National Scholarships Office staff guides students toward opportunities

At the very end of McKeldin Mall stands Marie Mount Hall, home to the National Scholarships Office, among an abundance of other resource centers.

Staff members at the National Scholarships Office provide both help with and awareness of programs to students who are thinking of applying to competitive scholarships nationwide.

“I think that the broadest way to look at what we do, is we try to inform students about really great opportunities that are available to them through national scholarships, and make sure that they’re aware of them and can apply to them,” said Office Director Francis DuVinage.

“Because it’s a large campus and it’s somewhat decentralized, it’s hard for freshmen — even sophomores or transfer students — to know what’s available to them,” said Scholarships Office Assistant Director Leslie Brice.

The office caters to students with specialties and future aspirations in areas all over the grid, from international relations to science.

“We always ask people questions about what their interests are and what their goals are, both short-term and long term, and what they’re doing to support those goals,” said Brice, who adds that their office works with partners all across campus, that may have interests concentrated in a specific area. “So the idea is to find a scholarship or fellowship program that can help them achieve those goals. Certainly, if there are campus resources available, we’ll lead to them in that direction as well.”

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Office assistant director Leslie Brice works with sophomore Jackii Stomki to perfect her scholarship essay.

The office also points students to organizations and events housed right in their own backyard that will help them gain even more experience and prestige in their applications.

“We spend a lot of our time talking to our students about how they can enhance their experiences here at Maryland, by doing all sorts of great things on and off campus that can help them become candidates for these very competitive awards.”

In recent years, the office has tried reaching out to specialty students. Brice uses veteran students as an example.

Brice says many of these students are transfers and may not know of all the resources available to them, and many might not see themselves as the type of person who should be applying for nationally competitive scholarships.

“These are students who have had really extraordinary backgrounds, they’ve done really interesting things,” Brice said. “When we work with veterans, we find that they’re very competitive, and they succeed. They have been getting very prestigious scholarships.”

Brice says there isn’t anything she enjoys about her job more, than feeling the satisfaction of watching the students she works with see success in the time she spends with them.

“When the students forward me an email with ‘Congratulations!’ in the header, it’s as if I’ve won,” Brice said. “We get really invested, and it is so gratifying to see that process from somebody who doesn’t necessarily feel that he or she is the type of student to apply for something. I feel like their accomplishments are my accomplishments.”

According to DuVinage, a lot of students simply aren’t aware of the scholarship opportunities available.

“I started here about eight and a half years ago. It was clear that there were a lot of competitive, prestigious national programs that Maryland students weren’t winning,” DuVinage said. “The main reason turned out to be, they weren’t applying. As soon as we were able to get people knowledgeable about these opportunities and pursuing them, we’ve had great results.”

Sophomore Jackii Stomki speaks highly of the office.

“The scholarship office helped me review my Critical Language Scholarship essays,” Stomki said. “They really helped me find my focus for each of my essays and give me the confidence to continue editing.”

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