MIT grad shares insight into college scholarship process

Torrey Pines High School graduate Naveen Krishnan has put his scholarship savvy to work by penning “Get Real Money for College” which is set to hit Barnes and Noble Booksellers next week.

As the cost of going to college gets headache-inducing for parents, having this book as a guide is a must, Krishnan said, especially if students are aiming high. At the top colleges, he said, the application process is so competitive now that students need something that makes them stand out among the rest.

“Many have a good SAT score and a good GPA but what can set you apart is win you win awards and scholarships,” Krishnan, 23, said. “They open doors to get into the best colleges.”

Krishnan, a Del Mar native, has stood out himself. He attended Del Mar Hills Academy and Earl Warren Middle School before going to Torrey Pines.

From high school, he went on to the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) were he studied brain and cognitive sciences.

Krishnan graduated in June of 2007 and his next big adventure begins this week at Cambridge University, where he will study global health politics.

Krishnan will be attending the maste’rs program on a 100 percent scholarship from the Bill Gates Foundation - everything will be covered, including airfare to England, living expenses, books and meals.

The Gates scholarship is unique, Krishnan said, in that it is entirely merit-based and does not factor in any financial factors. Only 50 American students and another 50 internationally are eligible to receive the scholarship.

“This is the best scholarship that anybody can hope to get,” Krishnan said. “It’s a very humbling experience and a great honor.”

Krishnan’s mother, Uma, teaches science at Torrey Hills School and last year was the Del Mar Union School District’s “Teacher of the Year.”

“I’m very proud of him,” said Krishnan. “He’s very ambitious, very driven, very passionate about what he feels. The scholarship was just absolutely the most wonderful thing. It seems as if his dreams are in line with the Gates philosophy.”

“Get Real Money For College” is a project Krishnan started seven years ago, as he and his brother Ashwin were applying for multiple scholarships while still in high school. He and his brother applied for all kinds of scholarships-he even received one from the San Diego Chargers in 2003. All their work paid off when Naveen’s MIT tuition was significantly paid through scholarship money, likewise Ashwin’s tuition at Harvard University.

Krishnan kept all of the information he’d gathered and gave it to San Diego City Schools as a guide for counselors to use. The 40-page guide was even put online.

“It really worked out well for everybody,” Krishnan said.

So well in fact, that he decided to publish the information as a book.

The book has a helpful listing of numerous national and international scholarship opportunities with websites and deadlines prominently displayed.

It also provides information on how parents can set up government subsidized savings accounts when students are at an early age and how to get interest loans and have them forgiven through community service.

More than just getting money for school, awards and scholarships can really impress on a college application.

“Scholarships actually bulk up students’ resumes - colleges like to see all those accomplishments, " Krishnan said. “And it makes writing recommendations a piece of cake.”

A key way to bulk up that resume is by getting involved in science, leadership and community service competitions, Krishnan said.

For example, in his sophomore year at Torrey Pines Krishnan was a finalist in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

Krishnan represents a well-rounded kind of student-he played varsity tennis at MIT and flexed his philanthropic muscles by founding the National Veterans Care Corporation, a nonprofit group that aids wounded soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan in 2004. Fittingly, his corporation has also provided scholarships to local San Diego students since 2005.

A big believer in community service, Krishnan has traveled to India to work at rural health clinics and to study childhood blindness.

After Cambridge, Krishnan hopes to attend medical school and become a doctor. He hasn’t yet decided what he wants to practice but there’s a good chance he knows exactly how he will help pay for school.

To learn more about the book, visit