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Student-Designed App Simplifies Scholarship Search

Labeled the “Million Dollar Scholar” Christopher Gray, a business student at Drexel University, secured lots of scholarships. Out of 72 scholarships he applied for, Gray received 34 that total $1.3 million. But, it wasn’t an easy process.  It took months of going through database after database to find scholarships he was eligible to apply for and while he was successful, most students aren’t as lucky.

“The truth is, most students are just not willing to put in all the time it takes to find scholarships so they turn to loans,” Gray said. “Students who are already in college don’t even know they can still apply for scholarships. There is not a lot of awareness about what’s available. I knew that there should be a faster and easier way to search for and find scholarships.”

Gray has found a way to make the hunt for scholarship money a much smoother process for high school and college students looking to fund their education. He teamed up with Nick Pirollo, a Drexel student majoring in computer science, and Bryson Alef, a student at Amherst College, and together they created the Scholly app.

The app is available for 99 cents through the App Store and Google Play. Gray and his team decided to keep the price low because their intent is to provide a public service rather than make a profit. Once downloaded, applicants can immediately start their search. It only takes a couple of minutes for them to input their search parameters and get matched with scholarships based on their eligibility.

“All scholarships are handpicked to make sure they are legitimate and the search is curated,” Gray said. “The months it takes students to look for scholarships have been turned to minutes.”

The database that Gray and Pirollo have developed for Scholly allows them to keep the listing of scholarships up-to-date. Pirollo, who specializes in app development, wrote scripts that will notify them of potential issues with the scholarships, including expirations and inaccuracies. But the team still siphons through the list on a monthly basis to make sure that it is 100-percent accurate. Eventually the team’s goal is to produce a dynamic notification system that can manage the database along with a group of people working together to curate the list.

How does Scholly speed up the search?
Without Scholly, a potential applicant would have to sort through scholarship search engines available online by third-party companies, spend 20-30 minutes filling out forms that give these third-party sites access to their personal information and then have their inbox inundated with promotional emails and ads. What’s even worse, according to Gray, is that in the end applicants receive a list of about 200 scholarships but only qualify for about 10 of them, and six out of those 10 may not exist anymore because databases by third parties aren’t updated often.

In a recent interview with Philadelphia’s FOX-29, Gray and Pirollo, demonstrated how the app works:

Students have started using the app and “love it” according to the team. Future plans for the app include expanding the database and opening up the app to students in other countries. The Philadelphia Inquirer recently published a story on the two students and their app that can be viewed at this link.

As for Gray, he is already thinking of his next start-up while serving as a member of the 11-student board from Penn and Drexel overseeing the $500,000 Dorm Room Fund, which was recently established by First Round Capital. His goal is to work for himself when he graduates. Judging from his zeal in obtaining scholarship money, it’s pretty safe to predict, he is very likely to fulfill that goal.

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