To date, Fort Campbell High School seniors have received approximately $4.6 million in scholarship money, a number Stacy Daniels, senior guidance counselor at FCHS, expects to rise as more scholarships are announced in June.
The scholarships represent about $70,769 per graduating student, with 95% of students earning at least one scholarship, Daniels said. There are a total of 65 students in the FCHS Class of 2021.
Set up for success
The amount of scholarship money is significant because, as Daniels explains, it’s important to help students and their Families figure out the best way for them to attend and pay for college.
“The best thing we can do as counselors is invest time into getting to know students – learning their hopes, their dreams, their goals and even their fears,” she said.
Standing by students as they have college application or scholarship questions, writing dynamic letters of recommendation, being a constant source of encouragement and being a sounding board as students work through their college decisions are the ways Daniels has found to best support students and their Families.
“We often meet to wade through the myriad of college questions, Family concerns, FAFSA issues, and we work together to figure out how to pay for college,” she said. “It is very important to me to help students have higher education options that are affordable for our Families.”
Aside from helping students navigate college and scholarship applications, the FCHS staff works closely with local universities and colleges to waive application fees. This gives students the opportunity to have free access to apply to a couple of local universities, Daniels said.
“Also, there are some schools that allow free applications to military dependents or students on the free/reduced lunch program,” she said. “We seek out all free options and encourage students to apply.”
Having scholarship money made available to them makes students more open to exploring what their options may be to pursue higher education.
Daniels said she takes what she calls a “2-2-2” approach to helping students explore what colleges and universities may interest them. She encourages student to apply to two “reach” universities, which are schools where the student’s academic performance is on the lower end of what the school’s threshold is; two “match” universities, where the student’s qualifications and the school’s requisites are most aligned; and two “safe” schools, where the applying student’s academic performance is comfortably on the higher end of what the institution requires for admission.
This is a great way to help them open up to possibilities they may not have considered, she said.
“The more students apply to a variety of colleges, the more options they have,” Daniels said. “Each college offers varying amounts of financial assistance and students are often surprised of their scholarship offerings. I always say ‘options are not commitments; they are simply options and options are good.’”
Boots on the ground
While the scholarship money is certainly an advantage, Daniels maintains the key to preparing for higher education isn’t just in applying for scholarships, but in taking initiative early in a student’s high school career to determine the best courses and extracurricular activities that will bolster a student’s chances of being accepted into college.
“Ideally, preparing for top-tier college admissions requires ‘boots on the ground’ from day one of high school,” she said. “Decisions about what classes to take, making goals for achieving top grades, building a stellar student resume, becoming involved in activities and taking leadership roles in those activities, and participating in summer programs are all essential items that school staff, students and Families work with jointly. If Families and students take advantage of our services and students work hard to achieve their goals, the sky is the limit.”
A life that soars
Daniels hopes students will take advantage of all the opportunities that are available to them at FCHS, but she also understands being the child of military parents can get hard sometimes, she said. And for those who get down on themselves occasionally she has this piece of advice.
“Life is to be cherished and as Falcons our job is to live a life that soars,” Daniels said. “So, when things don’t always work out as we had dreamed they would, I challenge our graduates to pick up the pieces of what is left, create a Plan B, and then run with it. It may not be pretty. It won’t be what we wanted. But one thing is certain – our graduates can make the choice to be positive and succeed.”