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FastWeb Winner's Circle: Joanne Fernandez Wins $13K in Scholarships via FastWeb!

Lauren Anderson Youngblood

December 02, 2009

FastWeb Winner's Circle: Joanne Fernandez Wins $13K in Scholarships via FastWeb!
Joanne Fernandez has a fear of student loans. But knowing that her parents couldn’t afford to pay for both college and her dream of going to medical school, Joanne decided to take matters into her own hands. Instead of letting her fear paralyze her, she got on the Internet and started searching for scholarships. FastWeb was the first place she looked. It wasn’t an easy journey, but after applying for more than 20 awards, Joanne, a 21 year old college senior from Brooklyn, New York, said she’s won nearly $13,000 in scholarships she found on FastWeb.

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And Joanne says the confidence she gained from winning awards via FastWeb led her to apply for others she found through her school — and she even won some of those too! That money was enough to pay for room, board and books at the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education at the City College of New York. It was also enough to get her to the fifth year of her pre-med program without any undergraduate loans to pay off. “For every five scholarships I've applied to, I received one acceptance,” Joanne said. “Yes, the application process may be lengthy, but the rewards make it worthwhile.”

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Tell us about the scholarship you won through Fastweb: I won the Hispanic Scholarship Fund's Camino al Exito ($2,500 a year, for four years, for a total of $10,000), the Congressional Black Caucus Spouses Education Scholarship Fund ($900), and the United Health Group Scholarship via Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities ($2,000). So far, in total, I’ve won $12,900 in scholarships I found through Fastweb.
How many scholarships did you apply for before you won? I must've applied to over 20 scholarships in my college career, but what keeps me motivated is honestly, my fear of loans. I know my parents will not be able to afford my college education and I need to take out loans for medical school. In order to reduce my amount of debt I need to apply to as many scholarships as possible for my undergraduate career. It doesn't hurt to apply. I've developed a common practice of applying to any and all opportunities because of Fastweb. Being that they emailed me weekly and almost daily, I never hesitated in applying to internships and scholarships. Because of this encouragement, I have been named the Dobrich New American Scholar at the Colin Powell Center for Policy Studies, and have received other scholarships from my college. What did you have to do to apply for the scholarships you won? I had to fill out an application and write essays for all of them. For HSF, I had to send supporting documents. What were the other scholarship consideration requirements? For two of the awards, I needed a 3.0 GPA, for one, the minimum was 2.5. Most required you to be enrolled full time in an accredited college or university, and attending either a two or four year school. One required me to be of Hispanic origin and a U.S. citizen, and another required a declared major in Health Sciences or Allied Health. For the CBC award I had to be involved in the community and reside in one of the congressional districts represented by a CBC member. For another, I had to be pursuing my first undergraduate degree. How long did it take to hear back from the scholarship providers? Several months. What did you use the money for? I use the scholarship money to pay for my room and board on campus. I also use the money to buy my books. Joanne’s advice to other scholarship applicants, in her own words: “Take the application process for these scholarships seriously. If you feel your writing is poor, don't be ashamed to visit your school's writing center or approach an English professor to proofread it. Often, scholarships have a common theme for their essays, so writing one good essay can go a long way, especially if it's the only thing that will show the judges a glimpse of who you really are. Don't be discouraged if you've applied to many and have received responses from none. In the words of John Wanamaker, ‘No mistake or failure is as bad as to stop and not try again’.” Post graduate plans: After I complete the five years at the Sophie Davis Program at The City College of New York, I will transfer to one of the six cooperating medical schools to complete my 3rd and 4th years of medical school. Once I graduate medical school, I wish to pursue my Master's in Public Health and work in an underserved area.

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