The Board of Trustees of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation recently announced the awarding of 240 scholarships for the 2017-2018 academic year to undergraduate sophomores and juniors from the United States. An additional 307 nominees were named as Honorable Mentions.
These scholarships represent the “gold standard” for undergraduate achievement in fields of science, mathematics and engineering. Not only are they the source of significant bragging rights for the various institutions represented among the winners, but they are quite frequently an important stepping stone toward significant financial support for postgraduate education. PhD programs in STEM areas and important fellowship providers such as the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, and the Hertz Foundation, consider Goldwater awards among the most prestigious of national undergraduate awards for young scientists.
The one- and two-year scholarships are set up to cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500. They were originally designed to “alleviate a critical current and future shortage of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers.” In today’s terms, a more realistic statement of purpose would be to provide “a continuing source” of highly qualified individuals to those fields of study and research. While the money isn’t huge, the prestige is enormous and undergrads in STEM fields compete hard for nominations based on their research, internships, and work in relevant industries.
This year’s Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,286 students who were nominated by the institutional representatives from among 2000 colleges and universities nationwide. Among these, 133 of the Scholars were men and 103 were women, and virtually all intend to obtain a PhD as their degree objective. Twenty-two Scholars were math majors, 153 were science and related majors, 51 were majoring in engineering and 14 were computer science majors. And for the record, many have dual majors in a variety of mathematics, science, engineering and computer disciplines.
Since its first award in 1989, the Goldwater Foundation has distributed 7,921scholarships totaling approximately 63 million dollars. And these award-winners go on to do great things. Recent Scholars have been awarded 89 Rhodes Scholarships, 127 Marshall Awards, and 145 Churchill Scholarships, 96 Hertz Fellowships, in addition to winning other distinguished national awards.
For many prospective Goldwater Scholars, the competition is most intense at the institutional level. Colleges establish their own nomination criteria and procedures to determine the extent to which individual students have the commitment and potential to make significant contributions to their fields. Students who plan to study medicine are only eligible if they plan a research career rather than a career as a practicing physician. Four-year institutions may nominate up to four current sophomores or juniors.
This year, the University of Maryland-College Park, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Richmond were the big winners among competing colleges and universities in the Washington metropolitan area, each with three Goldwaters. Two George Mason University students were awarded scholarships, while Georgetown University, the College of William and Mary, James Madison University, Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia, each had one Goldwater Scholar.
From any perspective, an institution’s track record for Goldwater Scholars is a reasonable barometer by which prospective students might measure dedication to undergraduate research in STEM-related fields. For more information and complete lists of scholars going back to 2006, visit the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education website.