Through the series Funding Your Future, I hope to be able to educate rising high-school seniors on the plethora of financial aid and scholarship opportunities available to students of all kinds. This week, the series will focus on the Dell Scholars program. Along with a general outline of the scholarship, there will also be student interviews from Shantelle Bailey and Taylor Larson near the end to showcase a student perspective and highlight the values of the Dell Scholars program.

THE AWARD: A recipient of the Dell Scholarship gains financial support and more throughout their journey in college, including the following:

  • $20,000 in scholarship money
  • A laptop
  • Chegg credits (useful for buying textbooks0
  • A resource network
  • A supportive group of people to help you through college and beyond.

As you can see, the Dell Scholarship is not only great for the financial support that it provides, but also for the support that it can grant a person throughout their college experience. If you were to ever need help throughout your college experience, the Dell Scholars program would be able to help you through it all. This is just one of the reasons, along with the financial support, that you should consider applying for the Dell Scholars program.

THE ELIGIBILITY: In order to apply and receive the Dell Scholarship, the following is required:

  • Be graduating from high school
  • Be enrolled in an college readiness program from 11th to 12th grade, as defined here:
  • Have financial need (more specifically, be pell grant eligible)
  • Have plans to attend university full time
  • Have a 2.4 GPA

If you fit all of this criteria and you also plan on attending UT Austin, there is another version of the Dell Scholars program available to specifically UT Austin students that may be worth checking out. 

THE APPLICATION: The base application asks for generic information including personal information, information about your high school and home life, and your college plans. In addition to this, there are also segments in a more “essay style” format, including the following: 

  • “What inspired you to choose this major and study the degree you are planning to enroll in? How do you plan to use that degree to fulfill your goals after college graduation?”
  • “Please tell us what reasons you considered in selecting each of these schools as your top choices. Elaborate on the factors you considered such as academic fit and financial affordability.”
  • “Describe the most significant challenges you may face transitioning to and while in college and what steps you may take to address those challenges. As appropriate, include skills/strategies you learned in your College Readiness Program that have prepared you to be successful in college.”
  • “Please provide more detail about either your home, work, or volunteer responsibilities (whichever you spend the most time doing) and how you make sure it doesn’t prevent you from completing your school work.”
  • “Describe the financial hardships you had to overcome in your life thus far (including housing, living, or family circumstances) and how you plan to manage any ongoing financial responsibilities you’ll have while in college. (When writing your essays, please note that if you write about child abuse or neglect, the Dell Scholars program may be required to report the information to the appropriate child protective services agency.)”
  • “Describe some of the hardest things you experienced while growing up? How did you overcome those challenges? What did you learn from those experiences?”

As you can tell from the questions, the Dell Scholars program truly focuses on you as an individual outside of the basic things such as your SAT/ACT scores and grades. They also recognize that as a low-income applicant, you may have responsibilities outside of your school-life and therefore give you a chance to showcase those as well, holding them to equal importance. Overall, the application is meant to highlight who you are, so do not be afraid to show them. The initial scholarship opens October 1st, 2020 and closes December 1st, 2020.

After the initial round, some applicants will be selected as a semi-finalist in December. Then, they will be asked to fill out more information by late January. Dell Scholars will be announced in March of 2021.

STUDENT PERSPECTIVE: Taylor Larson will be attending Harvard University in the fall in order to study history and literature on the pre-law track. She plans to advocate for the freedom of information by fighting to ensure that people in all parts of the world have access to accurate news and information sources. Outside of her schooling, Taylor loves reading and writing as well as art in both digital and traditional forms. She also danced for several years, something that she truly loves. She comes from a small town in Minnesota where she attended a small public school. 

Taylor wants to place emphasis on the fact that the application is going to “ask you a lot about your life as they’re targeting this scholarship to those who have faced adversity.” Therefore, she says that “you have to be comfortable with opening up about some things that may be quite personal to you,” not unlike many of the other scholarships that we have covered. Taylor states that you are going to “have to talk about things in your application that may be personal and complicated, but it’s necessary because the application is geared towards those who have dealt with adversity. Think about how you’re going to address these things beforehand.” 

Taylor also states that she believes that the “chegg credits” that being a Dell Scholar provides is definitely one of the most useful things. She appreciates the “added academic support factor especially because of remote learning.” Also, they “provide access to free counseling services.” 

Shantelle Bailey is another Dell Scholar. She will be attending Wellesley College in the fall as a prospective biology major. She hopes to attend medical school with plans to pursue a career in plastic surgery after Wellesley. Throughout high school, she was involved in a variety of different clubs, including HOSA, FCCLA, NHS, BARK (Bettering Animal Rescue in the Knoxville Area), SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), ASAP, and Gear-Up tutoring. She also took part in an early college program called Middle College. In her free time, she enjoys reading science fiction and listening to all types of music (except country!). She also really enjoys cooking. 

Shantelle states that the Dell Scholar application took her “less time than any of the other national ones” that she applied to. She wants to emphasize that “they do look for students who have succeeded against all odds or shown resilience. If you can fit that description, then you’re a good candidate for the scholarship.” She also states that she would “definitely recommend that future applicants don’t hold back when telling about their pasts or what they have gone through. The Dell Scholarship team is looking for those that have made it despite going through a lot. It shows resilience and that will make them successful adults in college and beyond.”

As an effort to help future applicants, Shantelle’s number one piece of advice is to not “hold back.” Shantelle states that when she applied, she spoke deeply about her past involving addict parents and many other hardships. She also worked hard to show growth in her application and how she did not let her situation define her. Here is a direct quote from Shantelle: 

  • “When I applied, I did not hold back when describing my past. I come from a family full of drug addicts, and I had lived with them for several years before being taken away. Both of my parents are addicts and they did not care to bring me around other addicts aside from themselves. After being taken out of the situation, I was really behind in my schooling and was told I would have to be held back. I worked as hard as I could to get caught up and managed to move on with my class. Ever since then, I have made straight A’s in all honors and I managed to graduate with an honors Associate Degree. My goal is to be a plastic surgeon and sponsor children with deformities who would not otherwise be able to afford corrective surgery.”

Shantelle never held back on showing who she was and how hard she worked to grow. Because of this, she became a Dell Scholar. It is worth it to show some amount of vulnerability within your application and show the selection committee that you are more than just test scores written down on a piece of paper. You have a story, and it is your time to truly tell it.

Overall, Shantelle is truly looking forward to the Dell Scholar community the most, stating that it has already been “full of amazing people who have been through so much but still made it to success. Being associated with a group such as that is an honor in itself.” 

Like always, I wish all applicants the best in their scholarship search. Stay tuned and look back on past issues of the Funding Your Future series in order to see more large scholarship opportunities!