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Holding out HOPE for the scholarship

My eldest daughter graduated from Farragut High School this past May and will be attending the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga, later this month. The timing is perfect because we are able to tap into the inaugural year of the Tennessee HOPE Lottery Scholarship.

I do not know if any of you have had the pleasure of applying for the lottery scholarship, but my experience made it necessary for me to learn to “jump through hoops.” In defense of the very patient people who work at the Federal Student Aid office in Nashville, I know that this is the first year for the scholarship and kinks need to be worked out. I also know that part of my problem was due to my inability to meet the set deadline, which sent me into semi-panic mode.

I attended the informational meeting at the high school in November 2003. I picked up all of the necessary forms, took detailed notes, set up a scholarship file folder and then I quickly forgot about it.

The next thing that I knew, it was May. I was visiting a friend and talking about where our kids were going to college, and happened to ask, “When is that lottery scholarship deadline anyway?” She replied, “Two days ago.” I immediately went home, got on-line and filled out my Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form and since I am using acronyms, submitted it ASAP. I was relieved to find out that the absolute final deadline was not until June 30, but that the applications sent in by May 1 get first priority.

Filling out the form was a piece of cake, getting the personal identification number, or PIN, was another. I was required to fill out a separate form for my daughter and for myself. I needed to set up passwords for both of us as well. After a few days, an e-mail was generated stating that the application had been processed and that I needed to apply for a PIN for both of us. This is where things got tricky. The PIN is necessary because it allows all parties involved to sign their applications electronically.

I was able to retrieve my PIN almost immediately, but my daughter’s PIN could not be located.

After calling the 800 number and explaining my dilemma, I was told that they could not speak to me. Since it was my daughter’s PIN and password, they needed to speak to her. Mind you, my daughter has not been interested in the entire process, as it does not directly affect her bottom line.

I finally found a moment when the two of us were home together. I dialed the number, handed her the telephone and said, “Here, talk to this guy and tell him that you are you.”

After verifying her identification, she was told to reapply for the PIN, wait a couple of days and the number would be e-mailed. We went through this process about five times and each time the PIN could not be located. I was beginning to get nervous because my daughter was leaving for a camp in Michigan and would not be back until after the final deadline. I decided that I could always put another daughter on the telephone with Nashville, but that wouldn’t be totally honest, would it?

Finally, the PIN arrived. We electronically signed our application and the rest was up to the citizens of Tennessee and the future lottery funds.

We recently received a letter stating that we have been tentatively awarded the Tennessee HOPE Scholarship. The amount that was indicated will be awarded if full funding is received from the Tennessee Lottery Commission.

Therefore, if there is enough money in the lottery fund, UTC will be mailed a $3,000 check to pay for part of my daughter’s tuition/room and board.

This has been an exhausting experience, but I have a little energy left, so I’m heading to my local convenience store to buy a few lottery tickets.

Editor’s note:

The HOPE scholarship is lottery funded and available to Tennessee students attending public or private colleges or universities across the state. Graduating high-school seniors must have a 3.0 grade point average or score a 21 on the ACT test in order to receive up to $3,000 in scholarship funds per academic year.


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