The SMART scholarship changed my life. Prior to winning I was flipping cars just to pay my way through college. The scholarship paid for my full tuition. On top of that, I received $25k/year which was paid out in monthly checks of $2,083. It also guaranteed a job for me at the Department of Defense(DoD) after I graduated.
What’s the Catch?
- Requires that you be currently enrolled in college pursuing a STEM(Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) major
- Must be a US Citizen
- Must have at least a 3.0 GPA
- For every year you accept the award, you must work a year at a DoD facility after graduating. This is a full time paid position as a federal civilian employee.
- $25,000/year if pursuing undergraduate degree
- $33,000/year if pursuing masters degree
- $38,000/year if pursuing PhD
- Pays for full tuition (does not include room&board)
- $1,000/year for textbooks
- $1200/year towards health insurance
- Pays an extra $1000/week for summer internships on top of the $2083 monthly stipend
- Guarantees employment at a safe federal job after graduation
The benefits to this program are simply phenomenal and it definitely accelerated my path towards financial freedom. A lot of people view the mandatory work at a DoD facility(100’s of facilities across the country) as a negative point, but I always saw it as a positive requirement. While my fellow classmates were all worrying about finding jobs. I had no worries, knowing exactly where I would be working after graduation.
Sure, at the start, you don’t make as much money as most private sector positions, but three years out and I was already making $80,000 a year as a civilian mechanical engineer working at the Army Armament Research and Development Engineering Center in Picatinny Arsenal, NJ.
Why I Love My Job
- Work 40 hours a week, period
- Get 20 vacation days and 13 sick days a year
- My workplace is a very family friendly environment where family comes first
- Don’t have to dress up for work
- Get to support the Warfighter and the United States of America
- Work on really cool projects
- My workplace has a full gym, with a full basketball court in my building
- My workplace has an 18 hole golf course and a water park
- My workplace offers a subsidized vanpool service, so I commute to work for free and nap my way to and from work
- They are very liberal with their snow days – which is awesome!
- Eligiblility for the AFVclub, where I can reserve 3 bedroom resort stays nationwide for as low as $25/night
- The federal government will payoff my federal student loans as I work for them
- Federal Government will match 5% of salary towards retirement TSP (401k)
- Get a pension and healthcare when I retire
- Don’t have to worry about being laid off
- I enjoy what I do and believe in the mission I support
To give you an example of what I do, please watch the video below. I am the Lead Project Officer for this project where we 3D Printed a Grenade Launcher and Fired it. Yea, my job is pretty cool.
How Competitive is it?
As scholarships go, I think the SMART Scholarship is very obtainable. During my year, 4000 people applied and 300 were awarded the scholarship. That’s about 10% of applicants, which is pretty good. Don’t forget, you can apply every year. I may just have smart friends, but each one of them who has applied for the scholarship, got it.
So, definitely go for it! It is a lengthy application, but absolutely worth it.
I highly recommend going for this scholarship and I highly recommend working for the government. I love my job and the financial awards from the scholarship definitely accelerated my path towards financial independence, I graduated college with very low student loans(from my first two years without the scholarship) and an overall positive net worth. During summers internships, the scholarship’s $2083/month stipend check is still ongoing in addition to the weekly $1000 payment in internship support. Those two income sources combined is ~$6,000 or $73,000.year salary rate. Not bad for a college intern!
If you do win this scholarship, don’t go buying yourself a fancy car like so many others did, but invest it! With the SMART scholarship funds, I started investing in the stock market, which I then used as seed money for my Real Estate Investing. It’s a great opportunity- and I encourage all who are eligible to apply! Good luck and Godspeed.
For more information and detailed inquiries, check out a forum specifically for the SMART Scholarship at http://www.thesmartforum.org/