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Making Waves offering $300,000 in college scholarships to Bay Area students for using AI and TikTok

by Making Waves Education Foundation

Making Waves Education Foundation » News Stories » Making Waves offering $300,000 in college scholarships to Bay Area students for using AI and TikTok

The benefits of higher education include greater economic and career mobility for individuals and better outcomes for society. Yet only 21% of first-generation students from low-income backgrounds graduate with a bachelor’s degree in six years.

At Making Waves Education Foundation, we know a more equitable future is possible

Our programs provide academic, financial, and career support for historically underserved and underrepresented students in pursuit of their college, career, and life goals.  

We are offering a new college scholarship opportunity for San Francisco Bay Area high school seniors from low-income backgrounds. Among the application requirements are students must sign up for the Making Waves college and career chatbot, follow Making Waves on TikTok, and complete an application. 

Twenty eligible students will receive up to $20,000 each in scholarship funding over a maximum of five years – and be enrolled in Making Waves Education Foundation’s college and career success program, which supports students in reaching college graduation with minimal to no debt and ready for their first job. 

Meeting Gen Z on their phones 

Making Waves is bringing college and career resources to where Gen Z spends a lot of their time: their phones. The nonprofit is providing bite-sized information, short videos, and reminders about higher education through texting and on social media. 

“We are offering beneficial tips and inspiring stories that can help drive informed decision making and motivate high schoolers to pursue higher education or another pathway,” shared Jon Siapno, a former college counselor at Making Waves Academy who is now the director of product innovation at Making Waves Education Foundation. 

Making Waves’ college and career chatbot is a free, 24/7 text message service powered by AI that answers real-time questions and sends reminders about college admissions, financial aid, scholarships, and deadlines.  

“We see AI as this real opportunity to strengthen the college advising model and help get information to students and families, on their own time,” said Patrick O’Donnell, CEO of Making Waves Education Foundation. 

Students and families are also encouraged to watch short videos on Making Waves’ TikTok account – including snapshots of college life from students as well as tips from college, career, and financial aid experts. 

“Gen Z uses TikTok to learn and get information that informs their decisions, so we’ve got to be on TikTok. And if we’re not, then we’re missing an opportunity to support students,” said O’Donnell. 

TikTok by the numbers

  • TikTok has over 1 billion users 
  • TikTokers use the app for an average of 1.5 hours/day 
  • Gen Z uses TikTok as a search engine and news tool

Scholarships to make college affordable 

Given the rising cost of higher education, Making Waves provides scholarships to remove barriers to college affordability. 

“We see students opt out of applying to college because they are nervous that they can’t afford it,” O’Donnell shared. “By providing a scholarship, we’re showing them that college can absolutely be a path.” 

The foundation already provides scholarships to high school graduates from Making Waves Academy in Richmond, California. Now, thanks to a $300,000 donation, more Bay Area students from low-income backgrounds can benefit from the foundation’s programs and services with this new scholarship opportunity

“We want to support more students in the Bay Area to earn their college degrees, to be able to afford it, and to graduate with minimal to no debt,” shared O’Donnell. 

College and career coaching through graduation and beyond 

The scholarship is just one part of Making Waves Education Foundation’s college and career success program, through which students have a comprehensive and personalized support system of college coaches, financial coordinators, and career specialists. 

The Making Waves team partners with students during their entire college journey to build long-term relationships and to support them in achieving their unique goals. Student support covers academics, career development, financial aid and budgeting, campus community, and wellness.  

The program leads to incredible outcomes. Participants graduate from college and land jobs at twice the rate of their peers – and most earn their degrees debt-free. 

Technology to advance educational equity 

Given the shortage of college counselors and the complexities of college admissions processes, Making Waves is helping remove barriers for students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, and first-generation college students.  

“Many students of color and students from low-income backgrounds are not being reached by the current college advising model,” shared O’Donnell. “Our vision is to leverage technology to expand access to information and opportunity.” 

“The results can lead to more students from diverse backgrounds attending and finishing college, greater economic mobility, and more rewarding career paths,” shared Siapno. 

About Making Waves Education Foundation

At Making Waves, we are committed to educational equity. Making Waves Education Foundation is a Bay Area nonprofit that supports Making Waves Academy – a public charter school with more than 1,100 5th through 12th grade students – and leads college and career programming with more than 430 college students.​

Knowing the opportunities that come with a college degree, we partner with historically underrepresented and underserved students to help make college affordable and graduation attainable. Centering the journeys of our students, our personalized approach includes college and career coaching, scholarships, and financial planning.​

Our alumni network includes more than 730 college graduates, who earn their degrees and land jobs at more than twice the rate of their first-generation, low-income peers, with 85% graduating debt-free.

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