By Cari Phillips
This year a record number of students totaling 127 students attended Union University’s annual Scholars of Excellence Weekend, Feb. 18-19.
Students poured in from all over the country to compete in the activity-packed weekend.
Overflowing with nervous energy, they bustled from interview to discussions in an attempt to prove their excellence. Only a few are chosen for the coveted Presidential Scholarship and several other scholarships that will help release the financial burden of paying for college.
Preparing themselves for various careers and majors, the students have studied and worked fervently to bring them to this place in their life. Many current Union students relied heavily on scholars weekend to help make the decision on which school to attend.
Joe Dresser, freshman chemistry major and attendee of last year’s scholars weekend, said he began reading the assigned book and having discussions with friends before the weekend even started. However, the judges are not just looking for scholarship; student involvement is a package deal.
“School teaches you how to scoot by, life teaches you how to be a scholar,” Dresser said.
Requirements to sign up for the competition set the bar high and prove the hard work these students have accomplished in order to attend. The minimum ACT score is 31, or at least a 1360 combined critical reading and math score on the SAT.
Scholars must also be in the top 15 percent of their graduating class and have a minimum of a 3.5 GPA on a 4.0 grading scale.
The scholars have come from the top of their class and compete not only academically, but in all aspects of their personality.
The weekend began on Friday with an introduction to the university and a tour of campus. Followed by various meetings and lunch, scholars were given opportunities to meet other scholars, students and Union faculty and staff.
Saturday was a day of interviews, book discussions and performances.
Milling around White and Jennings halls, students were judged on their debating, speaking, performing and people skills, as well as overall character and persona.
“My expectations going into the weekend were a lot different,” said Natalie Wittman, junior English major. “I expected it to be rigid and formal and strictly academic. But it turned out to be a lot of critical thinking and was just a time where serious students got together and talked about important things and enjoyed it.
“God was in it, and it turned out to be a huge blessing to me and my family and I wouldn’t be here without it.”
The Office of Undergraduate Admissions worked to make this day function smoothly. Admissions counselors and ambassadors began working early Friday morning and did not sit down until all of the closing details were finished.
They worked with Student Services and the Barefoots’ Leadership Team to organize a concert Friday night to help ease the students for the weekend and to give them ample opportunity to get to know one another before they began competing for the same scholarships.
“Scholars weekend was a big part of my decision to come to Union,” Maryann McClendon, freshman music major, said. “As the weekend unfolded I found myself relaxing and just having a great time meeting so many students in the same situation as me.”