By Jason Middlebrooks/ south campus editor

The TCC Foundation is giving free money to 500 students, and all they have to do for a chance to get it is fill out a form. 

“If you don’t have the $59 per hour, it might as well be $59 million,” donors relations officer Liz Sisk said. “Scholarships make a lot of difference.”

The foundation’s scholarship application is currently open on its website www.tccd.edu/scholarships.

“If you sat through a high school graduation, you probably saw three students get all the scholarships,” scholarship manager Rhonda Seyfried said. “That does not happen with us because of our system.”

Seyfried said scholarships can fill the gap for students in meeting their education expenses.

Students who are international, are enrolled in continuing education, come from a household that does not qualify for financial aid or do not have a set major can apply for a foundation scholarship.

“International students are not eligible for financial aid,” she said. “Students that don’t know what they want to do can pursue a general scholarship.”

It takes as little as 20 minutes to fill out an application, Seyfried said. Students must have at least a 2.5 GPA along with two references, one from an instructor and another from a professional level.

Students can qualify for a scholarship with as low as six credit hours, but the foundation prefers nine hours.

“We know that as a student, you don’t have time to apply for 500 scholarships,” Seyfried said. “Our system online is a smart system. It interacts with the student database. So automatically, some of the information that’s needed to pull you into scholarships for consideration will be there. Anything that you meet the minimum criteria for, you will be considered.”

Students must also write a 300-600 word essay, which both Seyfried and former foundation scholarship recipient Laith Ghonim said can help students stand out.

“Be honest and personal,” Ghonim said. “Proofread and submit documents early. Neatness is key. Do not be afraid to emphasize what makes you as an individual student stand out from the rest.”

Seyfried suggested students visit their campus writing center or have their essay reviewed by an English instructor before submitting their essay, along with making sure to get permission if people want to be considered as references.

“Students should ask someone to be their reference so they won’t be surprised that they are,” she said. “Also, refresh their memory a little bit on your career plans.”

A student can only receive one foundation scholarship per academic year, Seyfried said. However, some scholarships will continue to pay out throughout a student’s TCC career as long as the requirements for each semester is met.

For example, nursing student Jacqueline Ramos was awarded the Oak Crest Women’s Club scholarship. She had to maintain a 3.0 GPA with a minimum of eight credit hours to receive $1,000 per semester. She is set to finish her career at TCC in May. She seeks to transfer to a four-year university.

“Scholarships change lives,” Seyfried said. “It can help students get back to school and become trained to work a job they can actually make a living off of.”

The foundation scholarship system aims to award students the highest paying scholarship that they qualify for with the other scholarships being awarded to alternates. The foundation wants students to graduate without being thousands of dollars in debt.

“It is a competitive process,” Seyfried said. “If you are in consideration for a scholarship, you and everyone else all met the minimum criteria. You can stand out with you references and essays.”

The deadline is April 21 with FAFSA completed by May 1. The application can be edited until the deadline.