A new startup called Raise.Me is offering high school students the opportunity to earn scholarship money as early as their freshman year.
The micro-scholarship program offers students free money for things they may have already done, with no pre-requisites. Students who are enrolled in 9th through 12th grade can visit the website and input any grades they have received, sports or clubs they participate in, or community service they have performed. The students receive money from the site's 125 college partners. Funds vary for each university.
For the 2015-16 school year, the College Board estimates the average annual cost of attending a four-year private school in the US to cost $43,921. For an out-of-state public college, the cost is estimated to be $34,031.
"The problem we're seeking to solve is that every year in the US, we're awarding billions of dollars to help students pay for college — but usually not until the end of their high school career, in the second semester of senior year," says Raise.me cofounder and CEO Preston Silverman. "That's after they're supposed to have decided if they can afford it. For many students, the money is awarded too late to impact where they choose to apply or whether they apply at all."
Institutions detail three things after having registered with the site, including who is eligible for money, which achievements will be rewarded, and how much each achievement will be worth.
The scholarships are guaranteed aid for students should they attend the school that awarded the funds, although admission to that school is not a given.
Students who register are required to input personal information, including name, high school, birth date, ethnicity, and if they are a recipient of the National School Lunch program, as well as whether their parents graduated from college.
In addition, each school sets a minimum GPA that students must maintain in order to be eligible to receive scholarship money, and students who register must currently be enrolled in a United States high school, writes Libby Kane for Business Insider.
Raise.Me is currently in its second year as a pilot program at Pennsylvania State University and six schools in the area, including Claysburg-Kimmel, Ferndale, Meyersdale, North Star, Rockwood and Salisbury Elklick.
The Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education at Penn State, Jacqueline Edmondson, said the college believes the program to be a creative way to get students thinking about college affordability and to establish good habits early on in order to continue to be successful in their higher education careers.
Edmondson added that while the program is still in a pilot phase at Penn State, the school is currently examining the data with plans to expand to other high schools.
Students are pleased with the program, telling Sara Small for WJAC that it not only offers additional motivation but also helps them to keep on track with future goals.
Students who heard about the program as upperclassmen can input anything they have done throughout their entire high school careers. The superintendent of the Ferndale-Area School District, Carol Kakabar, says it not only offers incentives to students but also to colleges, who are now able to see the character of prospective students as well as their work ethic.