Peace of mind

Scholarships ease financial burden of school
October 30th, 2023

Left to right: D3 Mayra Macias, D3 Joyce Akinnibosun, DH2 Isabella Slaughter and D4 Jorge Morillo. Not pictured is D4 Frannie Gall.

Higher education, especially in a city like Dallas, is an expensive prospect. The cost of tuition, living expenses and commuting, adds up quickly, but many students have sought scholarships through Texas A&M School of Dentistry and Texas A&M University to help alleviate the financial strain.

Third-year dental student Joyce Akinnibosun said scholarships were key to obtaining an undergraduate degree, and now she’s utilizing them in dental school.

“I think many students can attest to the fact that not having to worry about money and loans can take a great weight off your shoulders,” she said.  “It’s a benefit to my family and my future family.”

Mayra Macias, third-year dental student, said she earned a scholarship with the school in her second year and used it to cover her day-to-day expenses. The award was a financial relief, and it enabled her to better focus on coursework.

“We say ‘free money,’ but it’s not really free,” she said. “You have to put in a lot of work to get scholarships. In the end, it’s worth it because it’s money you don’t have to pay back. I was able to just worry about doing good in school.

“Here, Texas A&M helps you a lot. There are a lot of different programs that can help you solidify your plans,” she said.

Latarsha Evans, financial aid adviser at the dental school, said approximately 60 students are receiving financial aid through scholarships this year. Roughly 20 are external scholarships, and 40 are internal from the dental school or the university at-large.

“There’s a scholarship committee here that meets and looks at the pool of students,” she said. “The application ranks students on a point system, based off their volunteer work, leadership skills, student organizations … lots of things. The committee meets and goes over the criteria for scholarships and selects the students. Then, of course, the students are notified and are encouraged, or required, to write a thankyou note to the donors.”

Frannie Gall, fourth-year dental student, said she’s received three or four scholarships while in dental school. She plans to specialize in pediatrics upon graduation, but applying to specialties is an expensive process, too, not to mention the cost of additional schooling. She hopes to secure more scholarships as she continues her education.

“They do a good job giving us scholarship opportunities here,” Gall said. “They’ll submit our names to scholarship programs for us, without putting a lot of burden on us to scan the internet for everything.”

Evans said students can apply for scholarships on their own, offered internally by the university or from external resources, but there are a number of departmental scholarships where they can be nominated by a faculty member.

Jorge Morillo, fourth-year dental student, added that scholarships remove barriers to success. They provide financial freedom, giving him the opportunity to focus on his schoolwork, without being distracted by worries about money.

“I’m very grateful for my scholarships and the opportunities that the donors provide,” he said.

Isabella Slaughter, second-year dental hygiene student, said she has been working as a lifeguard since she was 15 years old. Today she works two jobs and tutors on the side, on top of keeping up with her coursework. In combination with her savings, her scholarship money is helping her make rent this year.

“Money is already such a sensitive topic, and with scholarships, it seems like a ‘hush-hush’ system,” Slaughter said. “You put your information in and then you get out of the way and see what happens. If I had one wish, it would for the school’s scholarship opportunities to be talked about even more.”

Evans said applying for scholarships can be a daunting task for students with their busy courseload. However, she strongly encourages them to make the time for it and to give the applications their best effort. Scholarships can be a great help, she said, and the competition can be fierce.

“Set time aside to do it,” she said. “Take your time. Even once a week, go in and do an application. The committee members do actually read those essays. Just tell your story. Be real and be true.”

— Caleb Vierkant