By: Brianna Bragg
Although the term “Bellarmine Scholar” has been heard around campus for years now, students might be confused when they hear the newer phrase “Bellarmine Fellow.” Both the Bellarmine Scholar Award and the Bellarmine Fellow Award are honor scholarships, but the latter was introduced with last year’s incoming freshman class.
The difference between these scholarships is approximately $48,000 over the course of four years. This occurs because the Bellarmine Scholar award is a full-ride scholarship, but the Bellarmine Fellow award is only a full-tuition scholarship.
However, the money for room and board is the only distinction between the scholarships. Both come with a study abroad stipend and enrollment in the honors program. The process by which they are awarded is even the same.
Each December, hundreds of incoming students submit application essays, and around 70 are invited to attend the honors competition in early spring.
“Participants are judged by council members based on their performance in one-on-one interviews, faculty-lead roundtable discussions, and an on-site timed writing,” said Dr. Jonathan Blandford, director of the honors program.
Blandford said the results for selecting the finalists “often come down to decimal points.” The top five students are awarded the Bellarmine Scholar Award, and the next five are awarded the Bellarmine Fellow Award.
Sophomore Lexi Cox, a recipient of the Bellarmine Scholar award, said that the competition was intense. Current Bellarmine Scholars were present to help in her experience, though.
“Everyone was really nice and welcoming,” she said.
The scholarship competition is an opportunity to recruit high-performing students to Bellarmine. In addition to the 10 scholarship winners, 56 other competitors made the decision to attend Bellarmine in the past two years.
This is very high-yield compared to other honors programs in the state. Blandford said he is “delighted Bellarmine can convince so many high-achieving students to enroll” despite not earning one of these scholarships.
There are 18 Bellarmine Scholars and 10 Fellows. Students who are recipients of these awards are very likely to remain at Bellarmine for their four years. Blandford could recall only three students in the history of the scholarship who left.
Retention data from the Office of Institutional Research suggests that the honors program and competition is a great tool for recruiting top students who are likely to graduate in four years. About 71.1 percent of the fall 2013 freshman class completed their degrees on time.
“The honors program brings some of the best and brightest students to Bellarmine, and the Bellarmine Scholars and Fellows program is the pinnacle of the achievement,” said senior Mary Wurtz. The honors competition not only helps retention statistics but also uplifts the Bellarmine community as a whole.
Honors students represent every school on campus and help stimulate the classrooms. Cox said, “Honors students tend to be the ones that speak up in class and are willing to go into more depth.”
Blandford said “The required thesis component of the honors program adds value to the Bellarmine community because there are several undergraduate students conducting independent research and competing for external grants and awards.”