Ingrid Phillips was thinking about moving back home to Michigan when she took a drive along state Route 78 and saw a freeway sign noting that MiraCosta College was just up the road.
Her life hasn’t been the same since.
Phillips, who had lost her home, her job and her marriage, drove to the Oceanside Campus not really sure what she was looking for. What she found was a supportive faculty and staff who encouraged the struggling single mom to go to college. They encouraged her to take advantage of counseling and other programs that MiraCosta College offered. And they encouraged her to apply for every scholarship for which she qualified.
Just a few years later, Phillips earned an associate of arts degree and is now a full-time student at California State University, San Marcos, majoring in sociology with a minor in communications. She would eventually like to get her master’s degree in counseling. Perhaps more impressive, she has secured $30,000 in scholarships since 2010.
“Ingrid has overcome a lot of challenges and a lot of hardships and has never let any of that stop her,” said Diane Danielewicz, MiraCosta College’s Financial Aid/Scholarship specialist. “She’s an exceptional person.”
It’s not clear where Phillips would rank on the all-time list of scholarships for MiraCosta College students, but everyone says it would be at or near the top. Among the awards are scholarships from P.E.O. International (Women Helping Women Reach for the Stars), the Osher Foundation, J. Arthur & Pauline Drielsma, Mort & Agatha Winski, AARP and four branches of American Association of University Women.
“A lot of people think to themselves, ‘No, I can’t get a scholarship.’ But you can,” Phillips said. “There’s money out there in every field. People are looking to help you.”
In 2013-2014, MiraCosta’s Financial Aid Office awarded more than $17.9 million of fee waivers, grants, scholarships, work-study and loans to students like Philllips.
So far this academic year, the Financial Aid Office has received more than 16,300 applications, but there are still hundreds of students who qualify for financial aid who have not filled out a FAFSA application.
“The most important thing a student should know is that if they don’t apply for financial aid and fill out the forms, they won’t get any aid,” said Financial Aid secretary Alison Cotter. “Some students will not apply for FAFSA or scholarships because of beliefs including, ‘I (or my parents) make too much money, only students with good grades get scholarships or the form is too hard to fill out.’ These and more are the common misconceptions we hear all the time.”
Financial aid, first and foremost, is money that can help students pay for college and other school-related expenses. There are literally billions of dollars available from a variety of sources, including the federal and state government, colleges/universities and private organizations.
“Even if a student thinks they may not qualify, or they have not qualified in the past, they should still apply. They may qualify for a fee waiver or get selected for a scholarship that they were not expecting,” said Cotter.
Another form of free educational assistance students can take advantage of is scholarships.
So far, 375 scholarships, totaling more than $250,000 have been given out to MiraCosta students this academic year.
“We don’t ever leave money out on the table,” said Danielewicz. “We work extremely hard and always find a student who qualifies for scholarships that are currently out there.”
Numerous MiraCosta College Foundation scholarships, from $500-$2,500 a piece, are still available, including the Tri-City Hospital Auxiliary Nursing, Genentech Biotechnology.
(BTEC), Friends of Dance and Harry Phillips Social Science Transfer.
“Students often tell me that receiving a scholarship not only helps them financially, but encourages them to do well in school because they want to work hard and make their donor proud,” said Danielewicz.
For the Scholarship and Financial Aid Office, one of the biggest hurdles staff see students struggle with is filling out the application or writing the personal statement.
Thankfully, plenty of resources are available to help students through the financial aid application process and with writing personal statements. For example, students can attend free workshops with hands-on assistance to complete the applications and students can also visit the Writing Center to get help with writing their personal statement.
To meet the Cal Grant and priority processing deadline students to submit the free FAFSA application by March 2. For more information, visit the MiraCosta College Financial Aid website or call 760.795.6711.
Have questions? Today, February 24 and 25, Financial Aid Director Michael Dear will hold a live chat on the official MiraCosta College Facebook page, 1-3 p.m. Students can post financial aid questions for Dear to answer.
The MiraCosta College scholarship application deadline is March 8. To view the list of available scholarships, visit www.miracosta.edu/scholarships.