Scholarship Fest Supports Student Success

I handle marketing communications at Cal Poly Pomona, which allows me the opportunity to manage campaigns focused on making young adults’ lives easier and better. One example is the recently wrapped Scholarship Fest. The article I wrote below highlights its success. It was first published on our university news site PolyCentric.

Scholarship Fest Increases Applications, Money Awarded

Graphic that reads: Scholarship Fest: All colleges, Hundreds of Scholarships, Thousands of Dollars. Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships

This year’s Scholarship Fest awarded over 340 scholarships and $1.65 million to Cal Poly Pomona students, a 20 percent increase in scholarships and an additional $300,000 more than the $1.35 million awarded the previous year.

The “fest,” launched in 2019, established an annual cycle that organizes the scholarship application period within a certain timeframe in order to award scholarships in a more systemic manner. It also established the Bronco Scholarship Portal (BSP) as the official hub for CPP scholarships.

“These changes were a result of guidance from the Chancellor’s Office to ensure the campus had a fair, equitable and transparent application and review process with a centralized scholarship database,” said Saúl Ramirez, associate director in the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, who led the initiative. “Up until now, it’s been difficult to assess how much aid has been awarded. The more scholarships we offer through the portal, the more we are able to track this important financial data.”

Students submitted over 7,400 scholarship applications through the portal, an increase of 13 percent from the previous cycle. Ava Hanson, who moved from Virginia to study plant science, was one of them. As soon as she arrived on campus, she started volunteering with the Rose Float Program, taking on more leadership each year. She had heard good things about the scholarship opportunities for Rose Float volunteers and didn’t want to miss out. 

Hanson filled out the general scholarship application, which allows students to be automatically considered for any scholarships that do not require supplemental materials, if they meet the qualifications. She also applied to a handful of opportunities specific to the Rose Float. Her efforts paid off. She received three plant science scholarships for $1,000 each, including the Eugene and Wanda Yee Huie Memorial Endowment, Orange County Rare Fruit Growers Scholarship and the Fruit Industries Endowment in Honor of Mike Mitchell. She also received $2,500 from the Jim Caras Scholarship Fund for Rose Float volunteers.

“This makes me feel recognized for all the hard work I’ve put into my studies and the Rose Float Program,” Hanson said. “Scholarships allow students to focus on the reason we’re here — education — rather than worrying about where our next meal will come from. This financial support will allow me to continue doing the cocurricular work that I love, like Rose Float, which requires so much time and attention.”

She “definitely” plans to participate in next year’s Scholarship Fest. “Now that I know I can do it, there’d be no reason not to,” she said. Her advice to other students is to “go for it” and to remember to plan ahead. “Once you apply, it gets easier every time,” she said. “Put it on your calendar and treat it like homework.”

Eddie Rangel, a transfer student who hails from the San Fernando Valley, agrees that time management is key. He found out about Scholarship Fest from a social media post on Instagram Stories. He filled out the general application and applied to a few other opportunities, some of which were specific to his major, visual communication design. He received the Norman Priest Scholarship for $250.

“I’m really happy to have been awarded something,” he said. “A few hundred dollars may not sound like much, but it goes towards my tuition and is less out of my pocket, so it really does help.”

He found writing essays for scholarships challenging on top of studying and work, but the benefits of Scholarship Fest only made him want to increase his involvement. “Next year, I want to apply to one every week to maximize my chances, which will really require planning, but I’m motivated and excited about it.”

Rangel applied last year but did not receive any scholarships. “Rejection doesn’t feel good but often when you fail you learn the most because it sticks and you have to think about what you did,” he said. “It can be demotivating to know there’s a chance you won’t get it. But if you don’t apply, you have zero chances. It’s better to at least try to increase your odds.”

The team from the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships is looking forward to continual improvement in future cycles. “One of our goals this year was to increase the number of scholarships offered and applications received through the portal, which we achieved,” Ramirez said. “Next year, we hope to continue in this direction with even more divisions, colleges and departments offering scholarships through the BSP. We also want to grow staff and alumni participation on our scholarship committees in order to expand collaboration in supporting student success.”

If you’re a student with questions about scholarships, or an employee, alumna or alumnus interested in volunteering for a scholarship committee, please email the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships at

To make a contribution to university scholarships, visit Donate Now.  

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