With student loan debt recently emerging as a more daunting force over society than credit card debt, the need for students to get awarded scholarships is more pertinent than ever. There is over $1.3 trillion in student loan debt in the US from over 44 million borrowers according to Make Lemonade. These students could have taken advantage of the many unclaimed scholarship opportunities and avoided this burden, but navigating the world of scholarships proves daunting for many which causes them to fall short. Christopher Gray saw this problem and decided to do something about it by founding a company to make this process easier for students.
MiLLENNiAL caught up with Chirstopher to learn more about his company, Scholly, and the future of funding for education.
Scholly, which has offices in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, is an online service that is revolutionizing the scholarship process for college students. The process of applying for scholarships is laborious and inefficient, leaving many students overwhelmed to the point where they only apply to the most promising scholarships. This pits a large amount of students against each other and leaves many scholarships unclaimed.
Christopher Gray, CEO and Co-Founder of Scholly, was not one of these students. Christopher tells us that “After applying to over 400 different scholarships and being awarded over $1.3 million in funding,” he saw the reality of what was possible compared to what most students actualize.
Christopher did this right around when the recession hit, coming from a family with two younger siblings being raised by a single mom. His tenacity made this possible, but he wanted to make these sorts of opportunities available to every student in need.
The Solution: Scholly
Christopher Gray and his co-founders got to working on a platform that would make the process of matching and applying to scholarships much more simplified. There are plenty of sites that list a wealth of scholarships available but Scholly takes this process to another level by way of innovation.
One such innovation is a patented search process that finds new scholarships and adds them to the database. This process has been trained with machine learning to identify unique elements of scholarships, including any potential scams, and organize them into Scholly’s database on a continual basis. He made sure to let us know that it filters out any scholarships that don’t meet certain requirements, “Scholly is very much against services that sell student information,” Christopher tells us.
Christopher Gray In the Shark Tank
Christopher was featured on the show Shark Tank in 2015 where two sharks eagerly invested in the company. In the short time since then Scholly has helped its over 2 million users raise over $100 million in scholarships. Users pay $2.99 a month to access the platform and on average match with up to 300 different scholarships.
When the company was in its infancy, Christopher was manually matching students with scholarships that worked for them. He quickly found that he only has so much bandwidth, and after he “watched one student in particular just barely miss his goal funding amount, it was heartbreaking,” and it was then he knew that such an innovation was needed.
The patented search process not only adds scholarships to the database, but matches student’s unique situations with scholarships that fit them. Furthermore, as students proceed through school it continues to identify opportunities to cover more expenses. This whole process is the core of Scholly’s strength but many new innovations are making the platform even stronger.
The Next Innovations
Scholly now has created the ability for its users to apply for up to 100 different scholarships with one application. Considering the time and effort each application takes, this makes scholarships much more accessible to those students who may have full time jobs or don’t have easy access to a computer with internet.
It was this same logic of accessibility that precluded Scholly rolling out both a mobile and desktop app, so students were able to quickly and easily find opportunities. Christopher points out that they have also expanded opportunities to their users by hosting some scholarships that are exclusive to Scholly’s users.
Scholly has also produced an AI driven editor which analyses scholarship essays and gives suggestions to strengthen them. This editor was trained with 10 years of computational knowledge and provides this sort of feedback for magnitudes less than the traditional methods, once again leveling the playing field for hopeful students.
Scholly does not plan on stopping there. Christopher tell us he is “looking to add more exclusive content to the platform including scholarships, tools, and other opportunities through unique partnerships.” Funding for other forms of education like coding bootcamps, conferences, and even elementary schools are also on the company’s growth path.
Scholly is looking to provide equal access to everyone looking for scholarships. They see making these opportunities accessible as an important contributor to positive impact in communities where these opportunities are not available without tools like this. There is a lot of unclaimed money out there, and Christopher and the rest of the team at Scholly are on a mission to help students find it.
To learn more about Scholly and get involved, or if you are a prospective or current college student, go to MyScholly.com to see what Scholly can do for you and others.