General scholarship applications due Feb. 1

Portland State’s scholarship applications are due Feb. 1. The applications are open to graduate and undergraduate students, including students transferring into the university. The application was officially released on Oct. 15, 2014.

The general scholarship application is available for undergraduate students. Graduate scholarships are area and major specific.

“In an ideal world I would like to see students go to college, get a degree and make a career without having to spend a cent from their pocket,” said Sa’eed Haji, Scholarships, Outreach and Veterans coordinator at PSU.

Haji coordinates the general scholarship application at PSU and works on making scholarship information available to students.

Last year, 320 students received over $800,000 through general scholarships, according to Haji. Over 3,500 students started applications and 2,231 were completed.

According to the 2014 State Higher Education Finance Report, Oregon ranks 47th in state spending per student. “This can make scholarships essential for some students,” Haji said.

The amount of available scholarship money varies. “It depends on the funds available…If we have more fundraised and available to give out, the more scholarships. Less money, less scholarships. Each year will depend on how much money is available that was fundraised,” Haji said.

General scholarship applications are reviewed by the University Committee, which is made up of staff and faculty. Last year the committee consisted of 117 people. To avoid conflicts of interest, reviewers who know one another will not look over the same application.

When reviewing applications the University Committee focuses on six categories. All six categories are of equal merit.

The committee looks for content and quality in essays. Haji emphasized clear and concise language and essays that directly address the prompts.

Haji also stressed the importance of self-advocacy, especially for those who might have inconsistencies like a low grade point average.

“If you don’t explain yourself, then we won’t know what to make out of your application. Everyone goes through some difficulty in their lives,” Haji said.

Applicants are expected to demonstrate current or recent service to the community. Length of service is also noted, Haji said.

Reviewers also consider career goals.

“Are they focused, are they clear enough? A student has to be specific,” Haji said. “We want to help you get where you need to be.”

Letters of recommendation, both academic and non-academic, are very important, Haji added.

For academic recommendations, Haji suggests selecting a professor who knows the student well.

“That’s why there’s office hours to take advantage of during the year. You get to know your professor, you ask questions…Sometimes they can become your biggest fan and advocate in life,” Haji said.

Non-academic letters are also important.

“Keep in mind that [the] scholarship selection [commitee] wants to hear about significant or recent experience with this person,” Haji said.

The University Committee also looks at financial need, academic records and achievements.
“Please start early. Have at least two others look at your application. It may look great to you, but not to the reader,” said Linda Liu, program director of TRiO Student Support Services at PSU.

The TRiO program provides advising, scholarship resources and assistance, and many other services to undergraduate students who are eligible. To qualify for TRiO, students must be first generation college students from low-income families. Students must also maintain at least a 2.5 GPA.

Beyond the general scholarship application and TRiO, students have other education funding opportunities.

The Oregon Student Office of Access and Completion is also a resource for students who are residents of Oregon, according to Liu.

OSAC offers public and private scholarships to both undergraduate and graduate students. More information about OSAC grants and scholarships can be found at:

Students can also search online for national-level scholarships to help offset the cost of attendance at PSU, Liu said.

For more information on scholarships offered at PSU, go to