JOHNSON CITY – A newly named, renovated and relocated space for military-affiliated students at East Tennessee State University is officially open. A dedication ceremony held Wednesday by the Office of Veterans Affairs introduced the community to the new Military-Affiliated Student Resource Center (MARC).
Located on the ground floor of Yoakley Hall and formerly known as the Veterans Lounge since its opening in 2013, the renovated MARC is more than three times larger and serves close to 700 military-affiliated students.
“The new title more adequately represents what it is. The MARC is a sign of ETSU’s commitment to our military-affiliated population,” said Dr. Bert Bach, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.
The MARC features separate study and social spaces where students can connect through academics and shared experiences, as many have lived across the country and the globe. It has a computer lab, study/conference room, kitchen, charging station for devices and space for working service animals to rest alongside their military-affiliated owners.
Enrollment of military-affiliated students who served in the military or are members of military service families has increased 28 percent in the last two years. The Office of Veterans Affairs is over halfway to its goal to have 1,000 military-affiliated students by 2026.
“This space is a sign of continuing growth and the recognition of that growth,” noted Col. (Ret.) Tony Banchs, director of the Office of Veterans Affairs. “We continue to recruit students from surrounding military bases and throughout the region.”
Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder from the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs congratulated ETSU for its outreach efforts beyond recruitment, adding, “We know that enrolling in college is not enough. We want to make sure they succeed all the way through to graduation so they can go on and continue to serve our country, our state and our communities in new and different ways.”
The institute, affiliated with the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, proposed enhancing and expanding the existing database management system to serve multiple service lines within the Department of Veterans Services and turned to the center to leverage its breadth of programming capacity and expertise. Management of the project transitioned to the center in July 2016.
“The Institute for Policy and Governance laid the foundation for us to build a new database that will be more reactive to the needs of the various service lines of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services,” said Center Operations Officer Brandon Herndon, pictured above, who served as the lead on the project.
The Center for Geospatial Information Technology developed a new database for both the Virginia Veterans and Family Support Program and Veterans Education, Transition, and Employment, a directorate of five organizations that helps veterans access educational and employment opportunities. The center worked to determine the specific needs of each organization and to facilitate communications between veterans and their dependents and schools, businesses, hospitals, and other service providers.
The new system went live in February 2018, with all organizations full transitioned by June 2018.
Herndon’s experience as a 10-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force was an asset throughout the process. “As a veteran, I was able to be an engaged collaborator, recognizing the different needs of each organization. And because I was familiar with the terms and data that these organizations were working with, I could ensure we developed a program that best suited their needs.”
A central challenge to the project was to create a program that would be adaptable to the specific needs of each organization. To meet this goal, the center utilized a third-party software package called Zoho CRM.
“This software is like a box of Legos,” Herndon explained. “It allows us to make rapid implementation of workflows, ideas, and reporting requirements.”
An additional challenge was merging a wide range data from several different sources and databases. Project Associate Javier Ramírez was tasked with creating a process to import thousands of data points into a single system, thus reducing data duplication. Each organization required custom design to meet its needs as well as custom programming to process and import its historical data into the new system.
Owing to the flexibility and interconnectedness of the new database management system, Herndon feels that the implementation will free up time for staff members, allowing them to be more responsive to the veterans they work with.
The work of the center was praised by the Virginia Department of Veterans Services. Commissioner John Newby said, “The client management system built by the Center for Geospatial Information Technology increases our ability to coordinate across Veterans Education, Transition, and Employment, and Virginia Veterans and Family Support programs, enabling more streamlined communications and better tracking so we can consistently improve service delivery.”
Matt Leslie, assistant director of the Virginia Veterans and Family Support Program, echoed this praise. “The user-friendly system has enhanced the ability of our staff to spend more time working directly with clients while tracking progress of connecting clients to the best services available. The system provides us with more tools to drill down and assess the quality of the services we provide.”
As the center’s role transitions from development to maintenance under a new contract with the Virginia Department of Veterans Services, Herndon is looking forward to expanding the center’s contributions to Virginia veterans.
