News: Financial Aid

Here Are the Answers to 7 Common Questions About the College Board Opportunity Scholarships Program

Friday, January 31, 2020  
Posted by: Lindsey Barclay, Member Services Manager
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The Jan. 8 webinar "Best Practices: Using College Board Opportunity Scholarships to Clear the Path to College" included detailed information about how advisers have integrated the College Board Opportunity Scholarships (CBOS) into their existing programming.

In case you haven’t had a chance to check out the webinar or want to know more about CBOS, here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the scholarship program. These answers were compiled from the College Board's CBOS website and CBOS practitioners.

1. What best practices do you recommend to other college access organizations that are considering integrating the CBOS into their model?

Integrate the CBOS into the existing curriculum so advisers spend less time planning how to do that and more time engaging with students.

  • Understand and communicate how each key action relates to the others. For example, a higher SAT score can open doors to more/different college options.
  • During training sessions, demonstrate how CBOS aligns with the curriculum and give advisers tangible targets for using CBOS. During team meetings and check-ins, remind advisers about CBOS and share data about students’ completion of the key actions.
  • Encourage advisers who have more familiarity with CBOS to share their best practices with colleagues.

2. What advice do you have for advisers who are using the CBOS for the first time?

  • Use the CBOS implementation resources and outreach resources to find tools, graphics, and calendars that will help you support students. For example, use the graphic of the 6 key actions to make the process visual. Make the process simple to understand by emphasizing what needs to happen and by when. Consider circling students’ next steps to keep them on track.
  • Advisers should use the drawing timeline to identify deadlines by which students should complete key steps. Students who complete their key steps by the deadlines remain on track during the college admission process and are eligible for more opportunities to earn a scholarship.
  • Help students understand that the CBOS key steps align with the college and financial aid application timeline. CBOS rewards students for their hard work and efforts.
  • Be sure to share the eligibility requirement with students. CBOS is currently open to students in the high school classes of 2020 and 2021, in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and U.S. territories, regardless of citizenship status. There are no family income requirements. At least half of the scholarships are designated for students whose families earn less than $60,000 each year. Check out the Official Rules for more information.

3. What challenges have advisers experienced and how have they overcome them?

  • Opting in to participate in CBOS is relatively easy and lots of students take that step. But keeping students engaged requires more effort. To encourage engagement, advisers have integrated the CBOS action steps into their existing curricula and embedded CBOS into conversations with students.
  • Advisers who provide virtual support may not be able to confirm that a student has completed each key action. It has been helpful to talk through each step with students and ask students to send screenshots demonstrating they have completed the action.
  • Some students are skeptical about their chances of winning a scholarship. Advisers recommend connecting the key actions with the process that students are already navigating. CBOS rewards and motivates students to complete the steps that lead to college. And if students in your program have already won scholarships, share their success stories with other students via social media, newsletters, and blog posts.

4. How will College Board manage excess funds if a student’s award is more than their gap?

The College Board will work with the student and their institution to apply the scholarship in a way that is most beneficial to the student. This could include spreading the award out over multiple semesters to meet the student’s need or working with the student and their institution to reduce the self-help portions of their institutional aid package, like loans and work-study.

5. What percentage of students get at least one $500 scholarship?

Currently, the College Board does not provide winning percentages publicly, but CBOS is centered on rewarding students for their effort and action. A student will earn an opportunity at a scholarship for each step they complete and the more effort they put in, the more opportunities they have to earn a scholarship. For example, a student can only earn one entry for the Build Your College List action each month, but can earn another scholarship entry in later months by editing and updating their college list during the months that the scholarship is open.

6. What is the protocol if a student’s SAT score is already above 1500, and consequently, they aren’t able to improve their score by 100+ points?

If a student’s baseline score is 1500 or higher, they can still qualify for the Improve Your Score scholarship if they have any score improvement on a subsequent SAT, as long as they also practice on Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy.

7. On the "Apply to Colleges" line on the drawing timeline, the October through January boxes are blank. Will 500 winners be drawn in February or will 500 winners be drawn from October to February?

All the winners will be drawn after the scholarship closes in February. The blank boxes mean the scholarship is open during those months.

Check out the College Board’s Educators and Student Advocates page, which includes a wealth of resources to support educators in guiding students through the CBOS process.