My Experience with Scholarships and Advice for Student Applicants by Ann Siciliano

Who: Amanda, our Director of Marketing and Program Initiatives, sat down with Ann Siciliano, Director of Program Services.


The Community Foundation is in scholarship season which means eligible students are applying for school funding. Preparing for college is scary enough, but we want student applicants to know that our staff is here for them. We want to give students the support they need to pursue their education. Learn more about our scholarships and read what Ann has to say below! 



Amanda: What kind of impacts have you seen over the years with the program?

Ann: I guess the impacts I’ve seen are many times for not just first generation students but for a lot of students that without the opportunity to have the scholarship money for them they would not have been able to finish school. They have written us and told us that. They have come by to visit. I have seen them out and about in the community. Many of the ones I run into relay that the impact it had and the burden that it lifted from them to be able to study and not work as much while they went to school. And it really kept them in school.

Amanda: Do you have a favorite memory of your time doing scholarships?

Ann: I think there is one student that comes to mind. He was one of our Early Ace scholarship recipients in the early years of that fund. There is a GPA requirement for that scholarship. It is a renewable scholarship but you need to keep a 3.0 GPA. If you don’t, you get one semester of grace before you are not renewed. So this student had had his semester of grace. He floundered a bit his freshman year. Sophomore year, he didn’t apply himself as well and he floundered again. So the scholarship was not renewed for the rest of that year. It was devastating to the student because he did have financial need and he was desperate to continue. It was expected in his family that he would get his degree. They were supportive but he needed the money. We didn’t award it that year and it was a hard thing to do. But he got tutoring help, got the support that he needed to be successful. He worked with his advisors more, worked with his professors more, and turned his GPA around the next semester and it was stellar. It was stellar from then on until he graduated. So of course his scholarship was renewed. He came in and thanked us because it was the kick in the pants that he needed. He is now applying to PA school and has been so successful. I have seen him out in the community and he is just so appreciative of the opportunity that we gave him and that we also helped him get on the right foot and do what he needed to do to be successful. So that is one of my favorite memories.

Amanda: What kind of things do you look for in the application when you receive them?

Ann: Many of them are requiring demonstrated financial need. So an award notification from the school that truly these students need the financial assistance because they qualify for federal or state or institutional money. So there is a need there. We look for that for many of them. A lot of them it is academic performance. What is their GPA? Some of them it is a community involvement. How many activities have they been involved in or what sorts of activities? Leadership roles within those activities are important to many scholarship donors. They want to see a tendency or an aptitude for leadership. For others it is a particular area of study. Are they going to study agriculture? Are they studying horticulture? Do they want to study math or business or STEM majors? It is a particular major or field of study that the donors are looking for, for that particular scholarship. For others, for one in particular, it is strictly merit-based. How strong is the academic profile for the student and are they going to pursue a particular major, which in that case is education. They want the strongest student. They don’t care if they need financial assistance or not, they are rewarding the accomplishments of that particular student who is going to pursue an education major. So it really varies depending on the scholarship.

Amanda: Last question, do you have any advice for the student applicants this year?

Ann: Don’t wait until the last minute to submit your application. Be sure to ask the people who need to submit letters of reference for your transcript for you. Give them plenty of time to do that. Take a lot of time to think about what is interesting about you or different about you as you answer your questions. It makes you unique so that the committee can see that as they read applications. Pay attention to detail because the committees notice.

To learn more and apply for scholarships from The Community Foundation, visit:

Questions for Ann may be directed to: [email protected] or give us a call at 540-432-3863.

2023 Scholarships Now Available

2023 Student Scholarships now Available

Harrisonburg-Rockingham students may now apply for college funding from The Community Foundation of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County (TCFHR) until April 10, 2023. The majority of scholarships give to current or former residents of Harrisonburg or Rockingham County. Scholarship funds are for tuition and related educational expenses and made directly to the educational institution. In 2022, TCFHR distributed 63 scholarships totaling $229,800. Scholarship awards ranged from $500 to $8,000.

The Community Foundation makes it easy for students to apply, providing an online application for students’ convenience. The online system will allow students to work on application in their own time, save their progress, and return to submit their application.

The Community Foundation works with donors to establish merit based and financial aid based scholarships for high school, community college, and university students. Each scholarship expresses a deep belief in the power of education to help students achieve their academic dreams.

Interested students can go to to learn more and apply by April 10, 2023. For questions, contact Ann Siciliano at [email protected] or 540-432-3863.

About The Community Foundation of Harrisonburg & Rockingham County 

TCFHR makes charitable giving easy, acting in the best interest of our donors and partners to facilitate bold philanthropic initiatives for a stronger, healthier community.

Thinking differently about scholarships can make all the difference

According to statistics gathered by the National Scholarship Providers Association, approximately $100 million in scholarship money is left sitting on the sidelines each year, unused. Even though the number of scholarships awarded in the United States has increased overall by more than 45% over the last decade, not enough students are applying. These are sobering statistics, considering that the burden of tuition and student loan debt is weighing heavily on America’s young adults.

This presents a challenge for you and other donors who are interested in supporting education as a charitable giving priority. On one hand, you want to help students get the education they need to thrive in their careers. On the other hand, no one wants to fund a scholarship that goes unused.

The Community Foundation can help. Our team will work with you to establish a tailored charitable giving plan that meets your desire to support education while helping to ensure that the money does not go unused.

First, we’ll help you think broadly about education. Limiting a scholarship fund to four-year institutions could result in a lot of missed opportunities. A college or university is not the only option for post-secondary learning and career readiness. Community colleges, trade schools, vocational programs, and out-of-the-box learning experiences may be a better fit for some students.

Next, our team will help you craft the criteria for the scholarship so that it is not too narrow. In other words, casting a wide net can be important to ensure a strong pool of applicants. Limiting scholarship recipients to one area of study, or very specific high school credentials may mean that there simply will not be enough applicants to fully utilize the scholarship dollars.

Finally, The Community Foundation team is happy to help you with the strategy for getting the word out. Many times, would-be applicants simply are not aware of all the options for scholarships. If scholarship funds don’t adequately promote the opportunities, it may be hard to capture students’ attention as they wade through the vast amount of information available about paying for college.

The team at The Community Foundation is honored to serve as a resource and sounding board as you build your charitable plans and pursue your philanthropic objectives for making a difference in the community. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal, accounting, or financial planning advice. Please consult your tax or legal advisor to learn how this information might apply to your own situation.

Want to learn more? Call The Community Foundation at 540-432-3863 or email Ann Siciliano at [email protected]!