TYLER, Texas — Graduating seniors at Bishop T.K. Gorman High School in Tyler have 6.5 million reasons to be proud of themselves. 

"We had a graduating class of 71 this year and out of that, 84% of the graduating class of 2019, received scholarship rewards in some value or denomination," a testing director at Gorman, Pamela Konon, said. "Out of that group, there was over $6.5 million accrued overall for those 71 students.”

Each year, an estimated $46 billion in grants and scholarship money is awarded by the U.S. Department of Education and the nation’s colleges and universities. In addition, about $3.3 billion in gift aid is awarded by private entities like churches and corporations. 

"To know that each one of my classmates is going somewhere and has plans and a lot of them have significant scholarships, that's just really exciting," Aidan Boyne Class of 2019 Valedictorian said.

Boyne graduated last week with the remainder of his class. He is finishing the year as a National Merit Scholar with plans to study bio-engineering at UCLA in the fall. 

Even though he already crossed the graduation stage, the 17-year-old scholar says he is still knee-high in scholarship deadlines. 

“When I first got out of junior year, I was like, ‘I’m going to get these done. It’s all going to be over by Christmas break'," Boyne said. "I really tried to do that, but I just kept getting more an more scholarships that I had to apply for, and you know, I’m still actually working on scholarships right now. It never ends.”

Currently, Boyne has been awarded $105,000 in scholarships. The top earner of his class, classmate Kenneth Knight, who has claimed $728,700 in offers. 

“There’s definitely a lot that you can get from the fall of your senior year until you graduate, Boyne said. "But there’s a lot still out there with deadlines in June and July, so if you can get those, it’s definitely less competition so it’s good to apply.” 

Boyne along with Konon credits the school's college and career counselor for the success of this year's class. 

“There’s a wide variety of scholarships available when you know where to go and what to do with those," Konon said. "We have a great coordinator, Heather Roberts. She actually gets them in 9th grade, and she starts that preparatory work in 9th grade and she moves forward with them each year where she meets with them."

Students at Gorman say they are so fortunate to have such guidance.

"There’s a great resource and they’ve updated and they’re actually pretty competitive, which is College Board," Konon said. "They sign up early on in 8th or 9th grade and then, they get their own account and they can actually set the standards and goals for themselves online. Also, Khan Academy provides a lot of resources for students, as well as a scholarship base for them. 

Konon says it is important for students to not procrastinate and wait until their senior year or afterward to get started with the scholarship and college application processes. She also says some of the easiest obtainable scholarships are those right under one's nose. 

"There are a lot of local businesses that will put money out for students," Konon said. "Be aware of the businesses in town. When you drive along the Loop or anywhere in town, take a good look at the businesses that are there whether it’s a restaurant or a retail place and decide, ‘I wonder if this place has a scholarship.’ If you go in and ask, there’s no harm in asking. A lot of the hospitals in town do that, as well. They will provide scholarships to students who may be interested in nursing or lab work or something like that, they will provide a partial scholarship as well as a job for the students while they’re attending college.”

Konon says there are also an endless list of coveted apps and search tools online that are available to students every day, all day. 

Scholly, Niche, Chegg, Scholarship Monkey, and the Texas Common App are just a few to name. 

"It’s so easy just to look up online, ‘East Texas scholarships’ or whatever college you’re going to scholarships or just national scholarships, in general," Boyne said. "Especially with a lot of the more prestigious schools and scholarships, it is so important that you get involved in things early and that you really dive deep into them, because personally, I didn’t get really involved until my junior year and it really came back to bite me this year."