UC Berkeley (Photo/file)
UC Berkeley (Photo/file)

Hillel portal offers another option for college scholarship search 

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Jewish students looking for college scholarships know it can be time-consuming and often overwhelming. Luckily, some of the legwork has been done already, with Bay Area institutions managing Jewish-specific scholarships and Hillel International offering a web portal for college scholarships throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Some of the scholarships lead to unexpected places, such as a Lutheran college in Illinois and a watchmaking school in Pennsylvania. And a handful are named after women named Ida and men named David.

This information comes from a searchable database maintained by Hillel International. The Jewish campus organization, with some 550 chapters across North America, has compiled information on over 600 American and Canadian scholarships at Hillel.org/ScholarshipsPortal. Users can filter by campus, state and award amounts to find specific information. A link allows users to apply for the scholarships.

The portal was set up in 2019, according to Jessica Sugarman, Hillel’s associate director of digital marketing. A team at Hillel realized that “if you were a current high school student or parent, or if you were even a current college student, there’s no one place to go and look for Jewish scholarships,” she said.

Many Jewish federations also administer scholarships, including the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, which manages a dozen for college study, mostly for Bay Area residents. Some simply require good academic standing and financial need, while others are specific in nature. The Gail Karp Orgell Scholarship gives up to $7,000 a year for study in California, while the Stephanie G. Hoffman Scholarship is open to Bay Area students majoring in library science, English, literature or education who are planning to work with underserved children. The information is on the Hillel portal, but applicants also can go directly to jewishfed.org.

Bay Area scholarship information is also available from JBridge, a Federation-run program for teens, and S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children’s Services, which recently awarded two $30,000 scholarships through its Vivienne S. Camp College Scholarship.

But as far as the range of national scholarships for Jewish students go, Hillel International saw there wasn’t a clearinghouse for that kind of broad information. Each scholarship contains a description, so it’s easy to see which are good matches. Search results vary depending on the search terms used; it usually takes a few tries.

Many scholarships in the database are named for donors, or in memory of a family member. The Ida Lee Friedman Graduate Scholarship at Towson University in Maryland is one of several awards named for Idas. About a dozen are named after Davids. There are several scholarships named for Nathans, including the Nathan J. and Virginia H. Friedman College Scholarship Fund, offered through JCF in San Francisco.

A good number listed are for Jewish students from Northern California, with some tied to specific schools, including UC Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley and UC Davis.

UCLA and UC Berkeley each offer nearly a dozen scholarships for Jewish students. Each of those schools has about 3,000 Jewish students, nearly 8 percent of the total student body. More surprising is the University of Oklahoma, where the campus Hillel estimates about 200 of the  22,000 students are Jewish; that school offers nine Jewish scholarships.

The portal, Sugarman said, is now one of Hillel’s most viewed web pages. The site also features the College Guide (hillel.org/college-guide), which looks at Jewish life on campuses across the country.

Some scholarships pay for study in Israel or are geared for Jewish studies majors. Others focus on certain degrees, such as nursing, business or electrical engineering. At the graduate level, applicants can find money for specific medical and law school programs.

There are specific scholarships for Jewish women going to school after age 35 and for those who are relatives of Holocaust survivors. There are also scholarships for Jewish students at religious institutions, such as Texas Christian University in Fort Worth and Augustana College, a Lutheran school in Rock Island, Illinois.

Snagging a scholarship has some things in common with getting admitted to a top school. It doesn’t hurt to have started a nonprofit, served in a leadership position or gotten fantastic grades. Financial need is also an important factor for many awards. But some are for applicants who don’t have the highest grades. The Cabot Family Scholarship at Arizona State University, for example, requires a 3.0 GPA or above.

One scholarship on the Hillel portal is a reminder that not all students head to traditional four-year universities. The Oscar Waldan Scholarship offers $5,000 to Jewish students studying watchmaking. The current scholarship holder is one Sara Glaser, studying at the York Time Institute in York, Pennsylvania.

According to the website for the Horological Society of New York, Oscar Waldan was a Holocaust survivor who founded a watch company after coming to the United States. He learned the basics of watchmaking in the Buchenwald concentration camp during World War II. According to the website, “He befriended a watchmaker in the camp who took him on as his apprentice and subsequently, that skill saved his life.”

Larry Sokoloff
Larry Sokoloff

Larry Sokoloff is a writer in Mountain View.