The Story on Scholarships: A Guest Blog from Heather
Hi there. I’m Heather, Director of Scholarships here at Vanderbilt, and I’ll be your guest blogger today. Your regularly scheduled bloggers asked me to step in and share a little bit about what’s going on in my world right now in the hopes that it might shed some light on our scholarship selection process. So, here it goes…
My office is new to Vanderbilt this year (though I’m not new – I’ve worked in Vanderbilt’s Admissions Office for the past 7 years) and is responsible for coordinating all external communication regarding merit-based scholarships to prospective students and internal communication between and amongst the various merit scholarship selection committees on campus. In the past, students who applied to Vanderbilt were automatically considered for the majority of our merit-based scholarships with the exception of 4 that each required a different separate application. The merit scholarships for which students were automatically considered were numerous and detailed information on them was difficult to locate. So when the scholarship offer arrived in the mail with the student’s acceptance letter, students were often left wondering exactly why they’d received that award and what its qualifications were.
The creation of my office is meant to provide greater structure and transparency to our merit scholarship selection process so that it’s clearer up front what scholarships are available and how one can be considered for them. All of our previously existing full tuition merit scholarships that offer a summer stipend for research, study abroad, or service opportunities have now been grouped under a broader scholarship umbrella program called the Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholarship Program. Students will still be awarded an individual scholarship (for example, the Lanier Scholarship for Atlanta-area students), but they’ll now also be part of a larger cohort of scholarship recipients once they arrive on campus. That group will meet together several times during the year and participate in some special programming just for Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholars. The selection process for the individual scholarships within the program will remain the same, but we hope to create a stronger community of scholars once the recipients arrive on campus.
Speaking of selection, gearing up for those processes is a large part of what I’m working on right now. Faculty committees in each of our four undergraduate schools will meet in mid-February to review the very strongest applicants to their school and select their merit scholarship candidates. Those candidates in the College of Arts and Science and in the Peabody College of Education and Human Development will be invited to interview on campus March 16-18, 2008. Scholarship recipients in the School of Engineering will be notified via mail in early March. The Blair School of Music will notify their scholarship recipients in late March following all of the auditions. There are also a handful of Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholarships that are not restricted to an individual Vanderbilt school, but rather to students from a certain geographic area, most notably the Lanier Scholarship for residents of Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, and Rockdale Counties in and around Atlanta, GA. We are working on identifying the strongest candidates from those areas for their selection committees.
Selection for our other two signature scholarship programs, the Chancellor’s and the Ingram Scholarships, is also underway. The Ingram selection committee has recently notified their semi-finalists of their status and letters to those not selected to continue in the process have been sent this week. We had a record number of applicants to the Ingram Program this year (700+) and it was exceedingly difficult to narrow that group down to 40. The Chancellor’s Scholarship selection committee will meet in late February and their recipients will be notified later in March without an interview requirement.
Beyond those three signature scholarship programs, we are still awarding a number of smaller merit scholarships, some of which are based on academic achievement alone and some of which have geographic or interest-based restrictions. Those scholarships do not require a separate application for consideration (though we do recommend that interested students submit the Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholarship application so that the selection committees will have that extra essay to aid in their review) and notifications are made to their recipients along with their acceptance letters in late March. We’re calling these the Assorted Merit Scholarships for lack of a snazzier term and existing scholarships like the Fred Russell-Grantland Rice Sportswriting Scholarship, the Top Tenn Scholarship (for valedictorians or salutatorians from high schools in Tennessee), and the Academic Achievement Scholarship now fall into this category.
Whew! Now you probably see why I’m not a regular blogger – there would be no bandwidth left for anyone else! I hope this long entry helps to clarify the new scholarship selection process here a bit, but please keep those questions and concerns coming – you can reach me by phone at (615) 936-7121 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.