the fact that he “was more than just a perfect GPA student” and that he cares about the world around him. Kyle believes that although the application process was “extremely tedious,” he is happy to have applied and even more happy that he “put in so much effort” due to the fact that “it paid off” in the end. 

Along with the scholarship, Coke Scholars are given an opportunity to be a part of a “Leadership Development Institute” over the summer, something Kyle is extremely excited for. He says that he is really looking forward to “developing my [his] skills as a leader in the world of health equity.” Another valuable part of being chosen as a Coke Scholar in Kyle’s eyes is the opportunity to be “a part of a community of trailblazers and scholars who are making great changes in the world.” He believes that the “network” that being a Coke scholar has provided him with will truly allow him more opportunities and mentors than he could have ever dreamed of. 

Kyle’s Number One Piece of Advice Has to be This: “Be yourself: show them the best you. Before beginning to interview me in the finalist round, the committee highlighted the fact that I had an extremely strong academic record that covers material from numerous AP and college-level to even medical level classes. Coupled with this factor, I truly believe that my ability to convey the sincerity behind passion for health equity was a driving force that set me apart from other applicants. Instead of just telling them what I was passionate about, I showed them what I was doing about it. My greatest advice is to do and not just say.” So, if you make it to interview rounds, make sure to emphasize who you actually are. The selection committee knows that you are a stellar student. What they want to know from interacting with you is all the things that set you apart from the other stellar students. Give them a part of your personality. Show them who you truly are and you will ‘wow’ them. 

Along with Kyle Lambert, Aissa Dearing is another Coca Cola scholarship recipient. Aissa Dearing is from Durham, North Carolina. She will be attending Howard University as a junior in the fall to continue studying history and environmental studies. She is a 2020 Coke Scholar as well as a Jack Kent Cooke Semi-Finalist. 

Aissa says that the essays required for the application mainly focus on “extracurricular activities and… leadership roles” including and “especially non-traditional leadership roles like babysitting your siblings!). Like Kyle, Aissa wants to emphasize that your application should tell “a story, that each piece is one part of a whole. Their essays should provide a background as to why they are passionate about the extracurricular activities they are a part of.” Similar to Kyle, Aissa states that the Coca Cola Scholarship made a huge impact on her life, even as far as influencing where she would “go to school.”

Aside from the financial aspect of becoming a Coke Scholar, Aissa is excited about the “family” that the foundation provides, saying that even through a computer screen, everyone has been so “warm and inviting.” Aissa is also just as excited about “the network” that being a Coke Scholar provides as Kyle, along with the “fantastic coaching program where more recent scholars can gain leadership skills and connections from Coke alumni.” 

Aissa’s Number One Piece of Advice Has to Be: “Start the application early and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable in your application.” In order to share your story, you are going to need to let the selection board in on the different parts of your life that make you, well, you. Being vulnerable within your application and allowing the board to see inside your life and step inside your shoes could set you apart from your competition, so don’t be afraid to do so.

As always, I wish you the best in your scholarship application process. Special thanks to Kyle and Aissa for their amazing interview segments!