Students compete for ‘distinction’



Don’t worry; the nervous high school students fretting about campus this weekend are supposed to be here. This Saturday marks the second weekend of the 20th annual Distinguished Scholars Competition. Each year, prospective students compete for scholarships through a written essay and interviews with faculty members.

The competition is limited to students who have been admitted to the college with “distinction.” In order to be selected, students must have an ACT score of at least 27 and a minimum 3.5 GPA. The college anticipates between 200 and 220 participants between the two weekends, and this year for the first time, a few international students will be on campus for interviews.

“We get so excited because it shows a whole other level of commitment on the part of the student,” vice president for enrollment Nancy Davidson said.

One student in particular will be driving to campus from Saskatchewan, and another international student from Ghana, currently studying at Brandon High School, will be interviewing as well.

The primary draw for students to participate in Distinguished Scholars is the potential to receive additional scholarships, and some students are also awarded the opportunity to study abroad over spring break. Students who win the trip this weekend will spend spring break 2014 in Greece studying with David O’Hara and Rocki Wentzel.

In addition to determining scholarship recipients, one goal of Distinguished Scholars is to provide prospective students with a glimpse at life on campus.

“We probably look at it in a very different lens than the student does,” director of admission Adam Heinitz said. “They’re thinking about it in terms of the competition, scholarships. We really view it in the lens of: this is a visit experience. So, we want the student to have a great experience and a great visit.”

This year’s Distinguished Scholars experience started with a chapel service featuring music from the Augustana Choir. Prospective students and their parents then had brunch in the commons and heard speeches from professor David O’Hara and senior Thad Titze. Afterward, students toured campus and spoke with current students about life at Augustana.

“You feel welcome the second you step on campus,” prospective student Matt Bock said.

Bock, brother of junior Sam Bock, hopes to come to Augustana to study chemistry, but he also expressed interest in the music program and opportunities to study abroad.

“I’m really excited for what they’re doing, not just with the science program, but with everything.”

Jacob Belgrum, a prospective journalism student from Minnesota,  showed no anxiety about the competitive nature of the interview, and instead spent the day enjoying the “friendly environment” around campus.

“Doing something like this is fun,” Belgrum said.

Approximately 25 percent of current Augustana students participated in the Distinguished Scholars Competition prior to enrolling. Of the 200 or so students that participated, the admission office anticipates an average of 55 to 60 percent will enroll for next year.

“In the admission world, that, as far as an event, would be a really high yield,” Heinitz said.