Make the most of your college experience by applying to scholarships and contests at UA

McKenzie Knight, Contributing Writer

College life can be challenging, especially when it comes to managing finances. Between tuition fees, textbooks, housing and daily expenses, it’s no secret that students face a lot of financial pressure. The University of Alabama offers opportunities for students to ease this burden through numerous on-campus contests and scholarship opportunities available to them.   

These opportunities offer not just recognition but also monetary benefits, providing students with a way to earn money while pursuing their education.   

Contests such as the creative writing department’s Creative Writing Contests are some examples of events where students can showcase their talents and skills. They provide students with the opportunity to exhibit their creativity and imagination and help them develop essential skills such as communication and time management.  

According to the creative writing department, three winners were chosen from each category, such as poetry or prose, and prizes were $1,000 for first place, $750 for second and $500 for third. 

The Undergraduate and Graduate Writing Contests closed on Jan. 31 and are awaiting judgment from third-party judges.  

Bianca McCarty, a sophomore majoring in biology and winner of last year’s Michael Dalton Goodson Memorial Prize in Poetry, reflected on her experiences applying and awaiting a response. 

“I mean, you never know if you’re going to win or not. I had no expectation of winning that award, and when I got the email, I was super shocked because I’d forgotten I’d even entered it. So, I just did it on a whim because one of my friends had mentioned it,” McCarty said. 

Besides the intellectual reward that is provided in these contests, the monetary award can often be more influential in the decision to take part in one of the University’s contests.   

“I think it’s exciting to submit. It’s always just kind of like exciting, if not slightly nerve-wracking because there’s always that chance that you could win, and also, $1,000 was pretty enticing,” McCarty said, “It doesn’t take too much effort to submit to these kinds of things. And you know, you could end up winning money, or also, just like having that on your resume is pretty solid.” 

Paul Albano, an instructor at the University and the assistant director of creative writing, said he believes there are many upsides to applying to contests. 

“There’s the sort of practical angle you get a CV line out of it, you usually get a scholarship or prize money as a result of winning,” Albano said. “But I also think it’s useful to get in the habit of sending your work out there. The more times you send your work out there, it sounds unfortunate, but dealing with nos and rejections is sort of a learned skill, being able to do that without a hitch to your confidence, I think is really good to practice that early.” 

Albano’s advice applies to every contest, not just those related to writing. He said there’s no downside to applying to free competitions; in the worst case, no one would know you applied and were rejected, and in the best case, you win money and recognition for the work and effort you’ve put in. 

“I think the big thing is the old adage of not to let perfection be the enemy of good. And I think sometimes, writers have a tendency to believe that their work has to be perfect before it can be seen by outside eyes. So, even if it’s imperfect, it’s still worth sending out into the world,” Albano said. 

Besides the creative writing department’s contests, there are other options that may be more conducive to those who don’t favor writing. Currently, the BIG Ideas contest is running and is in Phase II, soon to move on to final judging. It’s run through the University’s Honors College and “is, by design, an entry-level program that encourages students who have limited or no competition experience to develop their ideas, transform their thinking and address societal problems through creativity and ingenuity.” 

Participants apply in teams of three to five and work together to develop ideas with social impact. In Phase I, it’s possible to win from $500 to $1,000, and in Phase II, it’s possible to win $2,500 or $3,000 for the grand prize.  

With dozens of contests and scholarship opportunities available throughout the year, staying informed  is key to taking advantage of these opportunities. By staying active and engaged, students can find ways to fund their education and pursue their passions without being hindered by their financial status. Staying updated on your email, communicating with professors about opportunities and keeping an eye on departmental websites will offer you the best chance to stay in the know. 

In addition to contests, scholarship opportunities are also a great way for students to earn money. Scholarships are financial awards that are given to students based on merit, need or both.  

Because the University offers many scholarships that can be found on myBama, it can be difficult to see a broad and extended list of scholarships and still know which to apply to. For incoming first-year students, there is a supplemental scholarship form that automatically applies to scholarships that is filled out when applying to the University, but continuing students can turn to departmental scholarships and external scholarships to aid in funding their education and aiding their financial freedom. These would run in conjunction with any federal aid that students may receive. 

To apply for departmental scholarships, there are different criteria and requirements depending on the college. Often, there are year classification limits, meaning some scholarships are only available if you’re specifically a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior. Some require an application through a portal in myBama, while some ask for an audition or interview. To see your department’s requirements and offered scholarships, visit the individual website for your college. 

These opportunities not only supply monetary benefits but also offer recognition and personal growth through skill development and networking. The University has many resources available to help students succeed, but it’s up to the students to take advantage of them and make the most of their college experience.  

Bianca McCarty is a former Crimson White culture desk contributor.