FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

General

Where do I apply?

An application link will be available in October for the February 1st deadline. The May 1st application will be available on March 1st. 

Students will need to sign up for an account on our scholarship system “SmarterSelect” to apply. If access to the internet or computer technology is a challenge, please contact info@rscholars.org. 

How does the committee select finalists?

Each eligible application is thoroughly reviewed and scored by multiple members of the Renaissance volunteer committee. Some items we pay particular attention to are: 

  • Financial need (EFC, annual household income, statement of need, number of people in household, etc.): This helps us to determine a student’s financial burden and their need for additional funding.  
  • Academics (unweighted cumulative HS and college GPA, consistent/improved grades, class choices, etc.): This information helps us to select applicants who are strong students and well-prepared for college. 
  • Essays (proofread, compelling content): This section allows us to see a student’s writing skills and their ability to articulate their ideas, strengths, and goals for the future.  
  • Letters of Recommendation (written by people who know the student well, not a family member or friend, positive sentiments, etc.): These letters give us an outside perspective on a student’s role in their community and ability to succeed in college.

Transcripts tell us a bit about the student, but we find out more from essays and recommendation letters. It is important for students to pick an essay topic that reflects who they are. We love when applicants are personable and honest. Successful candidates can clearly communicate their strengths and goals, both in their written application and in an interview setting. 

How can the scholarship funds be used?

The Renaissance Scholarship is a renewable award of up to $4,000 per year, based on the scholar’s unmet need for each school year. Awarded funds will not exceed $16,000 over four years. If a scholar receives a full-ride scholarship, or has less than $4,000 per year of unmet need, the Renaissance award could be reduced or rescinded. Funds will be divided equally over each academic term (excluding summer term) and will be disbursed at the beginning of the term. 

 The scholarship funds are disbursed directly to the college from The Renaissance Foundation for direct costs. Use of scholarship funds for books or other indirect educational expenses will occur at the discretion of The Renaissance Foundation and is dependent on each individual university’s policies regarding external scholarships. 

How does Renaissance determine "unmet need?"

The Renaissance Scholar Program relies on each individual college to determine a student’s unmet need. It is important that students understand their school’s financial aid policies about outside scholarships to anticipate how much funding they will receive.  

Are there requirements to keep my scholarship once I'm in college?

Yes. All scholars in college must: 

  1.  Be enrolled full-time at a 4-year university 
  2. Maintain a cumulative 2.5 GPA  
  3. Remain in regular communication with RSP staff, sending financial information and transcripts each term as requested 

 If scholars do not meet any of these renewal requirements at any point in their college career, they are responsible for reaching out to Renaissance staff immediately to make a plan to get back on track. 

Eligibility

Do I have to be from Illinois or Oregon to apply?

* This eligibility requirement has recently changed * 

 

Eligibility for High School Students 
 
Applicants must be one (not both) of the following: 
 
1. A high school senior in Oregon or Illinois, planning to attend any 4-year college. OR

2. A high school senior in any location, planning to attend one of our three partner HBCUs (Elizabeth City State University, Stillman College, and North Carolina Central University).


 Eligibility for Current College Students 
 
Applicants must be one (not all) of the following: 
 
1. A current college student at a 4-year school in Oregon or Illinois.

2. A current community college student in Oregon or Illinois, planning to transfer to any 4-year school.

3. A current college student at one of our three partner HBCUs (Elizabeth City State University, Stillman College, and North Carolina Central University), or planning to transfer to one.

  

(NOTE: Scholarships cannot be applied at community college. If students decide to enroll or continue at community college, they will need to reapply when they are ready to transfer. Students outside of Oregon and Illinois that do not ultimately enroll in one of our HBCUs will no longer be eligible.) 

If you are unsure whether you qualify, please email info@rscholars.org before applying. 

 

What does "first in family" mean? Why does Renaissance require applicants to be first in family?

The Renaissance Scholars Program seeks to assist the very first child in a family to attend college because we believe that they will be a powerful catalyst for future college-going in their families and communities. We encourage applicants who do not meet this definition to look at other scholarships offered. You can find a few resources to get you started here. 

 

RSP defines “first in family” as the very first person in your family to attend college. You are not eligible for the Renaissance Scholars Program if: 

1. Either of your parents received a bachelor’s degree in the US 

2. Any of your siblings are currently enrolled at a four-year college in the US 

3. Any of your siblings received a bachelor’s degree in the US 

We recognize that families come in many different forms. We consider siblings to be biological siblings, half-siblings, step-siblings, or adopted siblings who you grew up with and who are still involved in your life. If your sibling(s) does not meet that definition, there is space on the RSP application to share why you believe you should be considered first in family. 

