Are you in the midst of applying for college scholarships? Ever feel like you’re drowning? Well, the good news is that 1) you’re not alone, and 2) this app will save your life! Christopher Gray, aka “Million Dollar Scholar”created a scholarship-seeking app called Scholly, and we’re not really sure how we made it this far without it. Chris, who grew up in an underserved community, went on ABC’s Shark Tank to pitch his app, and the rest is history. Scholly takes a handful of information about the user (you!) and filters through thousands of scholarships to produce a list of awards for which you could qualify. We’re feeling nothing short of inspired after hearing the background story and Chris’s advice…

Justine Magazine: When did you know that creating an app was the answer to scholarship info overload? 
Christopher Gray: The idea was born out of my own frustrations as a high school student growing up in an underserved Alabama community. Students who were bright and motivated were often overshadowed and smothered. Despite that, I was determined to go to college and began to seek out scholarships. The process was agonizing and tedious, but I knew I had to do it. Ultimately, my hard work paid off and I won more than $1.3 million in scholarship funds. While an undergraduate at Drexel, I wanted to help future students avoid the painstaking application process I had endured and decided to streamline the process for others by developing Scholly. In less than two years, the app has helped students win over $20 million in scholarship funds. 

JM: What was the biggest roadblock you ran into during your own application process?
CG: It would take you about 20 minutes to put in all of your personal information and then the sites would bring up hundreds of “matches” that you had to sort through in order to see if you qualified for them. The process took me months. To add to the frustration, I was only able to use the computers at local libraries and at school for very short periods of time. That forced me to have to apply for some scholarships via my cell phone and in these cases, I would literally have to write my essays down and then type them into fields on my small phone screen. 

JM: What advice would you give high school students who are beginning the college application process?
CG: Start searching for scholarships during your junior year of high school to create a cumulative list of scholarships you qualify for. Senior year can be devoted to the actual process of applying for the scholarships. 

A good number of scholarship essay questions are very similar to one another. It is smart to write a few essays and then find scholarships with similar essay prompts. 

Apply for smaller scholarships. Smaller, less well-known scholarships tend to receive fewer applicants because students think they won’t make an impact in the overall cost of college. However, if you win 10 $1,000 scholarships, I think you would agree that it’s worth it. 

JM: Was there one scholarship you remember being shocked that you qualified for?
CG: Using Scholly, it is amazing to see the wide variety of scholarships that are available. For example, there are scholarships for people who write with their left hand or for people who write the best solution for a zombie apocalypse. When I was applying, there was a scholarship for people under 5’7″. 

JM: Would you recommend choosing a college first and then beginning the scholarship or basing your college choices off of scholarship offers?
CG: Understanding your financial situation is essential when applying for scholarships. If you are unable to pay for college out of pocket, applying for as many scholarships as possible is good to do before you determine what universities you want to apply to.