Jim Amidon — Wabash College is bustling with activities from late August until early June, but few weekends carry more importance than Honor Scholarship Weekend.
Surely if you are reading this blog, you’ve heard of Honor Scholarship Weekend at Wabash. The College has been hosting high school students on campus in a merit-based scholarship competition for 116 years. In fact, Wabash’s Honor Scholarship competition might just be the nation’s oldest scholarship program.
Beginning this Friday, Wabash will welcome around 400 high school seniors, who will spend the weekend on campus taking exams. All students will take English and mathematics tests, plus two other exams of their choice — foreign or classical languages, biology, chemistry, or physics.
The tests are hard. In fact, if I remember correctly from a very long time ago when I was a high school senior, the exams are about on par with the final exams Wabash students take at the end of introductory courses in those subjects.
Most guys will walk out of the classrooms scratching their heads and saying, “What just happened to me?”
Many will not, however. And for those students who do well on the exams, scholarships up to $80,000 are available — $20,000 annually over four years at Wabash.
Given the financial situation out there, I have a hunch we’ll have increased attendance this weekend as students try to maximize their options.
In fact, that’s probably why Wabash has received a record number of applications for admission in the Class of 2013. The College had never received more than 1,465 applications, but surpassed 1,500 a month ago.
Why the increase?
There are a couple of reasons. First, Wabash has a seasoned admissions staff, dedicated corps of volunteers, and a proven record of demonstrating the value of a liberal arts education here.
Second, I think students are probably applying to more colleges this year. In a tough economy, it would make sense to have as many options as possible. And years of data indicate that liberally educated workers have greater flexibility in a constantly changing job market, which makes schools like Wabash very attractive “investments.”
There’s also the financial side. For 116 years, Wabash has provided scholarships to bright students. The College also continues to be one of the few schools that will meet a family’s demonstrated financial need, and has a “need-blind” admissions policy.
That means that any academically qualified student, regardless of family income, who gets his paperwork in on time and who has the board scores and class rank to be admitted, can have a spot in the freshman class.
Honor Scholarship Weekend is more than tests and scholarships, though.
Think of it as a test drive for the high school seniors who spend the weekend here. They’ll certainly get a sampling of the academic rigor of Wabash after taking four exams over two days.
But they’ll also get to know faculty, staff, and coaches. They’ll eat the food, hear the Glee Club sing, see the Little Giants in action on the baseball field and track, and they’ll spend the night in fraternities and dorms.
It’s as close to a preview of the college experience as we can provide high school seniors. Wabash is all about “fit,” and this is a critical time for students to feel like Wabash is a good fit for them.
We’ll also demonstrate how a Wabash education, while pricier than public universities, is worth every penny.
Parents will have an opportunity to eat lunch with Wabash faculty and see how focused they are on teaching and learning. Parents will also see presentations by students who have done undergraduate research with faculty. And a number of students and professors, who spent last week traveling the world on Immersion Learning trips, will talk about their experiences in Spain, Italy, Brussels, and Belize.
Typically, two out of every three students who attend Honor Scholarship Weekend will enroll in the fall. So the guys here Friday will also get to know the men with whom they’ll be spending the next four years.
There’s a lot at stake this weekend. For the students, there is $3.5 million in scholarship money up for grabs. For Wabash, a good Honor Scholarship Weekend means a full freshman class in the fall. For our community, a big freshman class also means a good shot to our local economy, not to mention the many ways in which Wabash students volunteer.
So please join all of us at Wabash as we roll out the red carpet to welcome our visitors, who will come from both coasts and just up the street.