The Etowah Scholarship Foundation provides opportunities for Tennessee students to pursue post-secondary education through need-based scholarships. We will examine the foundation’s history, goals, eligibility requirements, application process, deadlines, and how to maximize your chances of being selected for an award. Read on to learn all the key details about this scholarship program and have your questions answered.

Background and History

The Etowah Scholarship Foundation was established in 1987 by Walter and Roberta Etowah to help students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds obtain a college degree. Walter Etowah had immense success as an entrepreneur and believed strongly in equal access to education. After selling his various business ventures, he donated a substantial portion of the proceeds to start a non-profit foundation dedicated to providing need-based assistance.

Originally called the Tennessee Student Scholarship Foundation, the organization’s name was changed in 2002 to honor its founders. Based in Nashville, it has awarded over $30 million in scholarships to date. All funding comes from an endowment established by the Etowahs that continues growing the program through prudent investment of donations and earnings. The foundation is overseen by a volunteer Board of Directors and small staff committed to helping as many students as possible through four years of higher education.


Mission and Goals

The mission of the Etowah Scholarship Foundation is to promote access, equity and excellence in postsecondary education by providing need-based financial assistance to qualified Tennessee students. Its overarching goals are:

  • To support students from low-income households who demonstrate strong academic achievement and leadership potential but lack the financial means to attend college.
  • To cover a significant portion of education-related costs, including tuition, fees, books, and living expenses, so recipients can focus on their studies without undue financial stress.
  • To create meaningful change and break the cycle of poverty through higher education by helping students complete a four-year degree program.
  • To recognize students for their accomplishments, provide encouragement, and maintain contact as they progress through college and begin their careers.
  • To carry out the vision of Walter and Roberta Etowah by sustaining the endowment in perpetuity through responsible stewardship, so the foundation can continue assisting students for generations to come.
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Eligibility Requirements

To be considered for an Etowah Scholarship, applicants must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Be a Tennessee resident and plan to attend an accredited four-year not-for-profit college or university in Tennessee.
  • Demonstrate significant financial need based on Federal Pell Grant eligibility guidelines and household income/assets. The foundation seeks students from very low-income families.
  • Have a minimum cumulative high school GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.
  • Display strong leadership abilities through community service, extracurricular activities, and/or part-time employment while in high school.
  • Submit excellent letters of recommendation from school faculty, employers, or community leaders.
  • Complete the rigorous multi-step application process, which includes essays, interviews, and provision of financial documentation. Selection is highly competitive.

Recipients must maintain at least a 2.7 GPA in college to renew the scholarship award each year. The foundation emphasizes helping motivated students from disadvantaged backgrounds who are unlikely to afford school without substantial assistance. Academic merit and leadership are also priorities in the selection process.


The Application Process

Applying for an Etowah Scholarship is a multi-step process that spans several months. Here are the key components:

January – March: Initial Online Application

Students must submit a comprehensive online application including basic biographical information, academic transcripts, involvement in extracurriculars, and employment history. This allows the foundation to evaluate applicants preliminarily based on eligibility criteria.

April – May: Essays and Financial Documentation

Selected candidates advance to provide more in-depth essays about their background, goals, and community service. Tax documents demonstrating the need are also required. This gives a fuller picture of each student.


June: Semi-Finalist Interviews

Top applicants complete in-person or virtual interviews with foundation staff and Board members. This is a major factor in determining finalists as character, motivation, and potential are assessed.

July – August: Finalist Weekend

Finalists participate in campus tours and group activities at a Tennessee university. Scholarship amounts are determined based on demonstrated need from financial aid packages.

September: Award Announcements

Recipients are notified and celebrated at a reception. Non-recipients also receive notifications with feedback on their applications for future improvement.

The multi-step screening allows the foundation to thoroughly evaluate candidates based on merit as well as financial and personal circumstances. Competition is intense as only a fraction of applicants ultimately receive an award each year. Advance planning is crucial to submit a strong application on time.

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Scholarship Amounts and Renewal

Etowah Scholarships are intended to cover a significant portion of a recipient’s annual cost of attendance, which typically includes:

  • Tuition and fees
  • Room and board
  • Books and supplies
  • Personal expenses

The actual award amounts vary considerably based on each student’s demonstrated financial need, which is determined through their college financial aid package. Scholarships usually range between $5,000 and $15,000 per academic year and are renewable for up to four years provided renewal criteria are met.

To renew the award each consecutive year, scholars must:

  • Maintain full-time enrollment of at least 12 credit hours per semester
  • Achieve a cumulative GPA of at least 2.7
  • Complete the brief online renewal application
  • Remain in good academic standing at their university

The foundation works to cover as much of the “unmet need” as possible each year so scholars do not have to take on excessive debt or work too many hours to focus on their education.

Impact and Success Stories

Since 1987, the Etowah Scholarship Foundation has provided over $30 million in assistance to more than 1,500 college students across Tennessee. Many scholars are the first in their families to attend university, coming from extremely disadvantaged backgrounds.

The impact has been tremendous – research shows lower-income students who receive grant aid are far more likely to persist and graduate. Etowah scholars have an impressive graduation rate of over 85%, much higher than the national average for students from similar circumstances.

Countless success stories demonstrate lives transformed through higher education. Alumni have gone on to careers in science, healthcare, education, business, and more. Many give back by becoming mentors in the program or serving their communities. The Etowahs’ inspiring vision continues impacting generations of Tennesseans.

Application Deadlines and Timeline

To be considered for an Etowah Scholarship award starting in the fall of 2024, here are the important dates to know:

  • October 15, 2023: Initial online application deadline
  • December 15, 2023: Submission of additional materials, such as essays and financial documentation
  • February 1-15, 2024: Semi-finalist interviews conducted
  • March 1-15, 2024: Finalist weekend on a Tennessee university campus
  • April 15, 2024: Recipients notified and celebrated at reception
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It is crucial to begin the application process in the fall of senior year. Meeting deadlines and allowing ample time for elements like strong essay writing are important. Applicants who complete all steps promptly and thoroughly have the best chance of being selected. Early preparation leads to a polished final submission.

Frequently Asked Questions

This section addresses some common inquiries about the Etowah Scholarship Foundation:

Do I need to be from a certain county or region of Tennessee?

No, the foundation considers applicants from all 95 counties across the state. However, priority may be given to students located farther from the universities they plan to attend.

What if I am not quite sure where I want to attend college yet?

You can still apply, indicating your top 2-3 choice schools, all of which must be accredited four-year public or private non-profit colleges/universities in Tennessee. Just be sure your final acceptance is from an eligible university.

How competitive is it to receive an award?

The Etowah Scholarship is extremely competitive, with only 10-15% of applicants typically being selected. On average, over 500 students apply each year for approximately 60 new awards. Having a flawless application is important.

What if my GPA drops below 2.7 during college – will I lose my scholarship?

The foundation understands that college coursework is more challenging, and GPAs may dip temporarily due to adjusting to university academics. As long as you remain close to a 2.7 and demonstrate commitment to improving, your scholarship could be placed on probation rather than revoked. Maintaining satisfactory academic progress is essential.

Can the scholarship be transferred if I change my major or school?

Yes, though any changes must be approved by the foundation. Typically one change of major or transfer to another eligible Tennessee public or private non-profit university is permitted if there are good academic reasons. Advanced communication is critical in such situations.

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