“Since we’re a geospatial office, we’re hoping that the next step will be to use the data to create additional, public-facing tools that veterans can use. For example, if veterans are looking for educational opportunities, we can use geospatial data points to help them find colleges, trade schools, or certificate programs nearby that are eligible to receive GI Bill funding.”
Peter Sforza, director of the Center for Geospatial Information Technology, added: “Our applied research focus is to develop information infrastructure and analytics to deliver data-driven results by incorporating the best available science and technical approaches for any particular problem. We’re excited to help build a solid foundation of information and technology that further enables the Virginia Department of Veterans Services to better connect the veterans and families they serve to the wealth of resources available to them.”
East Tennessee State University will again receive funding and program support through the Veteran Reconnect Grant to assist veterans and service members in their pursuit of college degrees.
The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) announced $889,277 in funding for 14 colleges and universities in the state, including $25,000 for ETSU. The university received an award of $80,000 in 2017. Veteran Reconnect is part of Governor Bill Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative to increase educational attainment in the state to 55 percent by the year 2025.
The 2018 Veteran Reconnect grants are focused on improving the assessment of prior learning for veterans returning to college. Prior learning assessment (PLA) examines a veteran’s prior military training and grants equivalent college credit for skills attained during service. This results in a student veteran completing their degree program in an accelerated timeframe.
“This grant will allow ETSU to expand its ability to offer credit for equivalent military training,” said Col. (Ret.) Tony Banchs, director of Veterans Affairs at ETSU. “I am so pleased that THEC has recognized ETSU’s efforts at identifying prior learning assessments for our veteran students.”
The previous Veteran Reconnect Grant of $80,000 allowed ETSU’s Office of Veteran Affairs to hire a military credentials coordinator to conduct prior learning assessments. Trevor Harvey, who holds that position, says efforts are underway to make ETSU the destination of choice for current and potential veteran students.
“Through initiatives such as our Veterans Path to Education (VPE) site, military training and ETSU course equivalency reviews, we are well on our way to reaching our goal to be the leader in this effort,” Harvey added.
Veteran Reconnect aligns with legislation passed last year by the Tennessee General Assembly that directs THEC to develop an online web platform to assist veterans in translating their military experience to academic credit. As part of that effort, institutions receiving grants will map out opportunities already available to students through their campuses.
“Earning college credit for military training can be the difference between a student applying to a school, or moving on to the next opportunity,” said THEC Executive Director Mike Krause. “When a veteran is able to use credit for their military training towards their college degree, they are more likely to persist and finish their program of study.”
SALT LAKE CITY–TFS Scholarships is the most comprehensive free online resource for higher education funding connecting students to more than 7 million scholarships representing more than $41 billion in aid.
It was founded in 1987 after Richard Sorensen’s father, an inner-city high school principal, bemoaned the lack of good scholarship resources for his students.
High school seniors now applying for college should also be applying for scholarships, according to Richard Sorensen, an expert with more than 30 years experience helping students find scholarships.
“College bound students should spend four to five hours a week looking for scholarships, starting in the fall of their senior year,” says Sorensen, President of TFS Scholarships. “They should think about finding scholarships like it’s a part time job.”
A scholarship, unlike a student loan, is free money and should always be the first place students look for help in funding their college education. The majority of the scholarship opportunities featured on the TFS Scholarships website come directly from colleges and universities, rather than solely from competitive national pools, thereby increasing the chances of finding scholarships.
“There are new scholarships posted on the site every month, each with different deadlines and time frames,” says Sorensen. “There is plenty of aid out there and a lot of it goes untouched. If a student is diligent, they’ll find it.”
TFS Scholarships also posts a new scholarship opportunity every day on its Twitter, Facebook and Instagram social media accounts (@TFSscholarships), making it easy to find new scholarship opportunities. “We call it ‘The Scholarship of the Day,’” says Sorensen. “Most of the scholarships are available for all students so if a student or their parents follow us, they will have the opportunity to apply for more than 300 scholarships every year from this source alone.”
TFS takes it a step further, digging deeper into localized scholarships. “If you wanted to go to Arizona State, for example, we have scholarships specific to that school,” says Sorensen.
