Sunday, February 8, 2009

Goldwater Update

Another pretty building in/near Roppongi mall.

A few weeks ago, I was notified that I am one of the nominees from Purdue for the Goldwater scholarship. For those who have not been following, the Goldwater scholarship is the most prestigious national undergraduate scholarship for STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Math) students. It was established in honor of Mr. Conservative, Sen. Barry Goldwater. Previously, I wrote about compiling my application for this scholarship.

What is the meaning of this new news? This means essentially that I move on to the next round of competition for the national scholarship. Typically, about 1200 students are nominated each year by their respective universities, and of those up to 400 receive the scholarship. In other words, I have a 1/4 chance at a nice scholarship.

Typically once one is notified of their university-level nomination, much rewriting and fretting over essays happens. Anticipating this, I set aside a good block of time to rewrite my essays from scratch if need be. I had a phone call with Assoc. Dean Sahley, the faculty in charge of the selection committee for Purdue University. I was slightly shocked to find out that there were no comments on my essays or short answer questions, so I did not need to change them at all. I must have really spent a lot of time on them the first time!

Of course, there was still work to do. Usually, students that progress this far are able get an updated transcript with the most recent semester's exam results included. Since at that point exams were still several weeks away, and Tohoku University doesn't release final grades until mid-March, I had to fill in that gap.

This was trickier than I thought: the letter has to state that I'm a student and doing well, but also look official enough that the search committee would not suspect its integrity. I tried at first to have a professor in the lab write such a letter on "official letterhead" and send it to Purdue in a PDF. Apparently "official letterhead" isn't used here, so that didn't work. We tried to get some letterhead from the administration, but they balked at the idea. Eventually I just ended up getting a 在学証明書 (certificate of enrollment) and faxing it homeward. I could have mailed it (it has various security features) but with only 3-4 days until submission, it would have not gotten there in time without an exhorbitant amount of money spent.

I'm supposed to hear the award decision sometime in March or April. On to the next application.. College of Science scholarships.

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