Matching UK Students with Educational Opportunities
Video by Jenny Wells/UK Public Relations and Marketing. Transcript available for download.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 30, 2013) — Each year several University of Kentucky students are recognized on a national, and even international stage, for their excellence in the classroom and research labs at the university with a variety of prestigious scholarships, internships and fellowships.
Helping UK students and recent alumni garner such honors is the mission of an office devoted to matching students to and preparing them for such valuable opportunities. The UK Office of External Scholarships, under the direction of Pat Whitlow, is dedicated to working with young scholars on the application process for large scholastic prizes.
"My role is to listen and offer some advice, to make students aware of opportunities, to help them think about and improve their writing skills, to help them practice for interviews, so I do all of the activities that help polish them and help them present themselves in the best possible way," said Whitlow.
One of the primary responsibilities of the office is to administer the campus nomination process for 12 major awards that require an institutional endorsement. For these particular opportunities, like the Truman and Rhodes Scholarships, students must apply first to a campus review committee, which will then select the students who will represent UK. Nominees receive feedback on their application and are officially nominated by the institution.
UK's 2013 Goldwater Scholar Josiah Hanna, a junior majoring in computer science and mathematics, felt his work with the Office of External Scholarships was invaluable in receiving his honor. "I met with Dr. Whitlow after UK was going to nominate me. I felt like I was the only student they were working with and their only goal was for me to get this award. And, I know that is not true, because I know lots of the students working for awards and they get the same type of attention."
Third year medical student Juliana Odetunde, who is a Fulbright-Fogarty Fellowship winner, agrees with Hanna. "They really helped me gather all of my recommendation letters together, helped me make sure I had all the proper transcripts."
But the Office of External Scholarships doesn't just work with those 12 awards alone, the primary goal of the office is to recruit and prepare UK students with strong academic and extracurricular records to help them be successful in pursuing nationally competitive opportunities. They share their knowledge of the process by helping UK students find scholarships and fellowships that match their particular study and research interests funded by non-profit groups, government agencies and companies. Criteria for these honors vary but generally include academic performance, financial need, community affiliations and elements important to the sponsoring organization.
"There are scholarships in every field and lot of them you don't even know about, but that's one of the great things they are there for. They can definitely help you connect with opportunities in whatever field you are interested in. I wouldn't have even known about the Udall Scholarship if it weren't for Pat Whitlow and everyone at the office," said 2013 Udall Scholar Sam Beavin, a junior majoring in chemistry with an emphasis in biochemistry.
The Office of External Scholarships can help you determine if you are eligible for a particular award, assist you in crafting a personal essay, practice for an interview, and shepherd you through the application and/or nomination process. The office's goal is to increase the number of UK students and alumni who apply for, and receive, these national and international awards.
There are many scholarship opportunities that allow direct application. For those awards, the UK Office of External Scholarships provides advice and assistance to students preparing an application.
The process of applying for a nationally competitive scholarship is, in itself, a learning experience. It challenges the student to think through his or her career plans, to set ambitious long-term goals, and to imagine how they can use their talents to shape and change the world. In order to be a successful candidate for one of these highly competitive awards, the Office of External Scholarships recommends students begin to consider opportunities as early as freshman year, building extracurricular and leadership background, as well as participating in community and public service while maintaining a high grade point average.
It is important to begin the scholarship preparation well before national deadlines. For the scholarships requiring university endorsement, there will be a campus deadline for receipt of materials that is typically one month prior to the final submission date.
"Any student in any field can think about applying for some of these awards, most of them are open to all disciplines. But, it is definitely a benefit to come in early in your academic career, and probably even early in the academic year, although we do publish all of the deadlines on our website and on Facebook," said Whitlow.
Located in 221 Funkhouser Building, the Office of External Scholarships is part of the UK Division of Undergraduate Education. Students who are interested in these opportunities are encouraged to contact Whitlow, director of the Office of External Scholarships, and begin work with her well in advance of the scholarship deadline. The office plans to change its name in the coming year to Office of Nationally Competitive Awards.
MEDIA CONTACT: Whitney Hale, (859) 257-8716; firstname.lastname@example.org