Not everyone gets this opportunity.
With the rising costs of a college education, many families are collecting every penny they can get to make sure their child does not graduate with debt.
Seniors are applying for scholarships here and there, knowing they are going up against thousands of other students with the same interests and experiences.
Their chances of being chosen are slim to none.
But a 20-year standing tradition at Mahomet-Seymour High School helps students cover some of the costs of their education by offering local scholarships.
Mahomet-Seymour Scholarship month opened on March 1 and will run through March 31.
Students can find and apply for nearly $50,000 of scholarship money by locating a scholarship that fits their interests by visiting mshscounselors.com.
Retired Mahomet-Seymour School Counselor Pat Warren, who started the scholarship program in 1999 and is at the helm of organizing the scholarships after a two-year leave, said at least 50 percent of the senior class applies for scholarships because they are obtainable.
“I tell them that this is your best chance to get a scholarship. You may be competing between three and 25 people for these scholarships,” she said.
Scholarships like the one sponsored by the American Legion Post 1015 looks for a student who is a relative of a Veteran, has a C average and is interested in pursuing a vocational career.
The Busey Bank scholarship will recognize a student who is attending Parkland College. The Mahomet Women’s Town and Country Club considers a student’s activities, career goals, and financial need.
After several local deaths in 2001, the scholarship pool grew to annually recognize local students who made an impact on the district.
Scholarships like the ones that recognized Anna Dewhirst and Brent Johnston still bring reminders to Warren each spring.
Among the memorial scholarships this year, Tyler V. Atkins and Chris Craig will be recognized. Jacob Hamilton, Matthew Prather and Lee Jessup will also be commemorated.
Warren remembers a time when a student, who hadn’t been recognized for an achievement during the four years he was at the school, received the Chris Craig scholarship, which focuses on students who were in the vocational programs.
“He just flourished in those classes,” she said. “It was worth the scholarship to see his face when he was told he won it.
“He came dressed up with a tie. For him to win something was like ‘really? I can go on and do more?’
“Those are the kinds that make you just so excited about it.”
Warren said Jessup’s scholarship will be one that many students may not realize that they qualify for.
In order to be considered, the student must have participated in a Mahomet Area Youth Club (MAYC) supported program. This opens the field to students who have been to the MAYC programming at the clubhouse, participated in BLAST, the homework program at the junior high and high school or the Robotics Club at the high school.
While two or three recipients may receive multiple scholarships, Warren said that local presenters try to spread the money around to a variety of students.
Business or organizations will give Warren the name of two or three favorites. Warren will then let them know if any of the names overlap. Sometimes the organization will stick with their first choice, and sometimes they will give it to another student.
“I think everyone buys into it,” she said.
Warren has seen how the scholarship presenters are just so impressed by students at the high school.
“They’re just amazed at these kids and all the stuff they’ve done and their aspirations and dreams, and they have a hard time choosing.”
Students are not notified of their award before the ceremony. Instead, they receive a letter in the mail asking them to come to the Senior Award Ceremony.
Warren believes that for the students, the scholarships give them hope.
“Somebody thought they were worthy enough to invest in,” she said.
The 2018 Senior Award Ceremony will be held at Mahomet-Seymour High School on May 16.