Scholarships office boosts students' chances at big awards

April 9, 2012

Sean Kearney (left), a junior studying biology, engineering and math, recently won one of 282 Goldwater scholarships given nationwide this year. Abraham Korman, a junior studying neurobiology, was named an honorable mention applicant in the same competition. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

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Whether it's identifying the best student candidates for awards or aiding them with high-profile scholarship applications, Purdue's National and International Scholarships Office helps students achieve.

Opened in July 2011 through the Honors College, the office focuses on helping students across campus win top undergraduate and graduate awards, including through the prestigious Fulbright, Rhodes, Marshall and Mitchell grant award programs.

The office was created with the goal of raising the campus's awareness of such national and international scholarship opportunities, and to offer students the support they need to realize their competitive potential, says Cristy Gosney, the office's director.

"Purdue's students are outstanding and are very competitive for these awards. They should be winning them," Gosney says.

"However, history hasn't reflected that. The creation of this office provides students, faculty and staff with a single source of information on nationally competitive, merit-based awards. The services it provides will help students learn about these opportunities early in their undergraduate careers, prepare themselves to be competitive, write strong applications, and, in turn, win awards."

Scholarship amounts are highly variable, Gosney says. For example, the national Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program offers awards of up to $7,500 each year. The Harry S. Truman Scholarship, also a national award, provides $30,000, and the Churchill Scholarship, which is part of the Winston Churchill Foundation of the United States, offers $50,000.

The office's efforts aren't limited to helping students already interested in national and international awards.

For example, Gosney visits first-year classes and student organizations' meetings to spread the word about scholarship opportunities and the resources the office provides. She also networks with faculty and student advisors to help identify potential applicants early in their college careers. For awards that require institutional nomination, Gosney coordinates initial applications and helps prepare students for interviews with nominating faculty members.

The office has been getting results. The number of applications for national and international awards has increased about 8 percent since the office opened, Gosney says. The scholarship program with the highest increase in applicants is the U.S. Student Fulbright Program; applications for that program have doubled in each of the past two years.

This year, five Purdue students were named Fulbright finalists -- the most the University has had in more than a decade, Gosney says. So far, two of the Fulbright finalists have won grants to study in their chosen countries. The office still is waiting for decisions on the three other finalists' applications.

Students who have worked with the office are giving its resources high marks. They include Sean Kearney, a junior studying biology, engineering and math. At the end of March, Kearney received one of 282 Goldwater grants given nationwide this year.

"I knew I wanted to apply for this early on, so I contacted Cristy over the summer. She took a look at my application and helped me with my essays. Having that feedback truly was invaluable," Kearney says.

Another Purdue student -- Abraham Korman, a junior studying neurobiology -- received an honorable mention in the Goldwater competition.

Regardless of the outcome of students' applications, the experience of participating in national and international competitions is valuable, Gosney says.

"Students who go through this process will have strengthened their writing skills, clarified their educational and professional goals, formed meaningful and lasting relationships with faculty, gained valuable research experience and will have polished application essays," Gosney  says. "This process will help the student in applications to graduate or professional school, or when seeking employment after graduation."

For more information about the office, visit