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THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM: EXCELLENCE WITH DIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE: PROGRAM DESIGN
AISES compiles a portfolio of information to be used in the evaluation of applicants. It includes (1) an application form; (2) personal statement that describes why the applicant believes he or she deserves the scholarship, why he or she chose a particular field of study, an explanation of any "low spots" on the transcript, future plans, what he or she wishes to do with the degree, and how he or she plans to use his or her education to assist their home community; (3) two letters of recommendation; and (4) transcripts of academic records.
Process: The application package is scored on the academic record (especially in the field of study), personal strengths, letters of recommendation, and financial need. Each application is read three times. The scores are averaged. Scholarships are awarded to the top scorers based on overall rank.
Course Preparation and Grades
A high school transcript and information on the kinds of courses taken, including advanced placement and honors courses, would be required. All students should have completed four years of college preparatory mathematics in high school through precalculus, three years of science, and four years of English, earning a 3.2 GPA or higher in those courses. In addition, it is required that students be enrolled in precalculus or calculus during their senior year of high school. For those students who attend high schools that do not offer appropriate mathematics course preparation, the K-12 component of the consortium could offer precalculus through a Saturday academy or arrange for them to take calculus at a community college.
All National Scholars should be fully prepared to enter calculus upon entry into college. Lack of preparation for calculus is problematic because students who do not take calculus in their freshman year will be at a serious disadvantage in college chemistry courses. Since it is difficult to evaluate the rigor and content of individual high school courses, some independent assessment of a student's readiness for calculus will probably be needed. There are a number of possibilities. A preferred alternative is for the college or university to test prospective scholars when finalists are interviewed. Another option is to have the students take one of the SAT advanced mathematics tests. A student's competence in mathematics may also be evaluated from information provided by a mathematics teacher, or, if a student is participating in a precollege science program, from an assessment made by that program.
Applicants must submit SAT or ACT scores. We suggest a minimum 1100 SAT score (old scale) or equivalent ACT score, the rationale being that lower test scores may indicate preparation that has been found to be associated with lower persistence rates (Astin 1993; Villarejo and Tafoya 1995). We note that some programs such as the Meyerhoff and Project Space participants typically have SAT math scores no lower than 600. It is not proposed that these quantitative measures be implemented absolutely or without flexibility. Programs should be permitted discretion in individual cases in order to identify students they believe have strong potential to pursue careers in science and engineering. We also recommend that scores on advanced placement tests be included in the student's portfolio. As individual consortiums gain