Each month TFS adds more than 5,000 new scholarships to its database in an effort to stay current with national scholarship growth rates – maximizing the number of opportunities students have to earn funding for their education.
Once students have their scholarships in hand, how they manage them can have important implications. It is up to the student to inform the school of the scholarship.
“The truth is, the money is going to be sent to the school in most cases,” says Sorensen. “If the money is going to tuition and books, it’s tax free. But it is taxable if they use it for living expenses. And if students get more money in scholarships than their direct expenses, they get the difference back from the school,” says Sorensen.
The TFS website also provides financial aid information, resources about federal and private student loan programs, and a Career Aptitude Quiz that helps students identify the degrees and professions that best fit their skills.
Thanks to the financial support of Wells Fargo, TFS has remained a free, online service that effectively connects students with college funding resources to fuel their academic future. “Students trust us with a lot of their personal information and we respect that,” says Sorensen. “With TFS, they never have to be worried about being bombarded by spam.”
TFS Scholarships (TFS) is an independent service that provides free access to scholarship opportunities for aspiring and current undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. Founded in 1987, TFS began as a passion project to help students and has grown into the most comprehensive online resource for higher education funding. Today, TFS is a trusted place where students and families enjoy free access to more than 7 million scholarships representing more than $41 billion in college funding. In addition to its vast database that’s refreshed with 5,000 new scholarships every month, TFS also offers information about career planning, financial aid, and federal and private student loan programs as part of its commitment to helping students fund their future. Learn more at tuitionfundingsources.com.
More than just a friendly and familiar face, Piccoli, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, was universally recognized by student veterans across campus as the veritable personification of loyalty, integrity, and hard work that they could all emulate.
Piccoli died unexpectedly in 2016, but his legacy will now live on with the creation of an endowed scholarship in his name.
The annual Joshua Piccoli Scholarship will be open to all student veterans enrolled at Rutgers–Camden who are participating in the student veterans group or one of the numerous programs affiliated with the Rutgers–Camden Office of Military and Veterans Affairs.
Fred Davis, director of the office, recalls that, upon Piccoli’s passing, there was an outpouring of emotion and support from all who knew him and it was only fitting to establish a scholarship to help veterans, which is what Josh loved doing and did so well.
Davis notes that while the inaugural recipients have yet to be selected, he knows just the kind of character, integrity, and participation that he’d like to see.
“I hope that these individuals mirror many of the attributes that Josh displayed each day of his life,” he says. “In Josh’s memory, we hope to award this scholarship to a caring humanitarian who gives the extra effort to assist those in need, especially veterans.”
Piccoli’s “loving and helpful” nature was even evident in his youth, recalls his mother, Carol Buckman, remembering how her son was the primary caregiver for her elderly mother, who lived with them for a time as she battled dementia.
“I guess that nurturing nature – that gentleness – is something that is inborn,” she says.
Buckman fondly remembers her middle child – between Josh’s older brother, Jason, and younger sister, Jessica Deturo – as an “easygoing kid” who was content with taking hand-me downs and always accepting of the ways things were.
“You couldn’t buy anything new for Josh,” says Buckman, recalling one Christmas when Jason wanted a new bike. “Josh said, ‘I’ll take Jason’s old bike. I think it’s cool!’”
Buckman surmises that Josh’s cooperative nature and penchant for looking out for others was brought out even more by serving in the U.S. Marine Corps and later in his role at Rutgers–Camden.
After graduating from Eastern High School in Voorhees in 1997, Piccoli had taken classes at Camden County College before enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps and joining the 3rd battalion, 7th Marines, a premier infantry combat unit.
His unit was deployed to Kuwait in January 2003 and, shortly thereafter, participated in the Battle of Baghdad. Once the city was secure, the unit was moved southwest to Karbala, where they were tasked with maintaining security and stabilization in the city.
When his tour ended in September 2003, Piccoli returned to the United States and served as a physical training instructor at Officers Candidate School in Quantico, Va. He later added a second deployment in Afghanistan.
“The courage Josh exhibited demonstrates valor as an ideal that should endure in life, and the sacrifice above self is something all Americans should strive for,” says Davis. “Josh had the moral courage to do whatever tasks are at hand and need to be accomplished.”
