Scholarship Opportunities Program Announces Undergraduate Scholarship Winners, Alternates, Finalists and Honorable Mentions for 2017

Let’s face it, paying for college and graduate school can get very expensive. Many students face a real challenge financing their education and graduate studies. Applying for, and earning scholarships and fellowships has been one of the ways in which students help to supplement their higher education and special projects. Due to the high demand of students chasing after a limited number of scholarships and fellowships available, competition is fierce. As a result of this competition, the process of applying has become more difficult than ever.

Launched in 1990 as an offshoot of the Campuswide Honors Program, the Scholarship Opportunities Program (SOP) at the University of California, Irvine is a dedicated resource for students who want to apply for prestigious nationally-competitive scholarships funded by outside agencies. Since its inception, this specialized program has helped thousands of UCI students better understand and navigate the various application processes. Located in the Writing Center, on the first floor of the Ayala science library, the SOP provides comprehensive advising which includes:

  • Personalized advising to match students to the best awards
  • Help with multiple revisions for applications
  • Interview assistance
  • Campus endorsements on behalf of the University

The Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning (OVPTL) had a chance to sit down with Michelle Tsai, Director of the Scholarship Opportunities Program, to learn more about how they support UCI students, and to get a better idea of the services offered to help students apply for nationally competitive awards.

Typically, because the awards are so competitive, the SOP tends to work with high-achieving students that have a strong GPA, are involved in a variety of extracurricular activities, hold leadership positions, and are active in the community. However, each scholarship has different requirements, so there is no ideal candidate for these awards. Any student interested in scholarships can meet with SOP staff either as walk-ins or by appointment to talk about their education and/or career goals and the scholarships that best fit.  Recently the SOP has expanded their slate of scholarships to support international and AB540 students.

Unfortunately, many students seek assistance at the SOP during their senior year when it is too late to start the majority of the application processes, as most application processes are over a year long from application to final notification. The center tries to reach out to students early, including freshmen, sophomores and recent transfer students. This allows the SOP to work with students in planning classes and activities to increase the chances of successful applications. Each scholarship has different requirements and this makes applying to multiple awards very complex.

Throughout the 2016-2017 academic year, SOP reached over 675 students, with 500 students attending six major workshops in February that provide information and insight on awards and how to apply for them. The attendance for these workshops has more than doubled since the 2013 and increased by more than 75 since last year, reflecting the increased interest from students. Also, this year SOP received a record number of pre-applications to begin the application process for 10 of the most prestigious scholarships and is currently working with its largest group of scholarship applicants ever.

For students who go through the long application process but do not receive the awards, there are still hidden benefits and practical skills that students acquire as a result of the process. Skills like talking with professors, writing essays, interviewing, and time management all prove to be valuable tools for graduate school or for professional careers.

Most awards fund graduate studies and the funds do not have to be repaid by students. For students that do not plan to go to grad school, there are awards that can help with undergraduate support, or help to pay for internships, research projects, and community service projects.

Many of the applications have costs associated with travel for in-person finalist interviews. Because some students can’t afford to go to these final interviews, the SOP has started raising funds to help students achieve their scholarship dream. If you are interested in helping to donate to the SOP and help student finalists, you can do so at: http://connect.uci.edu/Scholarship-Opportunities-Program

The Spring quarter is a time when many students who have been applying for over a year find out whether or not they will reach the finish line and are accepted for certain scholarships. The Scholarship Opportunities Program celebrates those students who have successfully made it through the long and challenging application process to be named as alternates, semi-finalists, honorable mentions, or awarded scholarships.

Here are a list of this year’s award winners:

Alexander Alvara ’17

Major: Aerospace Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Materials Science Engineering

Award: Fulbright – Canada Research

Status: Recipient
 

Daniela Estrada ’17

Major: Political Science

Award: Fulbright – Colombia English Teaching Assistantship

Status: Recipient
 

Amy He ‘16

Major: Sociology and Science Education

Award: Fulbright – Taiwan English Teaching Assistantship

Status: Recipient
 

Joshua Cook ’17

Major: Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Chemistry

Award: Fulbright – Australia Research

Status: Alternate
 

Tala Pirouzian ‘16

Major: English

Award: Fulbright – Turkey English Teaching Assistantship

Status: Semi-Finalist (Program cancelled before final decision was made)
 

Tiffany Thompson ‘16

Major: History

Award: Fulbright – Luxembourg Research

Status: Semi-Finalist
 

Stella Liu ‘15

Major: International Studies

Award: Schwarzman Scholars – US Applicant Pool

Status: Finalist
 

Cassie Zhang ‘17

Major: Business Economics

Award: Schwarzman Scholars – China Applicant Pool

Status: Alternate
 

Bhavesh Patel ‘18

Major: Biological Sciences

Award: Donald A. Strauss

Status: Recipient
 

Leandra Jackson ‘18

Major: Public Health Sciences

Award: Barry M. Goldwater

Status: Recipient
 

Jordan Edmunds ‘18

Major: Electrical Engineering and Biological Sciences

Award: Barry M. Goldwater

Status: Honorable Mention
 

Nikolai Vogler ‘17

Major: Computer Science

Award: National Science Foundation

Status: Recipient
 

Manuel Torres ‘17

Major: Computer Science and Math

Award: National Science Foundation

Status: Recipient
 

Araceli Serrano ‘17

Major: Earth System Science

Award: National Science Foundation

Status: Recipient
 

Rebecca Combs ‘17

Major: Chemistry

Award: National Science Foundation

Status: Honorable Mention
 

Jason Yu ‘17

Major: Chemistry

Award: National Science Foundation

Status: Honorable Mention
 

Ashlee Davis ‘17

Major: Chemistry

Award: National Science Foundation

Status: Honorable Mention
 

Michelle Herrera ‘17

Major: Biological Sciences

Award: National Science Foundation

Status: Honorable Mention
 

Pauline Ho ‘17

Major: Education Sciences and Social Policy & Public Service

Award: National Science Foundation

Status: Honorable Mention
 

Shiaki Minami ‘17

Major: Chemical Engineering

Award: National Science Foundation

Status: Honorable Mention