Carmen Escudero, a second-year student at LaGuardia Community College in Queens, New York, said she would use the scholarship money she is hoping to win to pave her path toward medical school.
“It would help financially for my family and especially for me,” said Escudero, a biology student and member of LaGuardia’s Student Government Association, as well as several honors and research programs.
“I wouldn’t have to have so many jobs on the side to pay for school,” said Escudero, who immigrated to the U.S. from Colombia at 5-years-old and lived most of her life as an undocumented immigrant.
She is looking at the possibility of up to $40,000 annually in financial aid from the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. It is awarded to students at U.S. community colleges going on to complete their bachelor’s degree at four-year colleges and universities.
Escudero is an example of 406 semifinalists from among 1,500 applicants competing for the nation’s largest scholarship for transfer students from community colleges, according to the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation in Lansdowne, Virginia. Winners receive personal mentorship about selecting a transfer college and navigating financial aid, in addition to up to $40,000 per year for tuition and other expenses.
Among the semifinalists, 29% are international students, says Giuseppe “Seppy” Basili, foundation executive director. To be eligible, applicants must be both living and attending community college in the U.S. Winners will be announced in early May.
“The Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship is a highly selective scholarship for the nation’s top community college students seeking to complete their bachelor’s degrees at four-year colleges or universities,” Basili said. “The Foundation selects students that exhibit high academic ability and achievement, financial need, and qualities like persistence and leadership.”
Students often choose to start their higher education at community colleges because it is much less expensive than four-year schools, costing on average $10,000 per year compared with $25,000, according to Educationdata.org.
Community colleges are generally more flexible in scheduling, and for international students, some schools like LaGuardia do not require standardized test scores or English proficiency.
Community college students who transfer to four-year institutions have equal or higher graduation rates as students who enrolled directly from high school or those who transferred from other four-year institutions, according to a report by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. On average, they earn their degrees within two and a half years.
“The Cooke Foundation supports these students through the Undergraduate Transfer Program with the hopes that four-year institutions will see these students thrive and begin accepting a higher percentage of community college transfer students each year,” Basili said in an email.
The scholarship “might even allow me to pursue a double major,” Escudero said. “I’m really interested in chemistry, as well as my biology degree. And I could be more involved on the campus with that free time.”