Honorably discharged in April 2006, Piccoli returned to South Jersey and worked in several marketing jobs in the area before taking advantage of his education benefits and enrolling at Rutgers–Camden in January 2011. He promptly became the first work-study in the Veterans Affairs office, a position that he continued to hold after graduating and was attending his second year of Rutgers Law School.
“Josh excelled in that environment, where there was a genuine warmth and willingness to help,” recalls Buckman.
In his role, Piccoli regularly helped fellow veterans navigate the application process and ensured that they were in compliance with V.A. requirements. If need be, he was more than willing to go out of his way to advocate on their behalf when communicating with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
For Piccoli, it was a testament to the perpetual and unwritten bond that veterans on campus share.
“It’s like the camaraderie that you have in the military, but on a college campus,” said Piccoli, then secretary of the student veterans group at Rutgers–Camden, in a 2014 interview. “The veterans group is amazing; it’s great to have friends who you can feel comfortable with and who will be there if you need it. That goes a long way.”
Among the many student veterans whom Piccoli assisted were Tina Mikes and Mark Bodrog, who both remembered their late friend as the first person to show them around campus and came to admire his dedicated service and commitment.
As Mikes recalls, even though Piccoli worked in the Veterans Affairs office in a work-study capacity, he did so as though it was a fulltime job and became the face of the Rutgers–Camden student veterans community.
“Josh was always loyal to his fellow veterans and did what he could to assist them in any way he knew how,” says Mikes, a 2013 graduate of Rutgers–Camden and a 2016 graduate of Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “He never took shortcuts or the easy way out of things because he was led by a strong moral compass.”
Bodrog echoed the sentiment, saying that Piccoli embraced the “esprit de corps” that many student veterans miss most when they leave active service and was the link that helped to keep the student veterans group at Rutgers–Camden engaged.
“Joshua had a unique way of motivating his fellow veterans in shared camaraderie,” recalls Bodrog, a 2007 graduate of Rutgers–Camden. “He constantly pushed himself to achieve more and, by extension, he pushed his fellow veterans to achieve more and work hard for a great education and opportunities to better themselves. If the bond of the student veterans at Rutgers–Camden had an image, Joshua would be the face and the model veteran.”
The two expressed their pride that Piccoli’s memory will now be handed down through generations of student veterans at Rutgers–Camden.
“While veterans will have never known or met Joshua, his scholarship will be a testament to his personal legacy and sacrifice to ensure the success of the educational mission of student veterans,” says Bodrog.
For Buckman, she hopes that students entering Rutgers–Camden now and in the future – those whom never had the opportunity to meet her son – will find out what type of person he was and try to follow in his footsteps.
“I hope that they hear or read about him and realize how he was always there to help people,” she says, “and emulate some of the things that he did.”
If you’ve thought about going to college, but didn’t know if you could afford it, then the Military Tuition Assistance program may be just the benefit you need. The program is available to active duty, National Guard and Reserve Component service members. While the decision to pursue a degree may be a difficult one personally, TA can lessen your financial concerns considerably, since it now pays up to 100 percent of tuition expenses for semester hours costing $250 or less.
Courses and degree programs may be academic or technical and can be taken from two- or four-year institutions on-installation, off-installation or by distance learning. An accrediting body recognized by the Department of Education must accredit the institution. Your service branch pays your tuition directly to the school. Service members need to first check with an education counselor for the specifics involving TA by visiting their local installation education office or by going online to a virtual education center. Tuition assistance may be used for the following programs:
All four service branches and the U.S. Coast Guard offer financial assistance for voluntary, off-duty education programs in support of service members’ personal and professional goals. The program is open to officers, warrant officers and enlisted active duty service personnel. In addition, members of the National Guard and Reserve Components may be eligible for TA based on their service eligibility. To be eligible for TA, an enlisted service member must have enough time remaining in service to complete the course for which he or she has applied. After the completion of a course, an officer using TA must fulfill a service obligation that runs parallel with – not in addition to – any existing service obligation.
