Mason Scholarships Making a Difference in Students’ Lives

Posted: December 14, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: January 25, 2010 at 3:21 pm

By Devon Madison

Unless you have won the lottery or are an heir to a wealthy CEO, chances are, paying for college is going to put a strain on your or your family’s bank account. And while Mason is one of the more affordable colleges in the United States, the cost of tuition can still take a toll on even the hardest working family.

Fortunately, Mason’s Office of Student Financial Aid awards numerous scholarships funded from a variety of sources to help students in many different circumstances. Here’s a look at a few of the students who are pursuing their dreams and benefiting from scholarships.

Travis Johnson. Creative Services photo

Travis Johnson. Creative Services photo

Travis Johnson is a senior and a biology major originally from Massachusetts. He was so convinced that Mason was the right school for him, he applied early action and didn’t even bother to visit campus until after he received his acceptance letter.

As an out-of-state student, Johnson says scholarships have been very helpful; he received a four-year Academic Scholarship awarded through the Office of Admissions and a George Mason University William A. Hazel Family Endowed Scholarship.

“Out-of-state tuition is kind of a lot,” he says. “And it’s an expensive area. I know that without the scholarships, I would not have been able to go here.”

Johnson, who is in the Honors Program, is applying to various graduate programs. His love of medicine and patient interaction are the driving force behind applying to physician assistant programs, as well as an anesthesiology assistant program. Over winter break, he plans on volunteering for low-cost health providers in churches.

As far as Johnson is concerned, his experience at Mason has been worth every penny.

“I would not have picked any place else,” he says. “I’m definitely glad I came here. It was definitely the school for me. Everything just clicked. The people, the campus itself, it was exactly what I needed.”

Brittany O'Neal. Creative Services photo

Brittany O'Neal. Creative Services photo

When junior Brittany O’Neal first applied for scholarships, she wasn’t expecting anything at all.

“As my mother would say, if you don’t apply, then you know you’re not going to get anything,” says O’Neal, a student worker in the Office of Student Financial Aid. “But if you have your hat in the ring, there’s a chance you can get something.”

It turns out that her mother, who also works in the financial aid office, was right. O’Neal was awarded a George Mason University Bishop Book Scholarship and a College of Health and Human Services Lettie Pate Whitehead Nursing Scholarship, both of which are funded privately.

As for professional plans, O’Neal wants to get into the nursing program at Mason and would like to work in a hospital setting after graduating. Eventually, the Northern Virginia native would like to become a nurse anesthetist.

From her own experience and as someone who works in the Office of Student Financial Aid, O’Neal is able to offer some words of wisdom to college aspirants.

“I would just advise all the students to take advantage of doing the scholarship application, writing the essay, doing the resume. It really is worth it,” she says. “The fewer loans you get, the better.”

Junior Walter Vincente-Martinez has had a relationship with Mason dating back to the eighth grade. He began coming to the university as a member of the Early Identification Program (EIP), an innovative, multiyear college preparatory program for first-generation college-bound middle and high school students.

While on summer break from Hylton High School in Woodbridge, Va., Vincente-Martinez took math, computer and science classes at Mason.

“We had to be up early, but it was fun. We got to work with a lot of different people. It was interesting to tell my friends that I was going to Mason for the summer.”

Vincente-Martinez, an administration of justice major, is currently receiving an institutionally funded EIP Scholarship. This scholarship is especially important for him, as he is currently the sole provider for his brother and sister.

“This is the only way that I can really pay for college without putting myself into a huge debt,” he says. “So this was a great opportunity for me to be able to provide for my brother and sister in the future.”

After graduation, he would like to work in law enforcement in either Fairfax County or Prince William County for a few years. Vincente-Martinez would like to go to law school eventually.

For more information on available scholarships, visit the Office of Financial Aid web site.  To establish a scholarship or contribute to a scholarship endowment, see the University Development web site.

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