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Ankita Nair: Alumni scholarship application deadline disadvantages incoming students

The UCLA Alumni Association awards the Alumni Scholarship to 150 students every year. The catch is students have to apply to the scholarship before UCLA releases its admission decisions. (Kristie-Valerie Hoang/Assistant Photo editor)

By Ankita Nair

March 11, 2018 9:05 p.m.

As high school students all over the country rejoice about gaining admission into UCLA, some may be disappointed to find out it is too late to apply for one of the university’s most prestigious merit-based scholarships.

The Alumni Scholarship is a merit award given to 150 students every year by the UCLA Alumni Association. The award is open to any UCLA applicant and provides a monetary scholarship ranging from $4,000 to $20,000, as well as membership into the Alumni Scholars Club, a community that hosts exclusive events for alumni scholars. In addition, students selected for the scholarship receive additional financial aid consideration, priority consideration in the alumni mentorship program and access to both College Honors counselors and a community of other high-achieving students before they join UCLA.

While the Alumni Scholarship clearly enhances a student’s experience at UCLA, there is a catch: Students must apply for the scholarship before they receive their UCLA admission decision. This year, the deadline to apply for the scholarship was March 12, roughly a week before the date when college acceptance letters were sent out in 2016 and 2017. In the past, students have had to apply for the scholarship almost a month before they found out whether they got into UCLA in the first place.

The current application process disadvantages incoming students because many students applying to UCLA may not start looking for school-specific scholarships until they receive an admission decision. Consequently, many eligible students find out about the scholarship too late and miss out on a valuable opportunity.

The alumni association needs to expand its efforts to notify students about this scholarship, possibly through advertising it in the UC admission application. The association should also consider extending its application deadline to a few days after UCLA admission decisions are released.

These changes are necessary, especially since the number of students who apply for the scholarship is very low.

The alumni association estimates that 3,000 to 5,000 students apply for the scholarship every year. Given that over 113,000 students applied to UCLA this year, that means less than 4.5 percent of applicants would have applied for the scholarship. Considering that any applicant can apply for this scholarship, this number seems too small given the immense talent of the applicant pool and admitted class.

Students applying to UCLA, especially out-of-state students who are often unaware of the inner workings of the UC system, may not even know the scholarship exists.

Kevin Chang, a second-year biochemistry student, said he would have applied for the Alumni Scholarship if he had known about it before the deadline. Chang, an out-of-state student who graduated in the top 5 percent of his high school class and received admission into the UCLA College Honors program, said he did not have intimate knowledge of school-specific scholarships until after he got into UCLA.

Although the early deadline disadvantages students, the UCLA Alumni Association argues that extending the submission date would go against the scholarship’s goal of recruiting top students to UCLA, and would disadvantage the school in the long run.

Kristine Werlinich, senior director of the Alumni Scholars Program, said students are required to apply for the scholarship before knowing their admission status so the alumni association can notify students who receive the scholarship before Bruin Day. She said the selection process is rigorous and that extending it would not give enough time for evaluators to read applications and conduct interviews. She added the association plans a special program for admitted alumni scholars and promotes the scholarship on its website, through social media and during admission events.

Additionally, Jacob Sproul, assistant director of Alumni Scholarships, said the Alumni Scholarship serves as a recruitment tool. By providing scholarship decisions before Bruin Day, Sproul believes students who receive the scholarship are more likely to consider UCLA over other schools.

These are valid points. But if UCLA is truly interested in recruiting the cream of the crop, it needs to notify all students of the scholarship early on, such as when they complete the UC application in November of the year prior.

Furthermore, if UCLA were to extend the deadline to the week after students receive admission decisions, the scholarship committee could establish a priority deadline, selecting more students from the early applicant pool and admitting other students on a rolling basis.

Moreover, other UC schools offer alumni scholarships that have deadlines after the admission decisions dates. UC Berkeley and UC Davis both offer scholarships with deadlines in early May, enabling students to apply weeks after they receive their admission decisions. These universities have later deadlines and still manage to recruit top students to their programs; it should be possible for UCLA to do the same.

UCLA attracts some of the brightest students in the country and when students find out they have been accepted to the university, it’s an incredible honor. But no student should have to feel like they’ve already missed out on opportunities like the Alumni Scholarship before they even walk onto the campus.

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Ankita Nair | Opinion columnist
Nair is an Opinion columnist.
Nair is an Opinion columnist.
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