Coverage Amounts and Monetary Limits
The Tuition Assistance Program will fund up to 100 percent of your college tuition and certain fees with the following limits:
Not to exceed $250 per semester credit hour or $166 per quarter credit hour
Not to exceed $4,500 per fiscal year, October 1 through September 30
Tuition Assistance Versus the VA Education Benefits
While the TA program is offered by the services, the Department of Veterans Affairs administers a variety of education benefit programs. Some of the VA programs, such as the Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2008, also known as the Post-9/11 GI Bill®, can work well with the TA program, as it can supplement fees not covered by TA. In addition, the Post-9/11 GI Bill® funds are available to you for up to 15 years after you leave the military. The TA program is a benefit that is available only while you’re in the service.
Tuition Assistance Benefits and Restrictions
Tuition assistance will cover the following expenses:
Course-specific fees such as laboratory fee or online course fee
Note: All fees must directly relate to the specific course enrollment of the service member.
Tuition assistance will not cover the following expenses:
Books and course materials
Flight training fees
Taking the same course twice
Continuing education units, or CEUs
Keep in mind that TA will not fund your college courses, and you will have to reimburse any funds already paid if any of the following situations occur:
Leaving the service before the course ends
Quitting the course for reasons other than personal illness, military transfer or mission requirements
Failing the course
Each military branch has its own TA application form and procedures. To find out how to get started, visit your local installation education center. Prior to your course enrollment, you may be required to develop an education plan or complete TA orientation. Be sure to keep the following important information in mind when you apply:
Military tuition assistance may only be used to pursue degree programs at colleges and universities in the United States that are regionally or nationally accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the U.S Department of Education. A quick way to check the accreditation of a school is by visiting the Department of Education.
Your service’s education center must approve your military tuition assistance before you enroll in a course.
The Top-up program allows funds from the Montgomery GI Bill®-Active Duty or the Post-9/11 GI Bill to be used for tuition and fees for high-cost courses that are not fully covered by TA funds.
Eligibility. To use Top-up, your service branch must approve you for TA. You also must be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill® or the Montgomery GI Bill®-Active Duty.
Application. First apply for TA in accordance with procedures of your service branch. After you have applied for TA, you will need to complete VA Form 22-1990 to apply for Department of Veterans Affairs education benefits. The form is available online from the VA. Make sure you specify “Top-up” on the application and mail it one of the education processing offices listed on the form.
Other supplemental funding possibilities
Aside from using the MGIB-AD or Post-9/11 GI Bill for items such as tuition and fees not covered by TA, there are other funding opportunities available to service members including the following:
Federal and state financial aid. The federal government provides $150 billion per year in grants, work-study programs and federal loans to college students. The aid comes in several forms, including need-based programs such as Pell grants, subsidized Stafford Loans, Supplemental Educational Opportunity grants and federal work/study programs. You can also get low-interest loans through the federal government. Visit Federal Student Aid to find out more or complete an online application for FAFSA at no cost to you.
You know that scientists discovered Pluto in 1930. You know that it’s no longer the ninth planet and it is now considered a dwarf planet. You have so much knowledge; why not share it with kids who need it?
The skills you honed in the military—leadership, initiative, discipline, integrity and the ability to thrive in an ever changing environment—are a natural fit for the classroom.
Troops to Teachers, a military career transition program, helps transitioning service members begin new careers as public school teachers. It’s never too early to think about your life after separation and start exploring your options. Your next life-changing mission could be to become a teacher. Many service members transitioning to a civilian career find their skills naturally transfer to a career in teaching.
Troops to Teachers can help you identify your best path to teaching by providing counseling, guidance and help with meeting education requirements. You’re eligible for the program if you’re a member of the U.S. Armed Forces or were honorably discharged. Troops to Teachers career resources include:
Counseling and referral assistance. This service provides guidance on teacher certification and education requirements and leads on employment opportunities.
Financial assistance. The program’s financial help can pay for your education and licensure requirements. There are also bonuses to encourage you to teach in certain types of schools or in a specific part of the country, and also for teaching subjects that are in demand, such as science, math or foreign languages. Time restrictions for registration and other requirements are involved, so contact a Troops to Teachers state or regional coordinator for more information.