 If you are unsure whether you qualify, please email info@rscholars.org before applying. 

 

Are undocumented/DACA students eligible?

Yes! Undocumented students and students with DACA status are eligible and encouraged to apply. They must still meet the other requirements (GPA, first in family, financial need). 

 Undocumented/DACA students typically cannot file the FAFSA, so these applicants will need to provide alternative documents for the finances section of the application. Oregon-based students will need to fill out and submit a copy of the Oregon Student Aid Application (ORSAA) to qualify. Illinois-based students will need to fill out and submit a copy of the Alternative Application/RISE Act to qualify. If neither of these is an option, students should reach out to RSP to learn more about the best way to submit family income information. 

 If you are unsure whether you qualify, please email info@rscholars.org before applying. 

Are non-traditional students (students returning to school) eligible?

Yes. Students who take time off between graduating high school and starting at 4-year institution may still apply for the Renaissance Scholars Program, as long as they meet all the other eligibility criteria. 

Are international students eligible?

 In some circumstances. We accept international students who reside in Oregon or Illinois. 

 International students who plan to attend one of our partner HBCUs are also encouraged to apply. 

 In most other cases, international students who do not live in Oregon or Illinois will not qualify.  

 If you are unsure whether you qualify, please email info@rscholars.org before applying. 

Am I eligible if my parent(s) obtained a bachelor's degree outside of the US from a foreign university/college? What about an associate’s degree?

Yes. Students are still eligible if one or both of their parents obtained a foreign degree. On the application, under the “highest education received by parent” select the option: “obtained a bachelor’s degree outside of the U.S. from a foreign university/college”. 

If your parent or sibling earned an associate’s degree, we still consider you to be first in family. On the application, under the “highest education received by parent” select the option: “obtained an associate’s degree”. 

How does Renaissance determine financial need?

In most cases, we determine financial need from a student’s Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) listed on their FAFSA Student Aid Report (SAR). Students with an EFC of 6500 or higher are typically not considered eligible unless there are other circumstances to consider (see below). Students can find their SAR by following these steps. 

If a student is ineligible to file the FAFSA, they should submit an alternative financial aid application based on their state (see “Are undocumented/DACA students eligible?” above). If neither of these is an option, students should reach out to RSP to learn more about the best way to submit family income information.  

If students have an EFC higher than 6500, but have special circumstances not represented on their financial aid report, they can submit a statement on the application explaining their situation. Special exceptions may include medical expenses/debt, job loss, or effects of a natural disaster. 

If a student’s EFC is above 10000, they will likely be considered ineligible even with a statement. 

 

If students have particular scenarios they wish to inquire about, please email info@rscholars.org. 

Can I reapply for the May 1st deadline if I wasn't selected for the February 1st deadline?

We have two separate deadlines to allow more students to apply. We use the same scoring materials for both deadlines, so one deadline is not easier than the other. If a student submits for February 1st and is not selected, they can reapply for May 1st. However, we only recommend reapplying if there was a significant change to the application (new term grades, change in income, edited essays, new letters of rec, etc.).  

Students who apply for the February 1st deadline will know if they are selected by early April. If an applicant wants to know if they are selected before college decision day on May 1st, we encourage them to apply by February 1st. May 1st applicants will know if they have been selected by mid-July. 

Application

Does Renaissance accept printed/mailed applications?

No. As of September 2019, our application is solely available through our online application. If you absolutely cannot submit an online application, please reach out to info@rscholars.org ask about other options. 

What are the application components?

Please see The Renaissance Scholars Program page for application components. 

Who should I ask to write my letter of recommendation?

There are two letters of recommendation required for our application. We recommend sending your requests as soon as possible. It is polite to give recommenders at least two weeks. You can request recommendations before you are finished with your application. 

The first letter should come from an educational source. This is someone who can speak to your academic abilities and readiness for college coursework. You can ask a teacher, professor, counselor, principal. 

The second letter can be from any source. You want to ask someone who can write positive sentiments and can speak to your character and abilities to succeed. This letter can be from another teacher, counselor, coach, work supervisor, or mentor. You should not ask a family member or a friend to write a letter. 

