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The University of Nebraska – Lincoln altered its scholarship selection process to align with other Big Ten universities as well as other selective colleges and universities across the nation. Some families of students in Lincoln Public Schools wondered how this would impact their child’s opportunity to receive a scholarship at UNL.
UNL’s Dean of Academic Services and Enrollment Management, Alan Cerveny explained that the scholarship process is no longer a set formula combining high school class rank and the applicant’s top ACT score but is now a holistic process in which a scholarship committee reviews the applicant’s entire record. While the University’s process still places a high priority on test scores and class rank, it allows the committee to consider factors such as size of the graduating class and special circumstances that some students face. Cerveny welcomes the change because it is designed to help UNL identify and award scholarships to students who are the most academically prepared for college.
“We look at the rigor of the courses students have taken – and are taking during their senior year – to help us gauge whether they will be able to maintain the 3.5 grade point average required to renew their scholarship each year while at UNL,” said Cerveny. “Students who take college-level courses (such as AP, IB, and weighted courses) in high school and do well in them are more likely to continue doing well in their college courses.”
The change in UNL’s scholarship procedure is very compatible with the recommendations LPS counselors, teachers, and administrators give to students. Lincoln Public Schools offers weighted courses which are intended to be the most rigorous courses in a subject area. Students in weighted courses receive an additional grade point for earning an A, B, or C (instead of an A being worth 4 points it is worth 5 points in a weighted course). “We want our students to take the most challenging coursework they can and weighted grades give them an incentive to try a more difficult course,” said Dr. Jadi Miller, Director of Curriculum for Lincoln Public Schools. Frequently weighted courses are Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses but some Differentiated (D) courses are also weighted. In order for a course to become weighted it must be evaluated by a committee of educators and approved by the Director of Curriculum.
In addition to offering weighted courses, Lincoln Public Schools also altered the calculation of class rank with the Class of 2003 in order to reward students who not only take rigorous courses but who also take a full schedule of courses. “Most high schools rank students strictly on weighted GPA which can discourage top students from taking courses that are not weighted, such as music, in order to protect their high class rank” said Miller. “Our system is unique because any graded course that a student takes can add points to the class rank calculation.”
Cerveny believes the new scholarship awarding process at UNL is working well. Last year over 200 seniors from Lincoln Public Schools received UNL scholarships. He and Miller agree that looking at the whole student – rather than just numbers – is good for everyone.