Scholarship Weekend and its impact on prospective students

GABY IORI

Students from all over the country make their way to Winston-Salem each February to interview for scholarships, experience campus life and spend a few nights in a dorm with a Salem College student hostess. They attend panels, eat in the Refectory, attend an acapella performance and meet new people. As they do this, they are mulling over a big decision: where will they go to college next year?

The weekend is important to Salem, too. Scholarship Weekend is the most crucial recruiting event of the year, according to Director of Admissions Julie Hanes, who emailed the student body a few days before the event.

In the days leading up to the event, admissions counselors pack up folders with names of accepted students written on the front. Inside are personalized student schedules, meal exchange tickets and lists of important information about the weekend.

The admissions team recruits members of Fremdendieneren, a service organization of Salem student leaders, to help with the weekend’s events. Fremdendieneren, led by Salem alumna and admissions counselor Sidney Davidson, plays an important role in making Scholarship Weekend successful. “Students are picked for Fremdendieneren through their passion for Salem and desire to share their experiences,” Davidson says.

In building the Frem team, Davidson adds, “I think once you step on our campus, it’s clear that we’re not all the same, so we really want to focus on people from different backgrounds with different thoughts. None of the students that are looking at Salem are all the same so it’s important that we reflect that in our group.”

Fremdendieneren members spend much of the weekend hosting prospective students, acting as greeters, giving campus tours and providing a friendly face before interviews. “Truly, Frem members are what make our weekend,” Davidson says.  “It’s a wonderful thing to have a current student talk to a prospective student about their experiences so they can see what campus life is really like.”

One important aspect of Scholarship Weekend is the “host experience.” Prospective students are matched with a student host, with whom they spend most of the weekend as a way to see the school through the eyes of that older student.

Tina Strock, a prospective student from Seffner, Florida, explained that having a great host impacted her view of the school more than she could have imagined. “It was really nice to have a host who didn’t try to paint a perfect picture of the school,” she says. “I could see that it was a place where real people went.”

Many current students agree that the authenticity of Salem’s Scholarship Weekend experience also helped them pinpoint the moment they decided Salem was the place for them. Some say it was the beautiful campus; others felt kindness in the community around them. Strock agreed,  “The students I met were really friendly and willing to talk about what they like and don’t like about Salem. It was great to see that most of the students seemed to know and like each other.”

Many previous Scholarship Weekend attendees hosted their own prospective students this spring. Samantha Shaw, a first-year from Chapel Hill, said of hosting, “It was a lot of responsibility, but also a lot of fun. It was really cool to be behind the scenes this time, especially because I’d had such a good time with my own hostess when I came for Scholarship Weekend last year.”

A 2005 New York Times article written by Jonathan Miller questioned the value of women’s colleges in modern America, noting that women’s colleges were established to educate women when all-male colleges wouldn’t accept them. Miller wonders whether or not women’s colleges should even exist anymore considering those traditionally all-male colleges are now co-ed.

However, many Salem students would tell Miller that they sought the experience a women’s college offers and feel proud of it during Scholarship Weekend. “I like the sense of community and the ability to be myself,” says junior Mallorie Iozzo. “These spaces let us grow in an environment catered to us. That, coupled with the current sociopolitical climate, says to me that women’s colleges are needed in today’s world.”

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