Shawnee Mission juniors to get college scholarship offers through foundation program

Scholarship Shawnee Mission is expanding to include offers for juniors in addition to seniors. Above, SM East cheerleaders at the announcement Thursday of the program's expansion. Photo credit Juliana Garcia.

Scholarship Shawnee Mission, the Shawnee Mission Education Foundation’s program that annually matches hundreds of high school seniors with college scholarship offers, will now be matching high school juniors with scholarship dollars, too.

Driving the news: Kimberly Hinkle, Shawnee Mission Education Foundation executive director, made the announcement that the Scholarship Shawnee Mission program was expanding at the foundation’s annual breakfast Thursday.

What they’re saying: Ed Marquez, the program coordinator who originally thought of Scholarship Shawnee Mission when it was founded in 2019, told the Post in a phone interview on Thursday that allowing juniors to opt in to getting matched with scholarship offers before their senior year will allow students more time to think through college opportunities.

  • Hinkle, in the same phone conversation, said offering scholarship options earlier in their high school careers could encourage juniors to work harder academically to try to earn more offers their senior year.
  • Additionally, she said it could make an even greater impact on students who aren’t thinking about college when they’re juniors.
Kim Hinkle at Shawnee Mission Education Foundation Fall Breakfast
Hinkle at the 2022 SMEF fall breakfast. Photo credit Juliana Garcia.

Key quote: “We have students that aren’t planning to go to college, no one in their family has ever gone to college — they might have ok grades, not the top — it’s just not really on their radar,” Hinkle said. “Then they get handed five, 10, 25, 50 offers from different colleges and it makes them say, ‘Wow, I can do this, this is something that could be in my future.’”

How it will work: This year, Shawnee Mission juniors will begin receiving notice of scholarship offers at the same time as seniors.

  • Marquez said either additional funds from the same colleges or new offers from colleges who don’t want to work with juniors will be available for seniors.
  • This gives students and families not only more time to consider options, but more opportunities overall, he said.

Going deeper: Modeled off the practice of colleges offering student-athletes scholarships, Scholarship Shawnee Mission proactively connects thousands of high school seniors to millions of dollars worth of scholarships based solely on their academic performance in high school.

  • SMEF launched the program in 2019, and that year it brought in more than 18,000 scholarship offers for more than 1,200 high school seniors totaling an estimated value of $737 million. (Not all that money was used, as many students received multiple offers that they couldn’t redeem.)
  • The program brought in scholarships worth an estimated value of $2.1 billion for 1,900 seniors last year, Marquez told the Post.
  • Since the program started, its number of college and university partners has doubled from 27 in 2019 to 54 in 2022, Hinkle said.

When will it happen: Current juniors and seniors will now receive scholarship offers through Scholarship Shawnee Mission in October.

How you can opt in to Scholarship Shawnee Mission

Parents can opt their students in to the Scholarship Shawnee Mission program as early as seventh grade through the online verification process that occurs at the beginning of each school year, Hinkle said.

  • There is about a 99% opt-in rate, Hinkle said, with a handful of students either not opting in or being unable to, such as if they are a foreign exchange student.
  • Each student who opts in receives at least one scholarship offer by their senior — and now junior — year,Hinkle said.