An insider’s guide to scholarships from a five-time winner

Just one year ago, while working at Microsoft Argentina and on his MBA thesis at University of Salvador (Argentina), Facundo Santiago took on a challenge to help improve the health care system in his hometown Buenos Aires, Argentina.

“I went to a hospital because I wasn’t feeling well, and I noticed how the emergency room works,” Santiago explains. “They don’t know if you live in the city of Buenos Aires. They don’t track where you were before coming in or if you have any diseases. They just treat you for the symptoms you have at the moment.”

The emergency room experience inspired Santiago to submit a suggestion to the city of Buenos Aires, which invites citizens to share ways to help make the city a better place to live and work. The city mayor’s office welcomed his help to improve the lack of patient health-care information since they already were working on it. Santiago proposed an information architecture for Argentina hospitals to share patient records, dedicating his master’s thesis to the project. “Who wouldn’t want free work?” he says.

Santiago, with an undergraduate degree in computer science engineering and MBA in information systems management, has set his sights on a healthy future. The Argentine President’s Cabinet with Fulbright awarded him a full-ride scholarship to the W. P.  Carey MS-BA program as part of an initiative called “Fellowship in Science and Technology,” and he was able to take a year sabbatical from his job at Microsoft Argentina to obtain it.

Santiago wasn’t at ASU long before he applied for more scholarships — and most recently won $2,000 and a three-day, two-night trip to San Francisco in March to attend a Wells Fargo analytics summit, along with $500 for travel expenses. Santiago learned about the Campus Analytics Challenge sponsored by Wells Fargo through ASU's Career and Professional Development Services.

To Santiago, the challenge opportunities are precious. Growing up in a small community, he had to travel to big cities for his education and “figure out a lot on his own,” says Santiago, who graduates with his MS-BA in May. He summons up the conviction every time to apply for competitions, defying the disappointment he may feel from being turned down for some.

At first glance of the Campus Analytics Challenge, Santiago says he didn’t know what to do. But his business analytics skills and street smarts kicked in after spending time with the data, leading him to design a machine-learning algorithm that reviews customer transactions. When credit cards are reported lost or stolen, the algorithm determines the probability of either situation, which is information that makes for a more seamless interaction for the financial firm and its customers.

“You never know the impact you are making. It didn’t end with the challenge,” says Santiago. “I’ve been in a close conversation with Wells Fargo since winning the challenge. They asked for my CV and called to ask more about me. You never know which opportunities can open. And those are the things that are going to help you step up in your career. A lot of people are in school and get a degree, but how are you different?”

What’s next for Santiago after he graduates from the MS-BA program in May? He’s up for anything, as well as looks forward to seeing friends and family at home in Buenos Aires.

Getting a scholarship is possible with Santiago’s kind of passion. And it’s easy to apply with the W. P.  Carey General Scholarship Application, which allows you to apply once, and your application will be submitted and considered for many different scholarships.

Here are Santiago’s three tips for scholarship success:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask. “Sometimes we take things for granted,” he says, “but here we have a lot of resources.” Santiago explains to ask people if they know resources you can use to achieve the challenge. “For this challenge, I reached out to Dr. Roy, one of my professors here, and he was more than happy to help me. He answered immediately. It’s good for me, it’s good for him and the school. There’s no reason they’re not going to help you. But it’s up to you to use the resources.”
  • Give it a shot. “You probably won’t win the first time you apply,” says Santiago, who has applied to dozens of scholarships and won five of them. “I have lost a lot of competitions out there. It’s not like this was my first shot. Some of them give you feedback, and others don’t. Build on that. You can give yourself feedback.” If you applied for a scholarship one way and it didn’t work well, try another way, he suggests.
  • Think outside the box. For instance, the Campus Analytics Challenge asked, “What can you build better with us?” A data set was provided, and applicants were asked to propose a solution for a new product, service, or application that will improve the overall customer experience for Wells Fargo customers. “That’s a trend I’ve noticed with a lot of the challenges,” Santiago explains about the open-ended question format. “First you have to find a problem, and then you have to find a solution. They don’t know the problem. They want you to help them find and solve one.”

Additional award opportunities and tips on framing your scholarship essay question responses can be found on the Scholarships & Resources page.

By Shay Moser