1.) How are Atkinson Scholarship recipients selected?
We assess applications in three areas:
For Academics, we look primarily at grade point average. Course difficulty, test scores and teacher recommendations are also considered. Recipients often have a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Academic performance is weighted slightly higher than the other two categories.
“Merit” includes extracurricular activities, leadership, work experience, student essays (writing quality and content) and recommendations.
For Merit, we review two essays submitted by the applicant, two appraisals and a list or resume of extracurricular activities and work experience. This subjective piece of the application is reviewed and rated by a committee comprised of Foundation board members and staff. Ratings are then averaged into a single score.
c.) Financial Need
For Financial Need, we calculate Expected Family Contribution (EFC) using a formula developed by the IRS. Foundation staff set an EFC “ceiling” each year after receiving applications and comparing the applicant pool. In 1996, the first year of the program, our EFC threshold was $15,000. In the last few years, the ceiling has fluctuated around $60,000. Students with EFCs above the ceiling are taken out of consideration. (Go to our Thoughts on Financial Need page for more information.)
We then interview the top candidates and select around 15 recipients.
2.) Who is the ideal Atkinson Scholar?
There’s no single “ideal.” The Atkinson Scholarship is truly a “combination” award which is why you’ll see an eclectic group of students among our recipients: Students who have demonstrated outstanding leadership, students with tremendous financial need and students with high GPAs with lesser need are all excellent candidates.
We also look for that ubiquitous quality that we call “promise.” Some of our most satisfying awards have gone to students who might have started high school slowly but orchestrated a turnaround, particularly in academics or leadership. We’re talking about young people, after all. Many don’t come into their own until their late teens (or later).
What all Atkinson Scholars have in common is a clear focus on education and a desire to contribute to the world in a positive way.
While students generally need to score high in all three categories to be invited for an interview, high scores in two categories can sometimes earn an applicant an interview spot.
Each year at the Foundation we pause and revisit the question: Are we selecting an appropriate mix of recipients who represent the values of the Foundation and the community we live in?
3.) Is my application information confidential?
Yes, Foundation staff are the only ones who see detailed financial information. Materials are later deleted from the online portal.
4.) Why doesn’t the Sudbury Foundation offer “Merit Only” scholarships?
The Foundation is governed by IRS regulations that stipulate that financial need be a component of the scholarship review and decision process.
We’re sympathetic to the families who have lived modestly and saved for college. They can’t afford skyrocketing colleges costs but aren’t eligible for financial aid based on current formulas. Their hard-working students deserve some recognition and assistance. We’ve adjusted our process, mainly by raising the EFC ceiling, so that some students from what we consider “moderate” income families make the cut off and are invited for interviews.
5.) Some Atkinson recipients I know do not appear to have financial need.
As with anything, appearances can be deceiving. Just because a family lives in a large house in town or drives a nice car doesn’t necessarily mean they are financially secure. Our assessment is based on the financial data we receive. We confirm its accuracy by requiring submission of both 1040 and W-2 forms. We review the data carefully and if there is any uncertainty we request additional information.
No system is perfect but we continually review our process to insure it’s as thorough and fair as possible given the many factors involved.
6.) Is the Atkinson Scholarship related to the L-S Scholarship Fund Dollars for Scholars (LSSF)?
No. Both offer wonderful scholarship opportunities for local high school seniors but are completely separate, with different application guidelines, processes and time frames.
We encourage you to contact us if you have any questions.