The Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship: “It is possible.”

Applications are now being accepted for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship — the largest private scholarship in the United States for community college transfer students.

The scholarship is worth up to $40,000 per year, and 55 scholarships will be awarded in spring 2017. If you think it’s out of reach, don’t. Of the 75 scholarships awarded in 2016, 66 went to Phi Theta Kappa members.

Alumna Elizabeth Ross was one of 73 students to receive the scholarship in 2013. It was an achievement she never thought possible — but she applied anyway.

Years earlier, Ross left high school with a highly competitive ROTC scholarship and congressional nominations to three renowned military academies. Her path to college seemed set.

Shortly after graduation, though, she discovered she was pregnant. She married, kept her high school waitressing job and embraced motherhood. A second child arrived, and then divorce. She saw her opportunity to start over.

Ross enrolled in her local university, but her plans were again derailed by an undiagnosed illness that led to her hospitalization. She left school, had to quit her job and applied for disability as she fought for the next two years to stay alive.

She eventually beat her illness, but she lost a lot in the process.

“I had lost who I was,” she said. “I was depressed, and I needed something to help me become me again.”

Help came when Ross enrolled at Northeast State Community College in Tennessee. She was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa and became a chapter officer. She was regaining her self-confidence, but her dream of attending an Ivy League school still seemed out of reach.

Then, she learned about the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and its Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. She applied for and received the award, which — when paired with a scholarship from Columbia University — allowed her to attend the prestigious school virtually debt free.

Now, Ross shares her story every chance she gets.

“I believe that hearing from someone who was in their shoes just a few years ago can really make a difference when they are deciding to apply for that competitive scholarship or whether or not they should apply to their dream school,” she said. “I want other community college students to know that it is possible.”

Ross graduated from Columbia University in May 2016 and is now in her first semester of a joint PhD/JD at Harvard. She is also a new Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Scholar — after earning a bachelor’s degree, Cooke Undergraduate Scholars can compete for a graduate school scholarship worth up to $50,000 a year for up to four years.

The deadline to apply for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship application is noon ET on October 25. Learn more and apply today.

You can read more of Elizabeth Ross’ story in the 2015 issue of Visionary magazine, beginning on page 13.