In 1959, James McLamore and his partner, David Edgerton, purchased a struggling fast food restaurant chain from its original owners. Inspired by the burgeoning success of McDonald’s, the company focused on hamburgers—but with a key differentiator: Instead of being cooked on a grill, the burgers were broiled. 60 years later, BURGER KING generates more than $1.5 billion in annual revenue and has restaurants around the world.
McLamore passed away in 1996 after selling the company in 1967, but in 2000, a handful of BURGER KING franchisees who had known McLamore personally decided to honor his legacy through education. The result was the founding of the BURGER KING Scholars program, which awards scholarships to deserving students and BURGER KING brand employees.
To date more than $35 million has been awarded to more than 33,000 students, known within the company as BK Scholars Alumni. Here, we chat with Amanda Israel, Executive Director of the BURGER KING McLAMORE Foundation, about how to get your hands on some of the cash (bonus points if you’re currently making some extra cash by working at BURGER KING).
The Burger King Scholars Program awards multiple scholarships each year, at a range of amounts. Why take this approach instead of only granting a few, larger awards?
We take this approach of awarding thousands of scholarships each year to do just that. We want to reach as many deserving students with our funds raised. To the top three students in North America that apply each year, we award the $50,000 James W. McLamore WHOPPER Scholarship that, even more directly, honors Jim’s legacy.
Next, we have our BK Scholars Regional Employee Awards that grants the top 10 employees in North America with $5,000 scholarships. This is the way we give right back to the hard-working and deserving employees that give so much to our brand in the restaurants.
Finally, we have the general, $1,000 BK Scholars award that is seen as more of a “gap" scholarship. These are intended to help first-year students bridge the gap in their tuition and really make going to college a reality for them. Many are first generation students; sometimes they’re our own employees and their families continuing their education. While other organizations grant larger scholarship awards, we see the impact going just a bit further by reaching thousands of students each year with Jim’s legacy and creating a brighter future for them through education.
Why does the Program place such an emphasis on work experience, particularly for the WHOPPER® Scholarship?
Work experience is an important part of preparing for college, and beyond. We value each student’s hard work, both in the workplace and in their communities, so we include this as a requirement along with GPA.
Both work experience and community involvement show that they are devoted to something and will be able to put real-life experiences in play while in their college careers. We all know how important that is! We also want our Scholars to be well-rounded individuals who will succeed in their college careers. They set themselves up for success by what they do before they get to college, both at work and by giving in their community through various ways.
What is the most important part of the applications, and what tips can you share to help applicants improve their odds?
We have a third party, Scholarship America, that reviews and selects our Scholars each year based on the requirements and criteria we determine. What makes applicants stand out is their academic history, their work experience, and their extracurricular involvement—including work in the community. It’s all based on an algorithm that Scholarship America developed based on our defined criteria, but we encourage students to do their best in school and apply!
__(P.S. How to Write a Damn Good College Essay, As Explained by a Three-Time 'Jeopardy!' Winner)__
What is the number one thing applicants should avoid in their applications, if they want to improve their selection chances?
Make sure you enter all your information correctly—especially your email and mailing address, as that’s where your notification email and scholarship check will be sent, respectively. For BK® employees considering applying, make sure you know your employee number and franchise group so you are listed correctly.
Aside from the specific information requested, what are some of the intangible qualities that reviewers are looking for in applicants?
Not to be terribly general, but we love when our Scholars are driven, hungry and humble—which is what makes them Scholars in the first place! They represent our brand in such a special way.
What are your best tips for applicants to consider when preparing their submission package?
Don’t forget to list any of your work experience and community service involvement, and don’t think you won’t get the award. It’s always worth a shot to apply for any scholarship.
There are lots of scholarships out there. Why should students apply to the Burger King Scholars Program, specifically?
Who doesn’t need the extra funds to get through their first year of college? It’s already stressful and expensive being a first-year college student, and your tuition or books or housing shouldn’t be one of the things you worry about. Also, we want you in our BK Scholars family to empower you and feed your potential.
The scholarship application process can be stressful. What advice do you have to help students navigate this period with as little anxiety as possible?
Do your research. List all scholarships and filter by due date, then apply for those first.
Don’t not apply to a scholarship because you think you won’t be a recipient. There are so many scholarships out there—from left-handed scholarships to awards for people born with a specific eye or hair color. People want to give you money for school, so take it!
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