Scholarships for Digital Media Students
It is challenging to be able to afford a college education. Too many students and their families take on too much student debt, and that debt can be debilitating for young graduates. So, UH’s president, Dr. Renu Khator, has made "minimal graduate debt" a goal for our university.
One of the ways to decrease your eventual student debt is to apply for—and win—scholarships. Thankfully, many organizations are well aware of the challenges of paying for college, can raise money to help you.
When looking for scholarships, students should be aware that digital media is an academic program that is classified by the U.S. Department of Education’s
Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) in category 10) Communications Technologies/Technicians and Support Services. Digital Media is also similar to instructional programs called graphic arts, graphic communication(s), web design, computer graphics, video production, visual communications, communications technologies and others. So, when searching the web for scholarships, be sure to check for any (or all) of the above titles.
Two scholarship programs that have funded several UH Graphic Communications Technology/Digital Media students are the Electronic Document Scholarship Foundation (EDSF) and the Printing and Graphics Scholarship Foundation (PGSF). Dr. Waite was funded by the PGSF all the way through his doctoral program. Numerous UH Digital Media students have followed in his footsteps.
One useful online resource is SchoolSoup. You can use this site to find lots of scholarship opportunities. For example, SchoolSoup's Graphic Arts Scholarships page lists nearly 300 scholarships that are available to graphic arts students. SchoolSoup also provides scholarship listings for Communication Technology, Film/Video, printing and visual communications.
In addition to major-specific scholarships, the University of Houston and the College of Technology also administer numerous scholarship opportunities. Visit the College of Technology's Financial Aid page for more information.
Completing a Scholarship Application
Any scholarship for which you apply will require you to do some work, primarily read and understand the requirements, make sure you are qualified, fill out an application (which may include a written personal statement), and get recommendation letters.
Dr. Waite has served on scholarship committees and can tell numerous stories about applicants who are completely unqualified for the organization’s support. So, be SURE that you qualify for each scholarship for which you apply. If the organization wants to sponsor printing management students, don’t apply if you want to go into web design!
When completing scholarship applications, be sure that every field is filled out. Leave nothing blank. If you have no answer for a given item, write NA in the blank. Never lie or exaggerate on scholarship applications. Such actions can be cause for an awarded scholarship to be withdrawn. Make sure that every item that is requested, such as a transcript, is included with the package that you submit.
If the scholarship requires an essay, write a meaningful letter addressed to the committee. Do not use the same letter for every organization. Tell the reader(s) why they should fund you. What will they get from funding you? In other words, what will their return on investment be?
Tailor your statement to the particular funding agency. Go online and find out about them. Make sure that your letter conveys your knowledge and understanding of the funding organization.
If you have a few skeletons in your closet (maybe a questionable first year of college), explain them and then tell how and why you are doing better now. Many digital media majors have had issues during freshman and sophomore years only to "flower" when they begin to focus on digital media courses. If that is the case, explain it.
Preparing for a Recommendation Letter
If you want a good recommendation letter, you have to provide your recommender with “ammunition.” In other words, the one writing a letter for you needs to have good things to say about you. Consider a student who comes in late for class most days. Or, how about somebody who habitually forgets to do quizzes, turns in work late, or blows off assignments? Finally, what about the student who never says anything in class or never visits the professor during office hours? What can the recommender say? You need to shine so that the recommender can simply attest to your brightness.
One of the best things you can do to prepare for recommendation letters is to belong to student and/or professional organizations. GCEAUH is an excellent way to show your dedication (which you want your recommender to be able to mention) and your leadership qualities. This is especially true if you take on a leadership role within the group.
You should only request recommendation letters from people you know well. In addition, the people who you ask to write about you should be able to comment on your abilities relative to the funding agency’s goal. In other words, if you are applying for a print-related scholarship, a recommendation from your mom or minister is not appropriate.
If you are going to ask a UH professor or staff member to write a letter of recommendation for you, you must first complete a Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) form. Download the official FERPA Release Form, and hand it to the UH employee along with any instructions the scholarship agency provides. Sometimes, scholarship organizations want recommenders to fill out a specific form. In other cases, they want specific questions answered. Some just want general information. No matter what, make sure the recommender knows what is expected of him or her.