Lawrence High School seniors celebrate newfound scholarship opportunities

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Many college-bound high school students aren’t aware of the financial aid opportunities available to them. Scholarship offers often wind up in their spam folders or the trash without ever being seen. But Kansas City-based VU Scholarships is taking steps to change that.

VU, pronounced “View,” partners with universities and school districts to help students find available scholarships. The program recently partnered with Lawrence High School, making more than $82 million in potential scholarships available to 90 LHS seniors.

“That’s a lot of money,” senior Ola Akinniyi said Friday morning as he opened an envelope containing details of what was available to him. “The letter said I got $770,000 [in offers] from a bunch of colleges.”

The LHS seniors received offers totaling between $400,000 and $1.5 million in aid from 24 schools, including Drake, Rockhurst and Truman State universities. Additional scholarship offers will arrive soon from schools like the University of Kansas and Kansas State, which are set to partner with VU in the coming week.

To clarify, students didn’t receive up to $1.5 million to go wherever they want. VU simply funnels all the scholarship offers that students could receive based on their GPAs and ACT scores and then provides the students the total amount of offers, broken down by where the offers come from and for how much. 

VU’s founder, Andrew Márquez, a Kansas City native, said his program began as an effort to make non-athlete students like Akinniyi understand that they too are eligible for college scholarships.

“We provide two big benefits to students,” said Márquez, who attended the Lawrence High ceremony Friday morning. “One, it saves the student a lot of time. Two, even more importantly, it opens up their imagination to consider schools that they’ve talked themselves out of.”

After operating for more than eight years, VU has partnered with 75 area high schools and 30 universities to provide billions of dollars in potential aid.

VU offers its scholarship-finding services at no cost to the school district or parents. According to Márquez, its intention is to simplify the financial-aid process by saving students the time of filling out forms to chase scholarship offers. Instead, it works with universities to find eligible students and bring the scholarships to them.

“It shows opportunities to me that I would not have found before,” senior Ayo Obadare said. “I received [offers of] over $1.4 million from 28 schools. It didn’t feel real when I first saw the number. It was so surprising.”

The program also is intended to be helpful for students who put off college decisions or don’t find college accessible because of cost.

Principal Jessica Bassett plans to have LHS partner with VU in the spring to provide scholarship opportunities to both seniors and juniors.

Ultimately, the program serves students, Márquez said. 

“At its heart, VU helps students themselves see the immense potential they have,” he said. “Now they can step back and say, ‘I can do this.’”

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Jack Ritter (he/him), a contributor to The Lawrence Times, is a student at the University of Kansas studying journalism. He is also a graduate of Lawrence High School, where he was the editor-in-chief of The Budget Online. 

Read more of his work for the Times here. You can view more of his work for The Budget Online here.

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