by Whitney Hale
(July 8, 2014) — Each year University of Kentucky students are recognized on the national, and even international, stage with a variety of prestigious scholarships, internships and fellowships that acknowledge their excellence in the classroom, as well as in research and extracurricular activities.
In the 2013-14 school year alone, UK students earned 11 more national awards than the previous year, including a prized Truman Scholarship and two Goldwaters. This brought the year's count of major honors to 35 with several national organizations awarding UK double the number of scholarships they provided in the previous year.
Helping UK students and recent alumni garner such honors is the mission of the UK Office of Nationally Competitive Awards (formerly the UK Office of External Scholarships), an office devoted to matching students to and preparing them for such valuable opportunities. The UK Office of Nationally Competitive Awards, under the direction of Pat Whitlow, is dedicated to working with young scholars on the application process for large scholastic prizes.
Video by Jenny Wells/UK Public Relations and Marketing. A transcript of this video can be found in file below.
"My role is to listen to students’ dreams and aspirations and make them aware of opportunities that will support them as they move forward. I also help nominees reflect on their accomplishments and how to write about them effectively in an application or speak about them in an interview. They already have the talents and achievements so I help with activities and advice so they can present themselves in the strongest possible way," Whitlow said.
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.
The work of Whitlow and her assistant, Jennifer Strange, has not gone unnoticed by the award recipients.
UK's 2013 Astronaut Scholar, 2013 Goldwater Scholar and one of the university's 2014 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship recipients, Josiah Hanna, a 2014 computer science and mathematics graduate, felt his work with the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards 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."
But the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards 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 area of study and research funded by nonprofit groups, government agencies and companies.
"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 2014 chemistry graduate with an emphasis in biochemistry, who is now in his first year of medical school at UK.
The Office of Nationally Competitive Awards 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 Nationally Competitive Awards 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 Nationally Competitive Awards 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. UK has many students that could be successful in these award competitions, but haven’t yet stepped forward. No students should be shy about coming to see me, 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," Whitlow said.
The UK Office of Nationally Competitive Awards is part of the Academy of Undergraduate Excellence within the Division of Undergraduate Education.