Christopher Gray Hated His Experience Looking For College Scholarships, So He Created Scholly

Christopher Gray Hated His Experience Looking For College Scholarships, So He Created Scholly

Christopher Gray had a terrible experience looking for a college scholarship, so he decided to fix it with the Scholly app.

Christopher Gray, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, wanted to be the first person in his family to attend college, but he couldn’t afford it on his own and didn’t want to take out student loans that would leave him thousands of dollars in debt. He had to find a scholarship.

For him, the process was unforgettable because of his naivete.

“I went through this long process of looking for scholarships. It took months and months of going through different websites, watching out for scams,” Gray told BLACK ENTERPRISE. “It was a really painful and arduous process.” 

Gray received more than $1 million in scholarships and attended Drexel University. However, he never forgot what he went through to find a scholarship and, along with two friends, founded Scholly, an app that helps students easily find scholarships for college, and for graduates to pay off their student debt.

Scholly uses an algorithm created by its team that uses factors such as age and the major a person is interested in to find the most compatible scholarships. Scholly’s team vets each scholarship to ensure it’s legitimate.

“One of the reasons why it’s hard to find a scholarship is everyone wants to create a scholarship, but people don’t know how to market scholarships, and so everyone’s posting everything everywhere,” Gray said. “We use eligibility keywords to ensure that we’re matching you with the scholarships that you are looking for as an individual.”

Scholly can be used by high school students and current college students looking for scholarships.

“Last year, 41% of families that qualify for scholarships did not apply at all, so nearly half of eligible applicants did not apply. Also, a lot of people don’t know that you can apply for scholarships while you’re attending college, so a lot of scholarships are going unclaimed because people just stop applying once they’re in college. So making students aware that you can still apply for scholarships is another big part of Scholly,” said Gray.

He began creating Scholly while he was still in school. In 2014, he took Scholly national when he appeared on NBC’s “Shark Tank” to promote the app. The idea of one centralized app for college scholarships was so popular among the hosts that Gray’s appearance led to an animated back-and-forth between the hosts, including FUBU Founder Daymond John.

“I was a senior in college at the time, so I was pretty young, and it was a really interesting experience,” Gray told BE. “The whole appearance was about 30 minutes, but it was edited down to seven minutes, and I didn’t even see the fight until it aired. The appearance was in the summer of 2014, but it didn’t air until February 2015.”

Gray’s “Shark Tank” appearance led to a barrage of offers and opportunities for Scholly. The app was No. 1 on iPhone and Android for a month after the episode aired, and Scholly received offers from cities and individuals alike to promote their scholarships.

Earlier this year, education lender Sallie Mae acquired Scholly, allowing the app to be free for students. Today, Scholly is the one-stop shop for scholarships and sports-exclusive scholarships from companies and celebrities including Amazon, Google, musician Lil Nas X, and actor Jesse Williams.

Last month, Sallie Mae commemorated National Scholarship Month by announcing the latest cohort of its Bridging the Dream Scholarship for high school seniors, providing 25 of them with $10,000 scholarships to attend HBCU schools.

As for Gray, he is about to film the “Shark Tank” update on Scholly, showcasing the app’s success since it was first introduced on the show.

“For me, this is a full-circle moment. Even getting ready to do the ‘Shark Tank’ update is powerful because it just shows you how many people we helped,” Gray told BE. “I have people walk up to me all the time and tell me they’ve got a scholarship through Scholly, and being able to be a part of that and being able to build something to this point is just a full-circle moment, and it’s just something me and my team are really proud of.”

RELATED CONTENT: Scholly and 25-Year-Old Entrepreneur Bryce Thompson Give $100K Away