Toting their stellar GPAs and superb ACT scores, some of the area’s most competitive high school students competed for Concordia’s most prestigious academic scholarship over the last couple of weeks.
About 150 prospective students applying for the Regents Scholarship descended upon campus on Jan. 28, Feb. 1 and Feb. 4 to interview for the award. Five students will be selected to receive the scholarship valued at over $130,000.
“These are highly sought after students,” Steve Schuetz, vice president of Enrollment, said.
Applicants eligible for the Regents Scholarship tend to have a 3.9 cumulative GPA and a composite ACT score of 31, according to the Enrollment department.
As college admittance, scholarships, and the job market as a whole become more and more competitive, students are becoming increasingly aware that professionalism and formality are necessary to be chosen for honors and awards.
This is being reflected in Regents Scholarship interviews, according to Richard Gilmore, a philosophy professor at Concordia who has been interviewing potential Regents scholars on-and-off for the last 19 years.
“I think it’s gotten more competitive and more formal—they’re definitely more prepared and more polished,” Gilmore said.
Gilmore said that this emphasis on professionalism was reflective of pressures young adults are facing as they enter both college and the job market. Students are reacting to these pressures by widening their focus and becoming more serious about the application process.
Students are casting their net wider and farther when applying to college, according to a recent study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling.
According to the study, a quarter of fall 2010 college freshmen nation-wide had applied to seven or more schools, and 77 percent had applied to at least three schools. This is an increase from both fall 2008 and fall 2009.
Lauren Farguhar, a high school senior from Plymouth, Minn., has applied to eight different colleges. She interviewed for the Regents Scholarship on Feb. 4. At this point in time, she’s still looking seriously at most of these colleges.
“Winning the Regents Scholarship would help me make my decision, but it definitely wouldn’t be what I based my college decision on,” Farguhar said.
Ambitious students are making a point of not limiting their options during their college search, which can make it more difficult for colleges to get a sense of what the incoming freshmen class will look like.
Colleges need to offer real benefits to competitive students to keep them interested in enrolling, and Concordia is not exempted from this, Gilmore said.
Awarding these scholarships is not based solely on academic records, though.
“I’m looking for a liveliness of mind—it’s how far we can get away from the interview’s standardized questions. That’s a sign they’re thinking about things,” Gilmore said.
Gilmore likes to view the standardized questions, which include questions about significant learning experiences, service experience, and pleasure reading, as jumping off points for real conversation between himself and the interviewee.
“These are very smart people,” Gilmore said. “They come from very different areas—some from small towns, others from places like the Cities. They’ve got different experiences to talk about.”
Though these students are coming from different backgrounds and are generally very competitive, these students have realized that it’s important to not only act professionally and respectfully within the interview, but also toward their fellow candidates.
Sarah Hinz, a high school senior from Burnsville, Minn. who interviewed for the scholarship on Feb. 1, spoke about the odd combination of the competitiveness of the interviews and the polished nature of her peers:
“It was really nice, but really weird,” she said. “All the other interviewees would come up and talk to you and be really friendly, and then you’d think ‘you’re my competition.’”