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UB students get free ride for Presidential Scholarship

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It’s the ideal situation: four years of undergraduate tuition at a state school, completely paid for.

When Michael Fiorica, a junior English major, applied for the Presidential Scholarship, he was under the assumption that if his grades were good enough, he’d automatically get the scholarship. He had fun with his application, embedding his Tweets to demonstrate creativity.

When the University Honors College brought Fiorica in to interview, he figured it was just a formality. He hadn’t even told his mother he had applied for it.

He quickly discovered just how serious obtaining the scholarship was.

“I realized the process was a lot more competitive than I thought,” Fiorica said. “Other students were there with their families, some had driven hours from out of state for the interview. I felt really out of place, alone, in a shirt, tie and khakis when the other applicants and their parents were in their Sunday best.”

His interview went well, despite his nerves. A few weeks later, an acceptance packet arrived in the mail for him.

Fiorica described the feeling as a novel experience.

“Someone saw potential in me and expected me to live up to it,” Fiorica said.

The Presidential Scholarship is the most valuable in the SUNY system for incoming freshmen, according to Megan Stewart, the assistant director of the University Honors College. In recent years, only 20-25 incoming students receive the scholarship, as its criteria for eligibility is highly competitive.

“We look for academic strength,” Stewart said. “We also look for leaders on campus and in the community and students with a spark of intellectual curiosity.”

For Walker Gosrich, a junior mechanical engineering major, it wasn’t an easy decision to accept the scholarship. He was looking at 12 other colleges and wasn’t sure if he even wanted to go to UB.

“I was obviously incredibly excited as a recipient, but I didn’t fully appreciate it yet,” Gosrich said. “As my senior year of high school came to a close, however, I began to realize how valuable the opportunity I had been given was: the Presidential Scholarship took the financial stress out of college and opened up a lot more options for me.”

Students must have an un-weighted grade point average (GPA) of 95 or higher, and an SAT score of 1470 or ACT score of 33, to even be considered for the scholarship.

These grades must be maintained at UB – a 3.5 GPA is the minimum to keep the scholarship. For many recipients, that isn’t too difficult, as they are often part of the Honors College.

“I can’t speak for all the Presidential Scholars, but from what I know of most of them, any academic pressure and stress comes from within,” Gosrich said. “I think that most of the Presidential Scholars are motivated enough to push themselves above the minimum.”

Because the Presidential Scholarship is awarded by the Honors College, students are required to go through a more vigorous application process than other UB scholarships. The process has two steps: first, applicants must fill out a lengthy online application that includes writing three essays. Next is an interview round, given by the Honors College to determine the scholarship winners.

While Gosrich was unsure of whether to accept his scholarship or not, Eileen Bennett, a junior math major, was overjoyed when she received hers.

“It was so amazing,” Bennett said. “My mom and I actually cried when we opened the letter.”

Bennett had hopes of going to Yale or SUNY Geneseo, but the cost of the schools and the admissions process stood in the way. She’s happy to be at UB and isn’t too concerned about losing her scholarship.

“The Honors College is pretty understanding so if I had a rough semester, I think I could explain myself,” Bennett said.

Because she doesn’t have to worry about paying for school, recipient Anna Porter, a sophomore anthropology major, said she has more options for life after undergraduate study.

“I would like to go to school for anthropology, but I’m still figuring that out,” Porter said. “Ideally, I would like to do some international travel, and [participate in] study abroad opportunities as well.”

Tori Roseman is the Senior Features Editor and can be reached at tori.roseman@ubspectrum.com


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