Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Visit Scholarship Program breaks boundaries

For high school seniors, college application season is fast approaching. The complicated algorithm of deciding where to apply depends on many factors and can be made all the more difficult if students are choosing a college without ever visiting campus.

For about 80 high school seniors considering Whitman, the Visit Scholarship Program offers students an expense-paid trip to visit the campus.

“Being able to visit a place that could be your home for the next four years is a big deal. This program allows students to have access to a place that was once thought to be inaccessible,” said Esther Weathers, director of admission and coordinator of the Visit Scholarship Program.

According to Director of Admission Kevin Dyerly, the two biggest hurdles for students who are considering applying to Whitman are cost and location.

“If a talented student does not see any viable way to overcome one, if not both, of those hurdles, they’re going to walk away from Whitman. They’re not going to even apply, let alone choose to come here,” said Dyerly.

The program attempts to overcome both of those boundaries.

In the fall, prospective students apply for the program and those who receive a visiting scholarship come to campus during the second Fall Visitors Weekend, Nov. 10-12, 2011, or on Admitted Students day in the spring. The students are provided with itineraries and are ideally hosted by alumni of the program who are living on campus.

“It was really nice to be able to come down here without having to pay. If I would have had to pay, [the visit] might not have happened,” said sophomore Brittany Torrence, for whom the visit to Whitman was a deciding factor in choosing to attend.

Overall the program has been very successful: an average of 40 percent of students who come on the program eventually enroll.

“[The program] is only a piece of it. If you bring them to campus but don’t support them in financial aid, they still can’t come. But if you bring them to campus, they have a good feeling and you offer them a competitive financial aid award, we’re going to have a very good chance of enrolling the student. We’ve been able to do both pretty well for the past several years,” said Dyerly.

The common factor that all of the recipients of the program share is the fact that they identify as ethnically “diverse.” According to the Visit Scholarship Program website, the program is aimed towards “high school seniors from underrepresented socioeconomic, racial and cultural backgrounds.”

Sophomore Maggie Ayau, who received a Visit Scholarship her senior year of high school, notes, however, that she is  uncomfortable  with the scholarship’s focus on racial diversity.

“I wanted to go to a school that I felt would welcome me as a person that was diverse but not just because I was diverse. [Receiving the Scholarship] made me feel special . . . it did feel like I was being chosen to go just because I was diverse,” she said.

Both Ayau and Torrence feel that if the scholarship is meant to specifically target diverse groups, they should widen the Visit Scholarship Program to include factors such as sexual identity or religious diversity.

However, Dyerly notes that overall the program positively affects students from different backgrounds.

“I think that, long term, this has been a big player in our ability to increase the socioeconomic and ethnic diversity,” said Dyerly.

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