Georgia Tech’s President’s Scholarship Program

Georgia Tech’s President’s Scholarship Program


We consider all of
the early applicants to Georgia Tech for the
President’s Scholarship Program. That, last year was
about 12,000 students. We pare that down to
around 600 semifinalists, and then eventually
100 finalists are selected, and about
50 scholars overall. I think a lot of people think
that we are sort of just looking at an SAT score; we’re
at a technical institution, people think numbers. The reality is, is we look
really heavily the essays and at those activities
that they’re involved in, because everybody
who applies here has great grades, and
great course schedules, and wonderful test scores. So we’re really trying to see
what differentiates a student. When we talk about our
pillar of scholarship, we are going far beyond
grades and test scores. And we choose the word
scholarship on purpose. For us that means
intellectual curiosity; it also means critical thinking. Are you the kind
of student that is going to spend time in
the library or the lab, not just the classroom? Are you the kind
of student who’s going to go to a museum
of art, to a foreign film, or stay up late talking
about, not just the latest movie but the crisis going
on in the Middle East. For leadership as a
pillar, it’s really varied in terms of what
we’re looking for. Sometimes it’s going to be
the classic student body president or the team
captain, but in other cases, it’s a student who may be
exceptional in their field. I often think of
Albert Einstein. He probably wasn’t
president of the physics club in his high
school; everybody knows he’s a leader in the
world a nuclear physics. What we’re looking
for are people who are trying to make a
difference from point A to point B. We see a
very big difference between passing time,
and spending time wisely. Those students who get
involved in something, and attempt to take it from
one level to a higher level, are really aiming at progress. Service in some
respects, in our program, is the same as it might
be in other programs. There are people who
are going to go out and they’re going to
volunteer at a soup kitchen. There are others who are going
to participate in a project where they’re attempting to
raise money for a children’s hospital. For us, we see that as part of
a larger concept of service, where people are ultimately
choosing to do whatever they are good at that is
going to improve society. When we talk about the pillars,
and what we look for in them, sometimes we have
students who might be pretty good in
all four of them. But in other cases,
we might have a student who’s
really good in one and less so in the other three. We look for both
types of students equally because we expect
that some of the students who are going to make
an impact on society are going to be pretty
well-rounded across them. But others are going
to be uniquely gifted. From the beginning
of the process, even when we’re
recruiting students, before they’ve ever been
offered a scholarship, we try to emphasize for them
that this scholarship is an investment in their future,
in the future of the world. It is never a reward for their
high school accomplishments. When we look back
after four years and we ask the students,
what was it that really made the difference for
you, a lot of times they’ll talk about community. That it was being around
49 other classmates or over four years,
200 other classmates. That really helps them
to be able to maximize their own abilities, to
learn to rely on each other, and to support each other. A lot of them will
tell you that it may have been one of their
outdoor leadership expeditions they do before they even start
their time at Georgia Tech. Others may tell you that
it was the support they got an advising from a faculty
member we connected them to. The answer is different
for each one of them. But I believe
ultimately, what they would say is, that each of
the opportunities that they’ve been given have contributed
to them making a difference, not just on their own lives
but in the lives of others. One of the things that we
do throughout our process, is not just to focus
on the great things the President’s
Scholarship Program offers but what Georgia Tech offers. This is an incredible
place to go to school. I think this is a place that
really contributes to people growing and improving the world. There are so many
opportunities here. I think of the
President’s Scholarship as sort of the
icing on the cake, but the cake is still
at Georgia Tech. And that’s why you would come
here because regardless of whether or not you’re
one of less than 2% of the students and student body
who were chosen as President’s Scholars, 98% of the
others are pretty happy. I’m often asked
about, what are some of the signs of success
of our students? In the last two years we’ve
had two Rhodes Scholars and one Marshall Scholar. We have students
working for NASA, and other Fortune 50 companies. They are researchers
at major universities. They are working in
Teach For America, in the nonprofit sector. They are earning
tremendous grants to try to improve the world. Our signs of success
are as varied as the type of
students we have here and the type of people
who live in human society. But as you explore
our programming you learn more
about our students, you’ll find that they all
have their own success story, and that they see this
program as a part of helping enable those successes for them.

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