Registration. Contact your installation education office for more information on registering for Troops to Teachers, or visit the Troops to Teachers website.
Scholarships are a great way to pay for college, and unlike loans they don’t need to be repaid. But winning scholarships takes time, dedication, intensive research, and hard work—especially for essays. It’s deadline time for college applications, so it’s important to start the search for free money now!
The Internet has made the search easy and free, and scholarship databases like Tuition Funding Sources (TFS) offers access to 7 million scholarships and $41 billion in financial aid. Start by filling in the registration; then with a click, the site searches to find any scholarships for which you might qualify. The more information you provide about yourself, the more matches TFS can make.
Undergraduate and graduate students can search for scholarships that fit their interests. The majority of scholarship opportunities featured on TFS Scholarships come directly from colleges and universities, rather than solely from competitive national pools – thereby increasing the chances of finding scholarships that are the best match for students. Each month TFS adds more than 5,000 new scholarships to its database, maximizing the number of opportunities students have to earn funding for their education.
Richard Sorensen, President of TFS, suggests these tips when applying for scholarships:
Apply for smaller scholarships
Many students look for scholarships that offer big awards but those are also the most competitive. Scholarships with smaller awards are easier to obtain because fewer students are competing for them. These scholarships can help with college costs such as books and living expenses.
Customize your essay
Scholarship judges can tell if you’ve adapted a previously written essay to meet their criteria. Customize your application and use the beginning of your essay to showcase your personality and set yourself apart. Remember, the time you are spending to tailor your essay can be rewarded with a college debt free future.
Submit scholarship applications early
Meet the deadlines and don’t wait until the due date. If the organization asks you to mail the application, don’t try to email it and if there is a maximum word count limit, don’t go over it. Most scholarship providers receive more qualified applications than available funds, so reduce your chances of being disqualified because you didn’t follow their requirements.
Follow your passion
Apply for scholarships that fit your passion and interest. TFS has scholarships for everyone. The more personal the scholarship the higher your chances of winning!
Increase your submission rate
The more applications you submit, the greater your chances are of winning scholarships. Treat applying for scholarships as a part-time job. Organize your free time and try to work on submitting one scholarship application every week and more during weekends. Remember if you spend 100 hours on submitting applications and win scholarships for $10,000 that is a really good part-time job!
TFS has been helping students for over 30 years and offers more than 7 million individual scholarships and more than $41 billion in aid. Visit tuitionfundingsources.com to learn more.
Employers on Campus provides job seekers and employers a better way to be introduced and to meet each other’s needs; and, it is also a business opportunity. They are far more effective than attending Career Fairs. Employers on Campus events are held on college and university campuses. It is an opportunity for students seeking internships, employment, and information about careers they are interested in pursuing.
On college campuses students are divided into building or quads particular to their degree they are seeking. So it is easy for us to invite students with majors or degrees in subjects that are appropriate for individual companies. It can be a specialized event, or an event open to all majors.
Companies are invited to attend our open Employers on Campus events. Each representative of those businesses is invited to speak to all the students attending. — Companies might briefly give an introduction to what their business does, examples of their clientele, a summary of open positions and internships, and perhaps a list of college courses you would like candidates to possess to qualify.
After the introductions, students can visit tables and talk to representatives from each company, perhaps to begin the interview process to become an intern or an employee.
Students and company representatives are introduced to our Soar to Success Training, based on the US Army’s “Master Resiliency Course,” which was adopted by the University of Pennsylvania for their new Graduate program in Positive Psychology. Decades of studies demonstrate that this program builds resilience, well-being, and performance; and equips individuals to bounce
back from adversity and to grow and thrive in their professional and personal lives.
A Command Sergeant Major from the US Army, who is a trainer of this program, is working closely with us and developing our program, which we call Soar to Success, for multiple uses. Our Positive Psychology emotional literacy and mind training program can be modified for various demographics: i.e. students, employers, veterans, athletes, medical professionals, pastors, marriages, etc.
