In today’s dynamic, challenging and rapidly-changing workplace landscape, the importance of post-secondary education cannot be underestimated. Indeed, research by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association has found that individuals with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $50,000 per year, compared to under $30,000 for high school graduates. And individuals with a master’s, professional or doctorate degree earn an average of $70,000 per year, though many earn considerably more. 

Furthermore, compared to high school graduates, college and university graduates are more likely to find themselves gainfully employed for longer periods of time. According to research by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate is 2.1 percent for individuals with a bachelor’s degree, 2.1 percent for a master’s degree, 1.6 percent for a doctoral degree, and 1.5 percent for a professional degree. Conversely, the unemployment rate is 4.1 percent for individuals with a high school diploma, and 5.6 percent for those with less than a high school diploma. Crunch all of the numbers, and the conclusion is clear: college graduates can expect to make significantly more money over their career, and spend substantially less time (or in some cases, no time at all) facing unemployment. 

The bad news: however, is that many otherwise hard working, dedicated, ambitious and deserving young people do not have the opportunity to advance their education and realize their full academic and career potential due to prohibitive financial barriers. Fortunately, that is where scholarships enter the picture and make a transformative difference in the lives of students, families and futures.

According to Dan Orfin, the founder of insurance and retirement planning firm Orfin & Associates, and who is also the benefactor of scholarship program that awards financial aid to deserving students in post-secondary programs, here are the three key ways that scholarships drive academic goals and lasting career success:

Breaking Financial Barriers

Naturally, the first and most important benefit of scholarships is breaking financial barriers. According to research by the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost for tuition, fees, room and board is an estimated $17,237 per year for enrollment in a public four-year university. This price tag jumps to $45,551 for a private nonprofit university. Scholarships go a long way towards offsetting this significant cost burden.

Commented Dan Orfin, whose scholarship program invites applicants to submit a 500-word essay describing what they will do differently this year to achieve their professional goals: for many low and middle-income families, the prospect of spending upwards of $20,000 a year to fund their child’s post-secondary ambitions is a non-starter. At the same time, student loans are not as easy to get as they were in the past, and students who must rely exclusively on loans typically graduate with massive debt. Scholarships make an immediate, significant and practical difference, and for some students and families make the impossible, possible.

Enabling Academic Achievement 

According to a survey by Ohio State University, the number one worry among college and university students isn’t whether they’ll ace their next exam or graduate with distinction: it’s whether they’ll be able to pay their day-to-day expenses. And for 16 percent of students — which is about one in six — the financial situation is so dire, that they’re forced to suspend their studies despite having the grades they need to continue moving forward without delay.

Dan Orfin states that academic funding can play a vital role in easing this financial anxiety, so that students can focus their time and attention on maximizing their academic opportunity.

Opening Career Doors

Generally speaking, the job market in the U.S. is looking good for today’s college and university graduates. This is especially the case for graduates in fields such a life sciences, healthcare, technology, business and engineering. However, despite this demand, the fact remains that the job market is competitive — and highlighting a scholarship award on a resume and discussing it during interviews can be the difference between being offered a coveted job at leading firms such as Orfin & Associates vs. losing out on an opportunity to another strong candidate.

According to Dan Orfin: job seekers, including those who are employed and want to elevate their career to the next level, can definitely leverage any scholarships in their history to their advantage. It demonstrates their ability to set and achieve goals, which is what employers are urgently looking for. Frankly, in the big picture, what an employee knows isn’t as important as whether they have the capacity and commitment to get things done. Scholarships send a very positive message and set job seekers apart from the crowd.

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