If you are having trouble thinking of someone to ask, reach out to your guidance counselor and they can help you brainstorm potential recommenders. 

How do I know if my recommenders have completed their letters?

In SmarterSelect, under the recommendation section, it lists the name of a chosen recommender. Below their name, it will say “Request sent: MM/DD/YY.” Below the date sent, it says “Request received: ___.” If the recommender has not submitted yet, it will say “pending.” If it has been received, it will list the date and time received. Students will also receive an email alert when the recommenders have submitted their letters. 

You should confirm that you have entered your recommenders’ email addresses correctly into the system, or they will not receive the email request to submit your letter. 

We recommend sending your requests as soon as possible. It is polite to give recommenders at least two weeks before the deadline. It is your responsibility to ensure your recommenders submit by the February 1st/May 1st deadline, or your application will be considered incomplete. 

Where can I find a copy of my transcripts?

Transcripts do not need to be official and should be free to acquire. You can request an electronic copy if your school provides this option. If your school doesn’t provide an electronic copy, transcripts should be scanned and saved onto your computer, then uploaded to your online application. 

Another option is to download an app to scan documents. One helpful app, which you can download on your phone, is called “Genius Scan.” It allows you to take photos of documents, and then automatically turns them into a PDF. Then, you can email the PDF to yourself or others, and save it to your computer. We understand that computer, scanning, and email access can be a challenge for students, so we are able to make accommodations for applicants who need assistance. 

 

If you don’t have the required high school transcript: 

1. Contact your high school. If you graduated many years ago and they cannot provide a copy to you, ask them where you can obtain one. 

2. If unsuccessful, transcripts from public high schools should be available through the School District Administration Office.

If you don’t have the required college transcript(s): 

1. Most colleges allow you to access transcripts online and download PDFs from your student portal. 

2. If you cannot download transcripts on your own, contact the college or school you attended. If your records are on hold because you owe them money or some other reason, you will need to make arrangements with them to release your records. 

3. If you attended an Oregon college that has closed, try to get the transcript from the Oregon Department of Education. The State of Oregon only maintains transcripts for colleges up to 25 years after the closure.

If you have an special circumstance or questions please reach out to info@rscholars.org to talk about other options.  

 

Do I have to submit my high school transcript if I am a college student?

Yes. We request all applicants submit their high school transcript, as it helps us to see a larger picture of your academic history. Especially for newer college students, who might only have one term of grades on their college transcript. We understand that many excellent college students may have had some academic challenges during high school. While it is nice to see a strong high school transcript, we are most interested in seeing that you have improved and challenged yourself in college.   

If you are unable to obtain your high school transcript, please contact info@rscholars.org for more information. 

Where can I find a copy of my Student Aid Report (SAR) that lists my EFC?

Students can find a copy of their SAR by logging in to FAFSA.gov and selecting the “View or Print your Student Aid Report (SAR)” option near the middle of the “My FAFSA” page. The EFC is listed on the first page of the SAR. 

I do not qualify for the FAFSA, what documents should I submit for the financial section?
  • If you filed an ORSAA or Alternative Application, upload a copy which lists your EFC.  
  • If you are not eligible to file an ORSAA or Alternative Application, upload a copy of your family’s most recent tax paperwork (tax form 1040 or similar). 
  • If you are not eligible to file an ORSAA or Alternative Application and your family did not file taxes, please upload a Word document estimating your household income and explaining your financial circumstances. 
  • International students: Please submit your I-20 form or other financial documentation that was submitted to your U.S. college. 
How can I tell if a document has been uploaded to my application correctly?

On the application, look below the “select” button. Look for text that says, “Uploaded file: name_of_your_file.pdf (1 MB)” If you see this, then the document is attached. If you do not see your document name, it did not upload. The file might be too large or an invalid file type. 

What happens after I submit my application?

After you have input all required information and uploaded all the required documents, you will submit your application. However, your application is not considered complete until both of your recommenders have submitted their letters. 

When your recommender has submitted their letter, you will receive an email (to whichever email you used to set up your account). When both recommenders have submitted, you will receive a confirmation email, letting you know that your application is officially complete and being considered for review. 

Our scholarship selection committee members read and score the applications to determine which students will become finalists. Depending on total application scores, some finalists will be interviewed by the committee, while some may be selected as Renaissance Scholars without an interview. All applicants are informed of the final decision via email.  

Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Please reach out to our team at info@rscholars.org with any questions!