This program has also been created as a business opportunity for US Veterans, and for civilians that want to work with our team. Our plan is to spread this into every demographic and region of our country, and even the world. We have an online, and a personal presentation and format.
We are always open to hearing ideas that can augment and better what we are doing.
It’s no secret that scholarships are a great way to find free money for college. While it’s now easier than ever to search for scholarship opportunities online, easier navigation on the internet also makes it easier for online scammers.
Unfortunately, many families have fallen victim to scholarship scammers who are stealing millions of dollars from families every year. Your goal is to get money for college, and it shouldn’t cost you anything to apply for scholarships.
The good news is that there are red flags to look out for to avoid becoming the victim of a scholarship scam. A general rule of thumb – if it sounds too good to be true, it is. Learn the signs to protect yourself against being defrauded and find scholarships that are right for you. Here are 3 tips to avoid scholarship scams:
Be cautious of fees: Applying for scholarships should not cost money. Be cautions of scholarships with application fees and never pay to get scholarship information. Scholarship databases are free and readily available online. Be on the lookout for phrases like “Guaranteed or your money back.” Scholarship websites can’t guarantee that you will win a scholarship because they’re not deciding on the winner. Legitimate scholarships won’t require an upfront fee when you submit the application.
Protect your data: Never reveal financial information such as your social security number, credit card numbers, checking information or bank account numbers to apply for scholarships. Scholarship scammers could use this information to commit identity theft.
Get a second opinion: If you’re still unsure, talk with trusted organizations about which websites they recommend. School counselors, librarians, financial aid offices, and local community organizations have knowledge and tools to guide you in the right direction.
To help cut through the clutter, TFS Scholarships provides free educational resources to ease the academic journeys of students and families around the country. Sponsored by Wells Fargo, TFS Scholarships has been helping students for over 30 years and offers more than 7 million individual scholarships and more than $41 billion in aid. Visit tuitionfundingsources.com to learn more.
I am a retired, wounded combat veteran—I joined the Army at 18 in 2002. I chose to join the military because I immigrated to the United States at the age of 7 and felt it was my duty to give back to a country that has given me so much opportunity.
I first deployed to Iraq with the First Calvary Division from March 2004 to March 2005 to Sadr City in northern Baghdad. My second tour was with the 101st Airborne Division from September 2005 to September 2006 to what is known as the Sunni Triangle of Death in Baghdad.
As a combat engineer, my main mission was route clearance and routine patrols. During both deployments, I was exposed to multiple firefights and more than 20 improvised explosive device (IED) blasts, one of which caused me serious injury, and I lost 9 of my comrades.
My injuries required that I be medically retired from the military. I was only 25 and, which such an abrupt exit, I had no plan in mind when I left the military. I decided to take advantage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill and enrolled in Rutgers-Camden University. However, I was still suffering from not only my physical injuries from the IED blast but also traumatic brain injury (TBI) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I had been profoundly changed and was no longer the same person I was before my military experience.
I was attending both school and regular physical therapy appointments, but I refused to seek help for my mental anguish. I was married, raising two children, and struggling to deal with life after Iraq. I began to withdraw from everyone, even from my kids, the most important people in the world to me. I started self-medicating, depending on alcohol and my pain medications to cope with daily life. The recurring flashbacks to my experiences in Iraq and memories of the comrades I lost were leading me to a dark place—I felt suicidal.
At that point, I decided I needed help; I was struggling to balance my home life, my education, and my well-being.
I started to take advantage of all the benefits that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) had to offer, as well as the help provided at Rutgers. The best thing anyone can do before leaving the military is to do research on all the benefits provided to veterans and enroll with the VA healthcare system. Adjusting to school after my military career was difficult, but Rutgers provided assistance to veterans. The best thing to do is to reach out to other veterans, don’t ever forget that you are not alone. Rutgers provided assistance, which was instrumental for me while attending school. I was able to graduate from Rutgers-Camden University with a bachelor in arts and today I work for the VA regional office in Philadelphia as a financial administrative specialist. There is a stigma in the military that having a mental illness is for those who are weak; however, it’s exactly the opposite. What I know now is that it takes a strong individual to realize they are struggling with mental illness and to seek the help.