Scholarship Winner
Posted by: Howard Dvorkin, CPA
Date of post: October 2, 2017

A Pennsylvania woman needs new scholarships to pay off old student loans.

Holly Montsari graduated from college years ago, but now she’s going back to school — while working in a school.

If that sounds confusing, welcome to Montsari’s life. Eight years ago, she graduated with an associate’s degree to become an occupational therapy assistant. She’s been working at a rural charter school in Loganton, a town of less than 1,000 in central Pennsylvania.

“I work full time with grades K-12,” she says. “I hope to continue to work there after I earn my master’s degree.” She’ll keep working there while she’s attending classes at Dominican College.

That dedication is what won Montsari the latest bi-monthly Scholarship for Aggressive Scholarship Applicants. Another consideration was Montsari’s renewed commitment to applying for more free money…

So far, I have applied to 10-12 scholarships. My goal is to apply for up to 25-30. When I was in undergrad school, I only applied for 2 and won them both, which was an incredible feeling.

One reason Montsari is so committed to applying for scholarships: “I’m still paying of my loans from my first time in college, and graduate school will tack on an additional $50,000 to $60,000 to what I currently owe.”

She has other expenses, too.

“I’m also married with 2 young children,” she says. “My daughter is 4½ years old, and my son is 2 years old.”

Montsari’s husband owns a lawn-care business, and both “are not fans of debt.” She explains…

I have always watched my wallet. My Dad really taught me at a young age to not spend beyond my means and save for emergencies, not for play. I also don’t use credit unless I can pay it off, same as cash. My husband and I share the same value about credit cards. If we don’t have the cash, we don’t buy it.

So why is Montsari willing to run up big university bills now? She wants to open her own clinic to help more children.

“The clinic I want to open will serve the children in the area who can’t travel to the specialty clinics hours away,” she says. “I would love to have multiple disciplines involved, such as speech-language therapy, physical therapy, and of course, occupational therapy.”

Montsari is the second “SOTA” to win’s scholarship. A SOTA is defined as “student over traditional age.” In July, a 52-year-old lawyer won our $500 award. Can something be a coincidence and a trend at the same time?

I’ve noticed several factors at work here…

  • Most obviously, more adults have returned to college since the recession.
  • Less obvious, these older students have had to survive on their own for years or even decades, so they appreciate the value of a dollar more than your average 18-year-old college freshman.
  • When you’re spending your own money, you’ll apply for more scholarships than if your parents are footing even part of the bill.

The sad fact is that universities today show you how to secure more student loans, but they don’t instruct you how to pay them off. How I wish returning students like Montsari could mentor incoming freshmen.

One thing she’d advise right away: Apply NOW for the Scholarship for Aggressive Scholarship Applicants.