Tuesday, January 19, 2010

About Merit Scholarships

Hi all. I asked my colleague Dave Meredith to write a bit about how students are selected for merit scholarships and the Honors Program. Dr. Meredith is the liaison in our office who works with the various faculty, offices, and selection committees who award merit scholarships and select students for the Honors Program. I hope this information is helpful, please let us know in the comments below what additional questions you might have. Thanks, Julie

It is about that time of year when we start getting a lot of questions about scholarships (including the Morehead-Cain and Robertson) and the Honors Program. I want to explain how the Admissions Office works with these offices to select students. To learn more about the characteristics and qualities each scholarship seeks, please visit their websites (Robertson, Morehead-Cain, University-awarded scholarships, Pogue, Honors Program).

When the Admissions Committee in our office reviews applications, we are looking for characteristics including academic excellence, impactful leadership, writing ability, and more. As we make decisions about which students we feel would be a good fit for Carolina, we also nominate students for further review by a number of other offices for scholarships and the Honors Program.

Each deadline, the Admissions Office receives between 10,000 and 13,000 applications. From this pool, we select about 600 students for further review by a team of faculty members. How do we select these 600 or so students, you ask? Great question! I can tell you it isn’t based on your SAT, class rank or even GPA. Of course the students we’re considering in this review are all incredibly accomplished students but all of the students we admit have a strong academic record. So for scholarship consideration, rather than focus on numbers, we look very closely at the essays and recommendation letters to find evidence of what I like to call “being a mental wrestler.” A mental wrestler is someone who likes ideas, is curious, and approaches topics from different angles. A mental wrestler has probably said something in class that caused the whole class to stop and say “Hmmm, I never thought about it like that.”

From this pool of 600-ish nominated students, a team of faculty will select about 300 students to invite to the Honors Program and 130 students to participate in Scholarship Day. Some students may be invited to both, but they are independent invitations. This process repeats itself in late winter for our second-deadline applicants.

We also nominate students for two external scholarships: the Morehead-Cain and Robertson. We are fortunate to be able to nominate about 40 out-of-state applicants for consideration by the Morehead-Cain committee and about 150 students (both NC residents and out-of-state) for the Robertson Committee to review. Once these committees have reviewed our nominees, they directly contact the students they select.

Beginning in 2010, we began nominating students for the Pogue Scholarship. We will nominate about 60 NC residents and about 15 out-of-state students for this scholarship. The Pogue Committee will then contact these students directly with further information about the review process.

Please note that all of the numbers I’ve included are averages over the past two to three years. We do not have strict quotas.

I hope this information clarifies how the Admissions Office assists with the selection process for these opportunities. Thanks.