Will Herrington, Campus Carrier staff writer
Annie Deitz, Campus Carrier deputy news editor
This year, Berry will be hosting a single interview day for prospective student candidates for the Bonner, Gate of Opportunity, Whitehead, Leadership Fellows and Service Fellows scholarship programs. On Feb. 15, new and prospective students applying to all of these five programs will be invited to campus for a consolidated version of the interview process.
This will be the first time that all of these five scholarship programs will share an interview day. However, as Cecily Crow, Leadership Fellows Scholarship Coordinator, explained, the idea has been in the works for a long time. The heads of each of the programs have been working together to try to streamline an application and interview process for years.
“All of us have worked together in recent years to coordinate the scholarship selection process with enrollment management,” Crow said. “Over the last few years we’ve started to share timelines with each other. We’ve slowly worked towards a selection timeline together. Our next step was to work on making a collaborative interview day together.”
According to Michael Zirkel, Bonner Scholars Program coordinator, this year the selection and interview process for prospective scholarship grantees will look fairly different for all of the five scholarship programs. Previously, students applying to Berry had to fill out separate applications for each individual program. Now, in an effort to consolidate, applicants will be automatically considered for all of Berry’s major scholarships.
“We used to all have our own individual applications that a student had to apply to,” Zirkel said. “Now, there is no application for any of them. You apply to Berry, and there’s a box you can check to be put into consideration for all of the scholarships. Then, the programs decide which applicants might make good fits, and invite them to come to an interview.”
As Crow described, the change addresses two key issues related to the application process. Firstly, prospective students often expressed concerns with having to make multiple trips to Berry when applying for multiple scholarships. Secondly, having multiple interview days made planning complicated, as it necessitated extended coordination of space, people to conduct interviews and other resources.
“One of the main reasons for the change is to make it easier for students, the applicants, in terms of travel,” Crow said. “Many times they have to make complicated travel plans, which is less than convenient. Campus wise, having it all in one day makes it easier for the programs to navigate resources.”
The scholarship day will be split in half, with interviews for the Leadership Fellows, Service Fellows and Whitehead programs occuring in the morning, and the process for Bonner and Gate of Opportunity scholars occuring in the evening. Stephen Swieton, coordinator for the Service Fellows scholarship, explained that this further simplified the process of applying for the scholarships. According to him, the three scholarship programs interviewing students in the morning look for candidates with many of the same qualities. Because of this, the programs are conjoining their interviews, conducting them all together.
“The Lead Fellows, Service Fellows, and Whitehead programs are so similar,” Swieton said. “We’re looking for so much of the same stuff, with so little difference. It makes sense to do it together.”
The Gate of Opportunity and Bonner interview sessions will not have conjoined interviews, but will occur at the same time. According to Helen Simmons, Gate Scholars program coordinator, the two programs have different interview processes, so it makes more sense to hold them separately. Nonetheless, the programs still look for students with the same characteristics.
“We just want students who are dedicated, hardworking, passionate about Berry, and show that they have what it takes to be a Gate scholar,” Simmon said.
Furthermore, the Gate of Opportunity and Bonner scholarship programs take interview days as an opportunity to teach prospective students more about the programs. As Zirkel explained, both will continue this tradition, and are planning to spend a portion of their interview session in educational seminars that allow the students to learn more information about the individual program.
“We want them to learn as much about our scholarship program and as much about Berry as possible,” Zerkel said. “They’re here to interview us just as much as we are here to interview them.”
Overall, everyone involved in this process sees these major changes to the scholarship selection process as an opportunity to remove barriers from attending Berry. As Swieton explained, a universal scholarship day for all programs at one school is fairly common across institutions of higher education.
“I think it’s the best practice,” Swieton said. “Many schools have a single scholarship day now, especially since it can be such a big burden on families. You don’t want there to be a hundred barriers to enrollment. That’s not the purpose of education, and it is certainly not the purpose of Berry.”