Honors Program offers assistance with graduate scholarships

In the world of prestigious academic scholarships, top performing students are competing with other top performers for these few coveted awards. Students like Justin Brown, a senior music, political science and psychology major, are relying on faculty members to help make their scholarship applications shine above the thousands of other qualified applicants.

Brown is in the process of completing a Fulbright Program application for study in Germany, a scholarship in which students travel worldwide to lecture or conduct research in a wide array of fields, according to the program’s Web site.

Faculty have worked in the past to help students through the application process for prestigious awards. They are now moving toward preparing students upon arrival at school, said Ron Pitcock, director of prestigious scholarships and assistant director of the Honors Program.

“What is new is the way in which we go about preparing students for these scholarships,” Pitcock said. “We’re going to start having conversations with students in their first and second years at TCU about what it takes to compete and how to prepare themselves for the competition for scholarships like the Fulbright or Marshall.”

Many of these scholarships are awarded for academic excellence toward postgraduate studies, but there are also several scholarships given during junior year of undergraduate study such as the Beinecke Scholarship, Pitcock said.

The goal of early introduction to students is to spark questions about what they can and should be doing during the summer, Pitcock said. He is working to build groups of faculty dedicated to reviewing a specific scholarship so that a greater knowledge for each award is available to the applicants.

Brown said early training for scholarship applications will benefit students.

“I think most major universities that get a lot of these fellowships have programs that start sophomore year to prepare students to apply, and with the quality of students that TCU has right now we are starting to see that it is advantageous to our university,” Brown said.

Many students are unaware that these types of awards even exist, Pitcock said.

Matt Buongiorno, a senior political science and economics major, said students usually don’t stop to consider graduate scholarships.

“The typical mind-set of the student only includes so many things, and those things usually don’t include a year of study paid for after graduation,” Buongiorno said. “I know I didn’t think I’d be trying to do this over jumping straight into a job.”

He said TCU students in particular should consider the Fulbright scholarship because of the university’s global mission and emphasis on study abroad.

Buongiorno is applying for a Fulbright award this semester for study in Ethiopia. He said early introduction to students will help them to prepare for qualification academically all four years.

Although the prestigious scholarship program is housed within the Honors Program, it is not exclusively for honors students, Pitcock said. Any student who qualifies for one of the many prestigious awards is assisted in the process.

Pitcock evaluates and tweaks the applications with students before submission and helps students find a scholarship that best fits their qualifications, he said.

With thousands of applicants for limited awards, Brown said, it is difficult to stand out.

“When you have a faculty member that can help give you a full application and make it dynamic, that’s really what Fulbright and Rhodes reviewers are looking for, not just the top students; most people don’t understand that,” Brown said.

Buongiorno works with Pitcock on the logistical pieces of his application and looks for help within the political science department.

Pitcock said he plans to have separate information sessions for sophomores, juniors and seniors throughout the semester.