Can YOU win a prestigious scholarship?

Megan Angelo

For junior Diane Coffey, the waiting finally ended during an Internet session paid for by a friend, in a web café full of tourists and Tibetan monks, in the city the Dalai Lama calls home.

“There was a message saying that Fr. Dobbin got a call from Louis Blair, the head of the Truman [scholarship fund],” Coffey, who is currently studying abroad in India, recalls. She had won a Truman, an award that recognizes students whose focus is global change.

“I think the monks and other tourists in the café must have thought I was off my rocker because I just started screaming and jumping up and down,” Coffey says.

For her, it was the culmination of two and a half years of working toward a single goal. “I’ve known from my first day at Villanova that I would compete for fellowships in my junior and senior years,” she says.

But for other Villanovans competing for prestigious scholarships, the path wasn’t quite as premeditated.

“Academically, I had a really good first semester freshman year – I surprised myself,” remembers Bruce O’Neill, who graduated last year after being named as a finalist for both the Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships, two of the most esteemed fellowships in the country. O’Neill, who is currently serving an internship with the New York City government, decided to apply for scholarships after the initial shock of his stellar academic debut wore off and an older friend convinced him to give it a try.

Still, he says, “To be honest, I took one look at the Truman application and had some serious self-doubt.”

Though most students experience similar apprehensions about measuring up intellectually, Jane Morris, director of undergraduate grants and awards, says that “being a ‘braniac’ isn’t enough. Competing successfully for these types of scholarships requires a minimum GPA of 3.7, but beyond that, candidates must have passion and a commitment not only to the Villanova community but to the broader civil community as well.”

Also, students beyond their first year should not rule out opportunities because they think they are too late to begin the process, she adds. Freshmen, sophomores and juniors are all invited to attend next week’s Scholarship Writing Workshop, which will be held Friday, April 8 from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday, April 9 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The sessions, which will be held in 101 Mendel, will include extensive training on application essays as well as other aspects of the process.

If getting in on the competition already seems like a substantial time commitment, that’s because it is.

“I suppose I made some sacrifices,” says senior Kristen Carey, a finalist for the Marshall, another general graduate study grant, and for the Fulbright, for which she is still awaiting notification. “Maybe I didn’t go out five nights a week.”

“The memory that sticks out is Homecoming Weekend of my senior year,” says O’Neill. “I was walking from my apartment to campus around 10 a.m. to finish my Rhodes when a remarkably drunk sophomore had the nerve to heckle me for doing work during Homecoming.

“I never went to Homecoming, and I only took party in Novafest my senior year. So, there were pluses and minuses, and I am happy with how things turned out.”

Carey and Coffey echo his sentiments.

“I crammed the application process into six weeks – it would not have been as stressful if I had had more time,” says Carey. “However, it was a great experience, and being able to say that I am a Marshall finalist will hopefully open doors that may not have otherwise been open to me.”

“My friends are constantly teasing me as I head off to service activities that I am going to ‘save the world,'” says Coffey. “[But] I tend to see the picture as more complex than that. I feel like having a Truman is a big responsibility. I hope that my work will be as effective as the Truman folks think it will be.”

The Scholarship Writing Workshop

Mendel 101

Next Friday, 2:30 – 5:30 p.m.,

and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

more info: [email protected].