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Since its founding about five years ago, Christopher Gray has focused his app Scholly on a mission: help college-bound students seeking financial aid assess the thousands of private scholarships offered by companies and other organizations and find the ones with the best fit. Now the LA-based enterprise is moving into the student debt arena by teaming up with Freeform, the television network behind the show Grown-ish. They’re running a competition that will fund grants of up to $125,000 to help students and graduates pay off their outstanding loans.
Sit-com Grown-ish, now in its second season, focuses on the lives of college students. So a perfect tie-in for Scholly.
The process will happen in two phases. In the first, applicants merely visit a web site or the Scholly app, providing their name, loan amount, school and contact information. That step intentionally was made easy. “We want as many people as possible to apply,” says Gray. And in fact, within the first five hours of going live last week, more than 10,000 applicants signed up. The second step will involve a more-formal application, with essays to complete and other information.
Scholly is managing the application process and selecting the winners. Freeform is supplying the funding.
According to Gray, the program is the beginning of a bigger focus on student loan debt. “Paying off student loans is more of a universal problem,” he says. Plus interest in the existing app shot up exponentially, according to Gray. Traffic in three hours equaled an average month’s worth of visits.
The son of a struggling single mother, Gray couldn’t afford to attend college. So he went through the laborious process of researching and applying to private scholarships. The work paid off: He was awarded over $1 million in grants. Then, while enrolled at Drexel University, he realized he could use his experience to build a company aimed at helping students with everything from finding information about scholarships to managing deadlines. Recently, Gray added a platform with which users can check for style errors and get other editing help.
Gray moved the company to LA from Philadelphia a year and a half ago to be closer to influencers, like Chance the Rapper, and other high-profile endorsers. “We don’t need to pay for this,” he says. “People think Scholly is a great thing to be associated with.” The traffic has skyrocketed since then, says Gray. The app has 3 million users and, according to Gray, has helped students garner about $100 million in scholarship funding.
Winners of the Grown-ish contest will be announced later this year.
January 10, 2019 at 02:23PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs