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Little steps make big difference for college

ILLINOIS (WCIA) -- College is more expensive than ever. But, a website is helping students find small hidden scholarships.

Central High School, in Champaign, started using it last year. It's helped students find millions in opportunities.

Raise.Me lets students see what different colleges will offer them for each of his or her achievements. For example, one school might offer $75 for every "A" a student gets, while another could give $300.

It sounds like small potatoes, but these micro-scholarships really add up.

Uma Basole wants to be a doctor, but first, she wants to be a Cardinal.

"My long shot is Stanford. It's a long shot, I know."

Even longer is the junior's list of achievements. She plays piano, volunteers at Carle and medals at Science Olympiad. She doesn't think much of it, but dozens of schools across the country do.

"How could these big schools notice little old me?"

She's been offered nearly $550,000 in possible scholarships from several different schools on Raise.Me.

"When he first told me, Mr. Tanner, he's like, 'Guess how much you have,' and I'm like, '100, 200,' and he said, 'No.' I got up to five, then I was taken aback."

The website lets students accrue micro-scholarships. They put in grades and activities, then see how much different schools will give them for their accomplishments.

"It's an opportunity for kids to see, yes, being involved in high school is great and there is a reward."

Tony Tanner is the college and career counselor at Central. He introduced students to Raise.Me when he started two years ago. Even though they're new to it, students are already seeing the benefits.

"Butler found that student, through Raise.Me and offered her even more than what was on her Raise.Me account and that ultimately helped that student decide that they did want to go to that school."

As for Basole, she's still deciding and she thinks Raise.Me will help students like her.

"I'd say, sign up and follow some schools. You never know."

Anyone can take advantage of it and sign up for a free Raise.Me account. But, just because a student has hundreds of thousands offered, doesn't mean they will get all that money. It could mean they're getting a few thousand from a lot of different schools.

So far, Central seniors have been offered more than $1.5 million in possible scholarships on the site. Juniors have $1.8 million; sophomores $1.7 million and freshmen nearly $200,000. It's a school total of $5.5 million.

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