Scholarships

A‌ ‌Student’s‌ ‌Open‌ ‌Letter‌ ‌Amid‌ ‌COVID-19‌ ‌Pandemic‌ ‌

The COVID-19 pandemic shook and changed the world – millions of people are infected, and every country fights its own battle to ensure the safety of their citizens.

Although the situation in some countries seems to be stabilizing, the aftermath of the pandemic is revealing issues that will take years to mitigate – from healthcare systems to financial breakdowns, and millions of people losing their jobs.

ScholarshipOwl recognizes that students are a particularly vulnerable group to financial crises. Tuition fees and student debts are challenging in the most stable of times.

That is why ScholarshipOwl launched additional scholarships to support students during the pandemic – the Income Loss Fund ($1,000), Study in Isolation Relief ($1,000), and Desk Setup scholarship ($500). Read more about these scholarships here.

As the time went on and applications kept coming, we’ve realized, though, that these are not enough – so we established a Future Minds Fund and called our friends to join us in an effort to support at least 1000 students with scholarships.

Why do we believe this is so important? Because we are talking about future experts: doctors, engineers, lawyers, economists, artists, and so many other future leaders, who need our help now in order to successfully continue their studies.

Future Minds Fund has already awarded scholarships to 19 students. There’s nothing we’d want more than to have awarded all 7,000 students who applied and shared their experience with us.

Read the application letter from one of the students who got the scholarship, and see for yourself why it’s crucial to act now and support these future professionals:

“Dear ScholarshipOwl,

Life is full of challenges we must overcome. Sure, there may be a piece of candy somewhere in there, but you have to (at least) unwrap the paper first.

My family are immigrants, and I am the oldest of 8 siblings. As you can imagine, this meant taking a lot of responsibilities while growing up – cleaning, washing the dishes, and taking care of my brothers and sisters.

My parents, in addition to providing for our big family, had to learn and accommodate life in a foreign land. So I was often left alone with siblings and in charge of the household.

Not that I am complaining – anyone coming from a big family knows that it’s an endless stream of anecdotes, fun, adventures, but also problems. In sharing all of these, we become and feel more connected and devoted to each other.

And at the core of it all is the unwavering love and support of our parents – whether it be tucking us all in at night after working all day, checking up on whether we did homework, or having serious talks about our future. Care and desire to see us thrive are the underlying current of all their actions.

Yet, as much as we’d like to believe it, our parents are not made of titanium. They have their worries and problems; they spend themselves working and still manage to hide it well enough for us to believe that it’s all too easy for them.

Maybe it was because I am the oldest, but early on I knew too well it was just pretense. Taking care of siblings alone was exasperating, and I couldn’t imagine what working full-time in addition to having 8 children would be like.

But, money does make things easier, so I decided to contribute in any way I could – and started working when I was 16 years old. I figured: if I could at least cover my own expenses, it would help my parents and eventually add up.

I did what any normal teenage student would: I babysat, worked in a store, helped with chores. And I got a few bucks, even managed to save some money.

Then, after the senior year in high school, I got accepted into the college I wanted! My family was thrilled – Mom started crying and hugged me tight; Dad got a really nice bottle of wine and took us to a fancy dinner; older kids looked at me as a demi-goddess – they understood I did something really good, and the youngsters just enjoyed the party. Great moments we cherish.

Of course, there was a flip side – the tuition fees, as you surely know, will put a financial strain on almost any family. Even though I got a partial scholarship, it’s still quite a lot of money. Yet my family decided to support my dreams and help out – so they took out a loan. 

I dare not ask how they combined everything and thought they would manage – I always figured I would repay them with studying hard and working side jobs to help out.

The good news came – I got a job as an undergraduate research leader! Can you imagine that? It meant I could do what I really love AND help with finances! I was thrilled – the job was good, the money was good, and the studies were going well.

Then, in December 2019, the coronavirus pandemic broke out in Wuhan, China. Although it took several months for the virus to reach the U.S, it did eventually, and a lot of things changed.

My campus closed early on for safety reasons – they did not want to risk the health of their students. This also meant I did not work anymore – at least not in full capacity. I still receive a modest amount of money, but it’s nowhere near enough.

To make matters worse, my Mom lost her job because of the pandemic. Like millions of people, it puts us in a difficult position – with my college loan to pay and 8 children to support, and jobs nowhere to be found… It’s tough.

I moved back home until the campus reopens – I go to stores so my parents wouldn’t be exposed, I help with cleaning and cooking… You know, ordinary stuff. In out-of-the-ordinary circumstances.

The biggest concern we have, however, is my brother who is asthmatic, so we have to be extra careful not to catch the virus. We do our best and take all the precautions – social distancing, masks, washing, and disinfecting because we don’t want anyone in our family to be at risk.

I think it’s important for people to realize that the COVID-19 pandemic affects us in more ways than we can imagine – the biggest one being the health concerns, of course.

But it’s also about the finances and support we can provide for our families – with people losing jobs, lots of families are barely making ends meet. Of course, we will get through this – luckily, we have an amazing network of friends, family, and neighbors with whom we talk, exchange information, and even an occasional cake or some other dish. But not everyone has this support system.

So, when you’re thinking about safety measures, remember that prolonging the pandemic also means prolonging challenges for the people who might not be in the same position as you. If this has taught us anything, it’s that our actions can and do directly affect the lives of other people – their hopes, dreams, and livelihood.

Make sure you stay home, stay safe, and take care of your loved ones.

Sincerely Yours,

Gabriela”

We hope this letter shed some new light on the situation many of our students are facing and why financial support matters so much right now.

If you want to learn more about the Future Minds Fund and donate or apply for a scholarship, please check the dedicated webpage here.

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