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UMass ranks fourth for federally funded scholarship

Nick O'Malley/Collegian

With 16 students winning the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship for study abroad programs, the University of Massachusetts again ranks fourth nationally for the federally funded scholarship.

UMass has two more winners than it did last semester and ranks behind University of California-Berkeley, San Francisco State University, and New York University. The scholarship provides awards to U.S. undergraduate students who are studying abroad and receiving Federal Pell Grant funding at a two-year or four-year college or university. It also awards students $3,500 to $5,000.

The national acceptance rate for the Gilman Scholarship is 34 percent, but UMass’s acceptance rate is 42 percent. Students submitted 2,900 applications from 381 public and private universities for the fall 2010 semester.

“I honestly think I would not have been able to afford to come to Japan this year if I hadn’t won the Gilman Scholarship,“ said Clare Marks, Japanese and political science major from Narragansett, R.I.

“It was very close. I actually got placed on the waiting list, which made me very unhappy, because I didn’t think anyone who won the award would turn it down,“ continued Marks in an e-mail interview from Japan.

“Then about a month later, I’d been turned down for every other award I applied for and I went to bed in tears thinking I wouldn’t be able to go abroad. But the next morning, the notification was waiting in my inbox.“

Dr. Frank Hugus, the Associate Provost and Director of International Programs, says that he is happy of the results.

“You bet we’re proud of these students,“ he said, “This scholarship is a great opportunity.”

“It helps students who might not be able to study abroad for financial reasons and they get a chance to learn and experience things internationally,“ he continued.

William Goldstick, a Chinese major from Belmont, MA, is studying in China because of the Gilman Scholarship.

“I personally was really happy to have won the Gilman scholarship, as it reduced financial pressure on allowing me to study abroad,“ he said. “The Gilman scholarship allowed me to extend my understanding of the culture and language of China.“

The application is due almost a full semester before the semester it is awarded, the spring 2011 application was due Oct. 5 and the summer 2011 is due March 1.

“It’s a very competitive process,“ said Hugus, who invites all students to the Education Abroad Advising center in the International Programming Office in Hills South for application help.

Goldstick said that she had a pretty smooth time with the process.

“I really think it went really fast,“ she said. “I met no problems with doing it. The Gilman Scholarship Foundation really has a good and solid application process,“ she added

Marks considered the application to be easier than most others.

“I think it was probably the easiest application I’ve ever completed, so there’s really no excuse for anyone eligible not to apply,“ Marks said.

“It was not terribly difficult. There are no letters of recommendation, so really all you need to do is have a Pell Grant, and go to the website to fill out the application,“ she said.

The Institute of International Education website reports, “International experience is critically important in the educational and career development of American students, but it can also require a substantial financial investment. The Gilman Scholarship Program broadens the student population that studies abroad by supporting undergraduates who might not otherwise participate due to financial constraints.“

The scholarship is aimed towards non-western Europe or non-traditional locations for study abroad.

Students are currently studying in Ireland, Denmark, Japan, China, Turkey, China, South Africa, Italy, the United Kingdom, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Morocco, Uganda and Thailand.

The scholarship is provided by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State.

Sam Hayes can be reached at sdhays@student.umass.edu

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