SRU program helps students pursue ‘distinguished scholarships’

scholarship foundation logos

Feb. 23, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. ¬- Slippery Rock University's new Distinguished Scholarship and Fellowship program was launched to help students prepare to apply for prestigious national and international fellowships, scholarships and awards.

The process, experts say, is serious business for serious students, but the payoff is well worth the effort; even if the student doesn't nab a Truman or Marshall Scholarship. The intellectual development and insight and presentation skills gained along the way, experts note, will benefit the student both immediately and for the rest of their life.

Because these are highly competitive scholarships, the earlier a student starts the process the better their chances of succeeding.

Susan Parsons, assistant professor of interdisciplinary programs who directs the program, said freshmen and sophomores should begin researching the scholarships they want to pursue and then develop a competitive strategy. Although having a stellar academic record is critical to most scholarships, many are also looking for the well-rounded student who can demonstrate character, leadership and service.

"These (scholarships) are really for our most highly motivated students. These would be students with great grade points, leadership experience, service experience and sometimes strong undergraduate research experiences," she said. "Our students will be competing against the best and brightest from around the country. Strong, bright, ambitious students should begin preparing to become competitive applicants their freshmen and/or sophomore years."

Scholarship deadlines, amounts and qualifications vary.

Some of the awards are for graduate study, others support undergraduate study, some are for extended study abroad experiences, but all are highly competitive, Parsons said.

Only one award, the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, for Pell eligible students to study abroad, is slightly less competitive because they are able to give more awards than most of the others, Parsons said.

The Gilman requires a student to spend at least four weeks studying or doing an internship for credit in another country. "They encourage students additionally to study in non-Western European countries," she said.

Experts advise students interested in pursuing scholarships, fellowships and awards at this level to do a lot of soul searching to first make sure they are willing to put in the effort required and then to develop a plan for personal, as well as intellectual, development. They note students, "should develop a close relationship with a faculty mentor who can suggest readings lists, review and critique their resume and personal statement, monitor academic progress, help sharpen writing and speaking skills, and serve as a source of encouragement."

Parsons said she and SRU's Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships are available to mentor students through the many steps they must complete to apply for and land one of the scholarships.

"Our job is to help the student put their best foot forward," she said.

SRU's Distinguished Scholarships and Fellowship Program connects students to funding opportunities with:

• Morris K. Udall and Steward L. Udall Foundation
• The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation
• Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship
• Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education
• US-Ireland Alliance
• Marshall Scholarships
• Critical Language Scholarship Program
• Clinton Foundation
• National Science Foundation
• Jack Kent Cooke Foundation
• Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts
• The Beinecke Scholarships
• Gates Cambridge
• The Winston Churchill Foundation of the United States
• Office of the American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust

For more information, call the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships at 724.738.2044.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine | 724.738.4854 | gordon.ovenshine@sru.edu