Scholar’s App website balances scales for student financial aid
By Chance Nakazato
For Leeward student and CEO of Scholar’s App Traven Watase, finding a scholarship for which he was eligible proved challenging, and the process of applying even more so. To help his fellow students work around this challenge, he created his own scholarship fund, known as Scholar’s App.
“When I was 18 years old, I decided to eat PB&J sandwiches one week out of every month just so that I could save $50 a month,” Watase said. “I came out with $500 and then I said, ‘okay I want to create a scholarship and all I care about is the story. I just care about the potential success. I don’t care about GPA, I don’t care about SAT scores or anything like that, I just want to give out $500 of my own money.’”
Watase was motivated to start the fund for a number of reasons. A large majority of scholarships—especially the most prestigious—require applicants to meet increasingly high standards that, for some, are unachievable due to external forces not always considered by decision committees.
“There’s this demographic of students who are getting looked over that are doing really well, but their cumulative (GPA) isn’t doing so good because of external factors,” Watase said.
After Watase acquired the $500, he opened the scholarship to students at his alma mater, Farrington High School. A total of seven students applied using his five-minute application, and one received the full $500 scholarship.
Despite successfully launching his fund, Watase once again found the process more difficult than it should be. He recalled a number of different factors he had to consider, from meeting with counselors to how he would advertise his scholarship.
“I realized how difficult it was for someone to create a scholarship. You either got to get it hosted by a (nonprofit) foundation under a committee where they have a minimum such as $20,000. Or I have to start my own (nonprofit) entity which on it’s own costs $1000 and then also the time it takes,” Watase said. “So I realized that there’s so much barriers for the average person to create a scholarship, it’s just ridiculous.”
The (nonprofit) situation alone would have cost Watase all the money he had for the fund he hoped to create.
“Quite honestly, I got pissed off and I thought, ‘this is BS,” Watase said. “There’s $1.3 trillion of student debt out there. The average ‘Joe’ can’t give out $500 even if it’s in their hand and they said ‘all I want to do is give it to a deserving student.’ That is not possible right now and that’s irritating to me.”
According to Watase, some students spend over 100 hours applying for scholarships. From identifying the right scholarship to getting letters of recommendation, the application process can be stressful and tedious. Scholar’s App streamlines the process with a one-time profile creation, compiling an applicant’s general information—such as name, address, previous institutions—eliminating the need to constantly re-input the same information.
“We take the app and then we find all the scholarships that (the student) qualifies for,” Watase said. “We either send it out if we have enough information, if we don’t then we go back to the student and we’ll say ‘okay, you only have to fill out this,’ you never have to write your name again unless you’re signing off a paper or anything like that. All you have to do is fill out information that we don’t have…”
For those looking to continue their education beyond a two-year or four-year degree, Watase credits Scholar’s App with providing opportunities for graduate level financial aid.
“I can guarantee, that any high school senior, any current college student (graduate undergraduate, Ph.D, masters) and anyone who wants to go to college within the next year, that when you apply on Scholar’s App, you’ll qualify for at least five scholarships,” Watase said. “And that number is only going to double, if not triple, as soon as we upload more scholarships.”
With no limit to the number of scholarships students can apply for, Scholar’s App is a competitive venue for any student to receive additional financial aid.