Every year, highly motivated high school students find the rigorous business education and rewarding college experiences they are looking for at Penn State, where the partnership between the Smeal College of Business and the Schreyer Honors College offers a unique learning environment.
By the time they graduate from high school, these teens have accumulated impressive academic credentials and leadership experiences in their schools and communities. They are attracted to Smeal and the Schreyer Honors College because of small classes with similarly motivated students, the chance to work one-on-one with expert faculty, independent research and travel opportunities, and other programs that encourage academic and personal growth.
For incoming freshman who are offered admission to the Schreyer Honors College, scholarship dollars influence their decision to attend Penn State. Every incoming Schreyer student receives an Academic Excellence Scholarship, a merit-based award of $4,000. Unlike at other universities or even at some University Park colleges, Smeal can offer enhanced aid packages to only a few students. This makes it difficult to compete for top high school students who often are weighing offers from several colleges. Many of these outstanding students chose to attend other universities where they find more generous funding.
Enhancing honors education is an important objective of For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students. New scholarship endowments for honors students will allow the college to expand aid packages for the most promising students, giving them the freedom to choose Penn State over other institutions.
Below, four Penn State students share with The Smeal Report how privately funded scholarships have made a difference for them.
Recent alumna Tiffany Lee attended a Philadelphia magnet high school where students prepared for the Ivy League. The college-prep culture, required study hours, and SAT prep classes instilled a work ethic and taught her how to study, and she spent many hours her senior year writing essays for college applications. Accepted at the University of Pennsylvania, Lee decided to look further. She knew she wanted a school further from home, in a different setting, where strong academics were paired with a great sports program and a myriad of student organizations. She decided to apply to the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State.
“When I got the offer from Penn State and the Schreyer Honors College, I knew I could get the Ivy League education I was looking for but also the atmosphere I wanted,” Lee said.
Initially a chemistry major, she felt a pull toward education. After taking an accounting course, however, and talking with advisers, she chose to study finance at Smeal. She found that if she understood finance, she could apply it to higher education—access and affordability. Her honors thesis examined those issues and their impact on students.
“I wasn’t led to teach, but I knew I wanted to do something in higher education. My advisers helped me see that Smeal was a good fit and that I could connect my finance degree with my interest in higher education.”
Having graduated in 2011 and now a graduate student in higher education administration, Lee said the scholarships she received made her feel very fortunate. One in particular, the Hintz Study Abroad Scholarship awarded by Smeal, made it possible for her to spend a semester in Egypt studying at the American University in Cairo. This was during the months leading up to the Egyptian revolution. She returned to the U.S. in December, two weeks before the riots began that led to the February 2011 resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
“It was amazing. You could feel the tension rising,” Lee said of her months as a student in Cairo. “One of the reasons I was able to study abroad was because of support I received from the Smeal College.”
Jessica Chiang, a senior from Bayside, N.Y., chose Penn State because of the Schreyer Honors College. As a high school senior investigating colleges, she found that Penn State and Smeal were very highly ranked, so she started to look more closely. She said she was not a typical math person aspiring to analyze date and crunch numbers, but she was influenced by her father who is a businessman.
“I could tell [the combination of Smeal and the Schreyer Honors College] was a good setting for me and that I could use my creative side to do business,” Chiang said.
Her family emigrated to the U.S. from China when she was in fourth grade, and so far she had lived only in big cities. She liked the friendly atmosphere and was drawn to the more rural setting the campus offered. Scholarships had an important impact on Chiang’s experience as well. She said without them she would not have been able to attend Penn State.
“I was really proud to receive a scholarship. My younger sister is in college too, so I felt by earning the scholarship it was a way to help my family.”
While most honors students enter the Schreyer Honors College as freshmen, that is not the only route to an honors education experience at Penn State. Brett Smith, a senior from Girard, Pa., majoring in Finance, chose to attend Penn State because he knew it was a good school, and he liked football and the other amenities of a big university. He followed the path of his older brother to University Park.
A strong student in high school, Smith was unfamiliar with the honors program. But, after a very successful first year on campus—he received the Presidentss Freshman Award for earning a 4.0—his older brother and a family friend suggested he check out the Schreyer Honors College. He applied for entry through the junior gate, an alternative entrance opportunity to Schreyer for outstanding students entering their junior year, and he got in.
“I enjoy taking courses with the same group of guys, and I love the smaller classes,” Smith said. “I’ve made some friends and gotten to know my thesis adviser, Dr. Miles. It’s a tight-knit community.”
Along the way, a scholarship designated for students in the honors program has helped Brett manage his college expenses.
“The scholarship definitely helps, and I was excited to get it,” he said.
The Smeal/Schreyer Honors College experience also brought opportunity. He landed summer internships following his sophomore and junior years, and the latter resulted in a job offer. Smith will start work this summer as a valuation analyst for the Philadelphia-based financial services company Duff and Phelps.
“Being in the Schreyer Honors College definitely has its benefits. It separates you from the pack. And it prepared me for my job.”
Like Smith, Kevin Merlini, a junior from Glenside, Pa., entered Smeal and the Schreyer Honors College as a junior after a successful early start at Penn State. He is in Smeal’s new Masters of Accounting Program, which means he will graduate in five years with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting.
“I’m still learning what accountants do,” Merlini said. “I’m interested in entrepreneurship, and accounting will provide a great background for business no matter what I do.”
As evidence of his entrepreneurial spirit, Merlini and two friends have developed a device they hope will help users be more productive and organized while working with mobile technology. Their product is a smartphone accessory that combines the practical utility of a clipboard with the nearly infinite features found in today’s smartphones. It is being commercialized with assistance from Penn State’s entrepreneurial lab, the Lion Launch Pad, and they are working with engineering students to adapt the idea for iPad users as well. He is impressed by the resources available to him as a Smeal Schreyer Scholar.
“We have the resources of a big corporation right here,” Merlini said. “Penn State has experts in every field who you can talk to and who are willing to help you.”
Merlini is active in Delta Sigma Pi, the business fraternity, and writes for Phroth, the campus humor magazine, where he is pretty sure he is the only business major on staff. His Penn State experience has also been enhanced by scholarships he has received. The Robert W. Koehler Scholarship, in particular, has special meaning for him. It was created in honor of a beloved accounting professor who died in 2008. The award goes to an accounting student in the Schreyer Honors College.
“I read a tribute to Dr. Koehler written by one of my professors, Dr. Charlie Smith. I really respect and admire Dr. Smith. When I read his tribute to his friend Dr. Koehler, it put a face on the scholarship for me.”
They began their journeys in very different places and with different goals, but with the help of privately funded scholarship endowments, each of these four honors students found the business education they were looking for at Penn State. For information on how to establish a new scholarship endowment for honors students in business, contact Todd Sloan, Smeal College director of development, at email@example.com or 814-865-3497.