Arts scholarship applications rise

Application numbers for GW’s Presidential Scholars in the Arts program increased significantly this year, jumping about 25 percent since last year.

The PSA program offers several $15,000 scholarships in dance, fine arts, music, and theater to prospective GW students. First made available more than 15 years ago, there are, on average, 100 applicants per year, but the past few years have seen a steadily expanding application pool, according to data from the Office of Admissions. This year, more than 200 applied; in 2009, 153 students auditioned for the scholarship; 134 auditioned in 2008; and 130 did so in 2007.

Dr. Kathy Napper, executive dean for undergraduate admissions, said in an e-mail that GW uses “a variety of avenues to ‘get the word out’ ” about the scholarship. Information about the program is easily accessible online, and many current applicants heard about the scholarship from GW recruiters who visited their high schools.

Napper said that, on average, 60 percent of the students accept the 30 scholarships handed out each year. For this reason, offers are usually extended to about 50 applicants.

Karen Ahlquist, chair of GW’s music department, said she considers the auditioning process for the PSA program a “first rate” recruiting tool, giving students who might not even receive the scholarship a chance to talk with GW faculty members and get a better sense of the University. The program is important in promoting some of the lesser-known academic programs at GW by providing visibility to its arts departments, she added.

“When we think about Washington, we all know about the politics, and we all know about the monuments, but underneath, there’s a very thriving art community here,” she said.

At the auditions, which occurred on campus March 6 and 7, current PSA students gave support to the applicants and spoke enthusiastically about the scholarship program.

“I think it’s a good mix of studying the arts, but also knowing something about the world,” freshman Maddie Hendricks, a theater scholar, said. “As an incoming freshman, it was really nice to have a community.”

Many PSA students have a double major, taking advantage of courses that would be unavailable at schools strictly devoted to the arts, and only PSA students in fine arts are required to major in the field; those who apply for theater, dance and music have the option of majoring in something different.

“I really want to do dance and pre-med in college – this is a perfect opportunity,” said Livvy Gruder, a prospective student who auditioned for a dance scholarship.

Jeanette Ip attended the auditions with her daughter Emily, also a prospective dance scholar. After taking Emily to auditions at a number of different schools, Ip said she was impressed with the help the PSA program offers to students interested in completely different areas of study.

“One of the nice things is the support that’s given to cross majors and minors,” Ip said. “It’s clear there’s collaboration between departments.”

Dance department chair Dana Tai Soon Burgess commended the PSA program for fostering art education. Burgess said college would not have been an option for him without a dance scholarship, and his education in the arts gave him a perspective he would not have gained by simply going straight into the professional field of dance.

“It can be scary to commit to the arts when entering a university. The arts seem ephemeral at times, often not completely supported by our society,” he said.

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