Study abroad program adds requisite for scholarships

The Center for International Studies has announced a new approach for evaluating merit-based scholarship applications for study abroad to be implemented next fall, a university official said.

Jane Kucko, director of the Center for International Studies, said the new application will include sections in which students explain how they plan to immerse themselves in the culture while abroad and how they plan to share their experience upon returning to campus.

“It is a more exciting way of internationalizing the campus,” Kucko said.

Tracy Williams, associate director of the Center for International Studies, said the center previously focused on students’ GPAs.

The new evaluation considerations include students’ goals, and the applications allow them to make a case for why they should be considered, she said.

Williams said the primary difference is that students will now have a chance to express their objectives for studying abroad.

Cara Smith, a sophomore political science major who plans to study in Spain, said she thinks the new approach to scholarships is a good idea for the most part.

“I think it is important to see what the students want to do abroad,” Smith said. “Some people want a bigger experience, and students who want to supplement their classroom experience with something more should be taken into consideration.”

Susan Layne, coordinator for TCU in London, said the center wanted to make a more formalized process for allowing applicants to express themselves.

“They have to think through more carefully about what they want to do with the money, and they have to make a sort of return commitment.” Layne said.

Williams said the new scholarships allow students to express their motivations for studying abroad.

“GPA just doesn’t tell the whole story,” Williams said. “This way provides a more holistic approach when considering the applications.”

Mandi Beck, a sophomore anthropology major who plans to study in South America, said students’ ambitions or plans for why they want to study abroad are relevant, but students’ GPAs should still be an important aspect for consideration.

“I think it should be a combination,” Beck said. “GPA is still important, and some students just want to go to Europe and party. But some students go with goals and plans for their undergraduate diplomas, and the way they apply it to their lives is important.”

Smith said although the changes a good idea, she doubts it will make a big change to who gets the scholarship money.

“For the most part, I think the students with the highest GPA are more motivated.” she said.

Williams said for many of the students a little scholarship money makes a big difference on whether they can study abroad.

Kucko said with the new scholarships, a faculty advisory board will now review the applications to determine who the top candidates are.

In addition, scholarship recipients will be required to file an essay upon their return summarizing how they fulfilled their objectives while abroad, Kucko said.

Beck said the return summary section of the application will encourage her to apply.

“I would love to write about my experience when I come back,” Beck said.