The College Scholars Program
One of the best things about Vandy is that it offers generous financial aid to its students. While many receive need-based financial aid, some students also receive merit scholarships. There are many kinds of merit scholarships at Vandy that prospective students can apply for, but the most prominent ones are the full-tuition scholarships, namely:
- The Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholarship. This is offered to students with an exceptional academic record.
- The Ingram Scholarship. This program is for students who demonstrate a unique passion for community service.
- The Chancellor’s Scholarship. This scholarship is offered to students who “have worked towards bridging gaps among economically, socially, and racially diverse groups.”
When I was applying to colleges, I hadn’t really paid attention to merit scholarship opportunities that many universities offer; I was always more focussed on need-based aid. Fortunately, my regional admissions counselor, John Nesbitt, visited my high school in New Delhi, India to help prospective students learn more about Vandy. During his presentation, he informed us about the merit scholarships at Vanderbilt.
When I went back home, I did extensive research on the three signature scholarships programs and decided that the Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholarship was best suited to my profile. With blessings from the admissions gods, I was lucky to receive my acceptance to Vanderbilt in the first week of March, informing me that as a recipient of the scholarship, I was officially a member of the class of 2018!
For many, the tuition waiver is the most lucrative aspect of these three scholarships. However, there are plenty of other benefits that these programs offer. As a Cornelius Vanderbilt scholar, you gain an automatic acceptance to the College Scholars program. At the end of the first semester, thirty additional students are accepted to the College Scholars program, based on their academic performance as well as a one page essay. Dean Russell McIntire, one of the warmest and wittiest people I have met at Vandy, heads the College Scholars program.
While I do not have first-hand knowledge about the Ingram or the Chancellor’s Scholarships programs, I can share my experiences of the Cornelius Vanderbilt and College Scholars programs.
- Honors Seminars. Each semester, about 6-7 honors seminars are offered to College Scholars. These courses are writing intensive and they also fulfill AXLE requirements. The class size is very small (about 16 students each). I am taking my first honors seminar this semester. It is called ‘The 19th Century Criminal’ as it explores crime in Victorian England. This course is taught by Professor Rachel Teukolsky who was recently named a Chancellor Faculty Fellow. She is also one of the most passionate and approachable professors I have met. As a Sherlock Holmes fan, I was on cloud nine when I first heard about this seminar. In this course, we also get to read and analyze classic works such as Oliver Twist, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, A Study in Scarlet as well as short essays by Cesare Lombroso, Frederick Engels and Edgar Allan Poe. For one class assignment, we will watch Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock! Can life get any better? Initially, I was a bit skeptical about taking this course as I was the only freshman in the class and the only one who had just taken one college writing course. Now, I am glad that I did take it. Learning from the experiences and knowledge of upperclassmen while discussing fascinating readings has helped me develop my analytical skills. Rather than feeling intimidated, I thoroughly enjoyed studying and discussing crime in Victorian England with my professor and classmates.
- Enriching Courses. Apart from the regular coursework, College Scholars get the opportunity to ‘enrich’ a course. Basically, we get the chance to work closely with a professor whose course we are taking and do research on a topic that is related to the course. Last semester, I enriched my Econ 100: Principles of Macroeconomics class with Professor Buckles to work on a research paper comparing the economic growth paths of India and China. While I did do extra research on these two economies, I based my paper on the economic concepts taught in class: fiscal policy, trade, exchange rates, monetary policy, employment and inflation.While enriching a course gives you a unique insight into the subject matter, it also gives you the opportunity to collaborate and work closely with professors, and get to know them beyond the classroom. In the weekly meetings I had with Professor Buckles, I was able to learn from his perspective and knowledge about macroeconomic issues. Although legendary professors such as Professor Buckles teach hundreds of students each semester, enriching a course helps you get to know them personally — I can proudly say that I have found a life-long mentor in Professor Buckles.
- Stipend for Study Abroad/Research. Cornelius Vanderbilt scholars also get a stipend of up to $6,000 to study abroad or do research over the summer. While I am technically studying abroad already, I have always wanted to study at the London School of Economics because a) I’m majoring in Econ and b) It’s in London! Hopefully, things will work out and I will get a chance to study at LSE next year.
- Honors Points. By being a part of the College Scholars Program and making use of the academic opportunities it offers, students are able to gather ‘honors points‘. For example, each honors seminar fetches you 3 points and enriching a course is worth 1 point. If a College Scholar accumulates at least 15 points, then he/she is able to graduate with ‘Honors in the College of Arts and Sciences’. Of course, there is no requirement to take honors seminars or enrich courses. However, most College Scholars choose to earn honors points while fulfilling AXLE requirements.
I am grateful to be a part of this unique program as it has helped me meet talented and passionate students as well as professors. It has also helped me challenge myself, especially in the presence of upperclassmen classmates in discussion-based courses. There are so many exciting opportunities to shape your academic journey at Vanderbilt, whether you choose a popular major or take a path less traveled.
If you are a prospective applicant, I highly recommend applying for the merit scholarships at Vandy. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about the Cornelius Vanderbilt and/or College Scholars programs.