It seems that some congratulations may be in order… if you’re reading this post, then you have more than likely received an invitation to interview for an Honors College Fellowship. Congratulations! The years of late night study sessions, oboe lessons, state tournaments, and weekends spent harvesting food from community gardens, writing letters to government officials, and teaching orphaned children to read have finally been acknowledged. Your academic prowess is evident and now the University just wants to know a little more about you… but what could possibly be left to know that you didn’t include in your application?
As a veteran of the 2009 Fellowship Weekend, and an Honors College Fellowship recipient, I can promise you there is so much left to share, and even more to learn. The Fellowship Weekend is designed to bring the “paper version” of you, the applicant, to life in the minds of the Fellowship Committee, but also to give you a chance to get to know the University of Arkansas, the “YOU of A.” Yes, you will write essays. You will sweat bullets in the hallway outside your interview room. You WILL panic the first time Chancellor Gearhart addresses you by name.
But you will also meet hundreds of other students with the same butterflies in their stomach, the same desire to impress and be impressed. You will meet professors that are more interested in robots/swing dancing/comic books/YouTube than you are. Crazy, I know! You will eat chocolate in Nina Simmons’ office, you will walk uphill no matter where you are on campus, and you WILL call the Hogs.
Now, a note about fear: Walking onto a college campus for the first time (or second, or third…) is nerve-wracking, even without a major scholarship at stake. But if you keep a few things in mind, the 24 hours you spend here for Fellowship Weekend can be some of the best of your life. Let’s talk about three major obstacles, shall we?
The concept of “The Hill” was a foggy one for me, I must admit. I’d seen those words printed on University t-shirts, remembered them from an e-mail with my student mentor, but I really had no idea what “The Hill” would come to mean for me during Fellowship Weekend… THE ENTIRE UNIVERSITY CAMPUS IS A HILL. From the steady grade between Old Main Lawn and the Union, to the affectionately termed “Eliminator” just east of Pomfret Honors Quarters (a grated sidewalk with a near 90-degree incline that takes MONTHS to get used to!), no matter what direction you go on campus, you’re battling “The Hill.” When we tell you to wear comfortable shoes and carry only what you need to survive? We mean it. You’ll grow to love the built-in workout you get walking to class everyday, but your first few rounds with the constant incline can be tough!
2) The “Other” Prospective Fellows
The notion that you’re competing with hundreds of other amazing high school students, some of whom speak five different languages and can do one-handed aerials around you (think Shawn Johnson in the 2008 Olympics), can be difficult to overcome. I get that. But if you spend the entire weekend sizing up the competition, you’ll miss the opportunity to make friends with some of the most interesting and passionate people on the planet: people who are fascinated by things like stereoscopic 3D fusion cameras, endangered languages, and self-sustaining cities. One of the first things you learn in college is that you don’t know everything there is to know about the world (a common misconception for high school seniors, don’t worry) and that your greatest tool is the ability to ask questions. It’s NOT a sign of weakness. Don’t be afraid to talk to the other applicants about their interests, share your own story, and be inspired! One conversation can change your perception of the world, for the better.
The Fellowship interview may sound like a reprise of the Spanish Inquisition on paper, but in reality? It’s a conversation. A conversation about you: your hopes, dreams, curiosity and commitment. It’s a chance to take those bulleted lists of high school activities from your application and make them sing! The interviewers are your future professors and mentors, and should you choose to accept their generous offer of a University of Arkansas education, they will become friends. They want to know you, they want to see your passion and give you the chance to pursue it. From one nerd to another –those butterflies in your stomach, the ones you can’t seem to get rid of? Relish them. They come just before something BIG happens, and a chance to earn $50,000 Fellowship in a single weekend is definitely something BIG.
Now that I’ve sufficiently assuaged your fears with my abundant wisdom, I just have one final thought: Bring your A-game. Don’t waste your time at the University poring over notecards and checking your cell phone every ten minutes… Fellowship Weekend is your chance to shine. So talk with other students, try something new, ask a thousand questions, and share your spark! I hope to see all of you on campus in the fall, good luck!