Find free money for education at DEF’s Scholarship Fair


Students who are looking for ways to cover the cost of furthering their education – whether it is in college, through vocational training or in the military — can connect with local organizations and individuals offering free money at the Delmarva Education Foundation’s Scholarship Fair on Saturday, Jan. 12.

The second annual Scholarship Fair is being held at The Centre at Salisbury mall from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Scholarship Fair spokesman Kaitlyn Austin said receiving scholarship money is very important for students. Austin is now a full time student at Radford University in Virginia in her second year of college but with Junior status already. 

    “For me, I did not find an institution in Maryland that would fit my needs and allow me to pursue the degrees I wanted.  The first time I stepped onto the Radford University campus, I knew that’s where I belonged. 

Unfortunately, out-of-state tuition was more than double than for an in-state student.  A price tag of $32,000 per year made attending Radford seem an impossibility.  A combination of scholarships, grants, and loans have made pursuing my dream a reality.”

Through its Scholarship Fair, DEF connects local students with local people who have money to give. More than 20 sponsors representing over 100 scholarships that are offered across the lower Delmarva Peninsula will be on hand to promote their scholarships and talk with students about the application process. Some of the scholarships are available to all local students, while others require students to meet specific criteria, such as living in a select geographic area, attending a certain college or entering a designated field of study, such as the arts.

Austin said students should attend the Scholarship Fair for several reasons. “First and foremost, the scholarships that are out there are endless; DEF will help you find all those that you qualify for.” 

She said as an ‘average’ student in high school, she knew getting accepted into a good college was going to be a daunting process. She sometimes even questioned whether college was even an option.  “DEF helped me see that there was so much more to me and my experiences than the grades on my report card. Colleges look at the whole person; while grades are very important, and a big part of being accepted, they will look at all your other experiences too.”

Austin said it’s the same with scholarships.  “My point is this, don’t be discouraged because you may not be at the top of your class or have a 4.0 gpa.  You can still win scholarships, and you can still get into college.  My second year of college, and I am on the Dean’s list!”

“There are some pretty amazing scholarships out there that people don’t even realize; some even have nothing to do with your grades!  Do you have blue eyes?  Do you like to rope cattle?  I am not kidding, there are scholarships out there for the craziest things.  DEF will help you find even the most obscure scholarships!”

Finally, and probably the most important, students can get to go to the college of their dreams regardless of their family’s ability to help pay, Austin said.  “The money is out there.  I am living proof.  As an average student, with a family who couldn’t help fund my college, I am pursuing my dream!”   

During the Scholarship Fair students will also be able to learn about DEF’s free, online database of local-priority scholarships, talk with counselors from local high schools, ask questions about financial aid, and get help with the scholarship application process. Students do not need to prepare any applications or other documents in advance but are encouraged to bring a short resume to show scholarship sponsors. The Scholarship Fair is not just for graduating high school seniors, students of all ages who want to further their education are encouraged to attend.
Austin, said she first learned of DEF while attending high school and the organization was able to help her prepare for and find money to go to college.

She is a double major in psychology, and criminal justice, with a double minor in French and religious studies. She also spent this past summer in France in a study abroad program.

“The staff at DEF goes above and beyond the call of duty to help you get those scholarships by helping you with the application process, and my mentor, Dianne Johnson, even reviewed my essays,” Austin said. 

Scholarship sponsors already signed up for the event are: Pocomoke City Elks Club, Choptank Electric Cooperative, Salisbury Sunrise Rotary, Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore, Delmarva Poultry Industry, Contractors 4 a Cause, Local Owners Restaurant Association, Atlantic General Hospital, the College Savings Plan of Maryland, Peninsula Regional Medical Center, Cavallaro Cleary Visual Foundation, Philanthropic Educational Organization, U.S. Army, Salisbury Wicomico Arts Council, Wicomico County Humane Society, Maryland Higher Education Commission, Crisfield Elks Club, Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, Academy for Lifetime Learning, Friends of Blackwater, Arts Council of the Eastern Shore and Chesapeake College Adult Learning.

Funding for the event is provided in part by the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore, the Bank of Delmarva and the Pocomoke City Elks Lodge #1624. Two other local education-based nonprofit organizations, Kids of Honor and Horizons at Salisbury School, provide assistance and support for the Scholarship Fair.

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