RJ Schroeder won a 2020 scholarship. Find out how it helped him make the most of his university experience.
RJ Schroeder lived with his mom and brother in 2020, when he got the news that he’d won a Foresters Competitive Scholarship. “The three of us were in the house and my mom was ecstatic when she found out that I got the scholarship,” he says. “She is a Foresters member and was happy that she was able to give me more than just love and support and encouragement. She was even able to help pay for my undergraduate degree.”
RJ is now studying psychology at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. He’s got his eye on law school and says the Foresters scholarship helped alleviate some of the financial stress of going away to school. “Moving away was an amazing experience for me,” he explains. “I really wanted to feel what it was like living on campus for the first semester before I overwhelmed myself with a part-time job,” he says. “The Foresters Competitive Scholarship helped a lot.”
RJ credits his mom for pushing him to apply for the scholarship. “She is my number one — the person who has always encouraged me to do better, to strive for greatness,” he says. “My mom allowed me to take her support and her unconditional love one step further, by giving me opportunities that I wouldn’t have if she wasn’t a Foresters member.”
Be a part of something bigger
RJ volunteered at the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Kitchen in Red Bank, New Jersey, a restaurant that provides meals to both paying and in-need customers. “I loved their message,” he says. “I don’t think I ever left without a smile. It was a place where I was happy to be and happy to help.” RJ worked nearly 70 volunteer hours and not only helped the community kitchen, but also got the experience he needed to get a job in the restaurant business.
The Soul Kitchen is part restaurant, part soup kitchen, part community hub, and for RJ, the experience helped shape him. “When I walked in to that restaurant, it felt like something was kind of opening up inside of me,” he says. “The main aspect was to give back to the area, and families and had the chance to be a part of something bigger.” Communal tables mean that people share the space and often sit with strangers – tourists, locals, paying customers and those in need. “You’re able to sit down and have a meal with someone, converse, get to know them and then go your separate ways with a whole new perspective on life.”
Applications now open for 2021 scholarships
The Foresters Competitive Scholarship program1 is now accepting applications for the 2021 academic year. Each year, up to 250 scholarships worth $2,000 per year are available. Because the scholarships are renewable for up to four years, recipients could receive up to $8,000 over the course of their schooling. The funds can be applied to tuition fees for undergraduate study at any accredited college, university or technical program.
Foresters members and their families (spouse, child, grandchild or a child under legal guardianship) are eligible and all applications must be received before February 26, 2021.
A focus on volunteering makes this scholarship program unique — it’s connected to Foresters larger purpose of giving back in local communities. Applications are reviewed based on a combination of community service (65%) and academic performance (35%). Applicants are asked to show 40 hours of community service, provide a recommendation letter from someone related to their volunteer work and a personal essay about the impact that giving back has had on them and their community.
You got this!
While essays and recommendation letters may sound daunting, many students find it helps create a sense of pride in their accomplishments.
“Sometimes scholarships can feel like a pain,” says RJ. “You don’t want to write the essay, you don’t want to fill out the fields, but it’s all worth it in the end. It made me feel like my hard work throughout high school really paid off and Foresters gave me that opportunity to see my hard work come to fruition.”
A bit of work can bring a huge gain. “It’s just an essay,” he says. “And if you do get the scholarship, it’s the most money you’ll ever make in an hour. At the end of the day it’s a small amount of time that can have an amazing effect on your education.”
When it comes to asking someone to write a recommendation letter, RJ’s advice is to go for it. “You need to take that leap,” he says. “You might have someone who really cares about you and really wants to write a good letter of recommendation, but if you don’t ask them, they never will get that opportunity.” He admits he was nervous, but the teacher he asked was thrilled and more than happy to help.
“The Foresters scholarship really helped alleviate that sense of dread about student loans and not knowing whether I’d need to fit in a part-time job to pay for the semester,” says RJ. “It’s one thing that you don’t have to worry about when you’re still trying to find yourself.”
Applications are now open until February 26, 2021. If you are a Foresters member and you or someone in your family is looking to continue your education, log into MyForesters to apply.
1Available to eligible members. For eligibility criteria, please visit here. Foresters Competitive Scholarship Program is administered by International Scholarship and Tuition Services, Inc. (ISTS).
Foresters Financial member benefits are non-contractual, subject to benefit specific eligibility requirements, definitions and limits
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