“The competition at that level of national scholarships was more intense than anything else I have faced to date, and the application process was eye-opening for me,” said Farmer, a recent high school graduate who attended classes at the University of West Georgia as a dual enrollment student. “Completing the Truman Scholarship application did not win me an interview or a ticket to law school, but it was instrumental in making a bigger decision – where I will go next year.”Though she received full-ride offers from out-of-state schools, both public and private, the day after receiving word she wouldn’t be progressing in the Truman decision process, her choice was clear.
“UWG has instilled a sense of confidence in me that goes beyond grades, awards or scholarships,” she said. “UWG had the confidence in me and my abilities to allow me to be more than I ever thought I could be. UWG had confidence in me before I had any to call my own, and, for that reason, it is home.”
Farmer is one of many UWG students who have applied for national, prestigious scholarships and fellowships this year. A few students have received funding from the programs, but UWG Honors College Dean Dr. Janet Donohoe said what’s more important is the increasing number of students throwing their hats into the ring.
“Increased application numbers help raise the university’s profile by joining the ranks of institutions that provide a higher level of support to students and help students envision themselves as worthy of national awards,” Donohoe said. “Just by applying, we raise the profile of UWG, but it’s also hugely beneficial to students.”
Donohoe said the application process for these awards can be “intense,” requiring a great deal of self-reflection on their aspirations and accomplishments.
“Applying gets them to think about and articulate their goals in a very clear way,” Donohoe said. “They begin to envision themselves as being successful beyond UWG. Being able to envision yourself as a national scholarship recipient is half the battle. We help them to realize that and to understand themselves as capable of doing anything they want to do.”
It’s all about changing the culture of UWG to “dream big,” Donohoe said. Until recently, there was no centralized support system for students applying for scholarships or fellowships. Rather, that was left up to individual professors or departments.
Last July, that changed.
Kate Theobald, a UWG alumna who’s worked at the university in some capacity since 2006, was hired by the Honors College in 2017 to serve as the manager of the Office of Undergraduate Research and the adviser for students pursuing national scholarships and fellowships.
“In her role, Kate works with students through the entire application process, from identifying national awards that fit a student’s goals to helping with application essays and obtaining appropriate letters of recommendation,” Donohoe said. “We can now take that on so that faculty members and students have access to information and expertise.”
Theobald said she’s seen progress toward a changing culture in her first year of service in the Honors College.
“Our goal for the first year of having a centralized office for this type of work was to have applicants in each of the major awards we’ve decided to focus on,” Theobald said. “We achieved that, and that changing culture increases the profile of our university.”
Theobald said her goal is to be seen as one of the “major players” on the national scholarships and fellowships stage.
“Larger institutions have had advisers like me for years, and as we continue to grow, not just in student population but also our level of prestige, it’s good to show we’re doing things of this caliber,” Theobald said. “We’ve chosen six awards that we think will be a good fit for most of our students, and we’ve decided to learn these six awards very well. As our office grows and we see students who would be good candidates for other awards, we look forward to adding to this list.”
As for Farmer, she’s on track to graduate with her bachelor’s degree next May, followed shortly by a Master of Business Administration in 2020, just two years after graduating high school.
“I am proud to be a Wolf every day, both in my days of greatest disappointment and those of amazing excitement,” Farmer said.
For more information on applying for national scholarships and fellowships, visit https://www.westga.edu/academi
The following are descriptions about the six national scholarships and fellowships on which the UWG Honors College has chosen to focus: