Scholarships for Childhood Cancer Survivors
by Kelsey Gillis, childhood cancer survivor and scholarship winner
It is that time of the year when high school seniors are narrowing down their college choices and applying for scholarships. Some scholarships specifically support kids who have had cancer.
I'm beginning my second semester at Azusa Pacific University (APU) with the help of funds from one of these scholarships: the National Children's Cancer Society's Beyond the Cure Scholarship Program. The program was created "to award college scholarships to childhood cancer survivors who have demonstrated the ability to overcome the difficult challenges of cancer with determination and motivation." My experience may provide tips to others on how to pursue these awards.
Although APU is a private college, which means I would pay more tuition than at a public school, I knew it was the right choice for me — but I needed to find a way to cover my costs. At my last late-effects checkup, the counselor/nutritionist gave me a packet of information about scholarships available to cancer patients. I decided to apply for the Beyond the Cure scholarship, so I headed to the www.beyondthecure.org website and began the application process.
The application requested general information about me, a two-to-three-page essay, a summary of my community service hours, two letters of recommendation, verification of my cancer diagnosis from my doctor and my signature agreeing to fulfill the scholarship requirements.
The essay topic asked me to describe how being diagnosed with cancer at a young age impacted my life and future goals. I wrote about how I changed physically, mentally and spiritually through my cancer experience and how it led to my goal of becoming a pediatric oncologist. I also listed community service activities I was involved in, like the American Cancer Society Relay for Life and Key Club, the community service club at my school.
I asked for a letter of recommendation from a church friend and leader as well as from one of my teachers. It was humbling to read these letters.
As part of the application I agreed that the National Children's Cancer Society could use my photo and essay. I also agreed to complete a certain amount of service hours and maintain a 2.5 GPA in my college classes. I am working with the Beyond the Cure staff on completing my service hours, and turned in my first semester grade point average, which was 3.6.
I have two suggestions for students applying for a scholarship. First, do not procrastinate in the application process. I know that advice is a lot easier said than done, but it truly helps. It takes time to ask a teacher if they will write a letter of recommendation and takes time for the teacher to compose the letter. It also takes time to write and correct your essay so it truly conveys your personality. Request any high school or college transcripts in advance, as well.
My other suggestion is to write about something that makes you unique. For me it is my strong relationship with God and my future goal of becoming a pediatric oncologist.
Remember to think positive and check the deadlines to get your application in on time!