By Theresa Hoffmann
Ray Edwards, a senior Economics and International Business double major at the Cook Honors College (CHC) of Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) is hard at work applying for graduate school, specifically doctorate programs. He is applying to no less than nine schools: Princeton, Harvard, Cornell, Penn State, University of Maryland, University of Virginia, University of North Carolina, and University of Georgia, as well as IUP. Though they all require an arduous application process, his most ambitious application is for the Rhodes Scholarship.
Oxford is Ray’s first choice for graduate school. He hopes to study politics, philosophy, and economics there for two years under the Rhodes Scholarship. Aside from the prestige of this program, he is excited by the idea of studying, alongside thrity-two other world-class students, the same topics many of today’s world leaders have studied, including the U.K.’s current prime minister, David Cameron. The way Ray sees it, many of the problems our society faces could be avoided if politicians understood philosophy and economics and if economists understood politics and philosophy. Ray is also drawn to the tutorial style of classes at Oxford: students in groups of one to two students are taught by faculty members, and together they read, analyze, and critique a written piece of work. Ray likes the idea of being an independent student and of learning without leaning on his peers.
This pride in individual work must come from his undergraduate studies at the CHC. His lucrative years on the IUP campus (as IUP’s student-trustee, he spoke at the 2010 Freshmen Convocation, welcoming the class of 2014—watch the speech on YouTube) have made him quite fond of the school. He, like the rest of the CHC student body, thoroughly enjoys an approach to learning that is not too distant from how Oxford classes work: classes in the CHC are seminar-style, with only twenty students per class. There are no tests in these classes, only readings, multitudes of papers, and deep discussion on any number of topics. Many entering freshmen quake at what lies ahead, but as a senior, Ray finds it hard to leave it all behind. “I’m going to cry for two weeks,” Ray said of graduation and saying goodbye to so many of his friends “forever.” For now, however, he is keeping in close contact with his fellow seniors, as many of them are also applying for prestigious scholarships. Stephanie Bearjar, for example, is hoping to win the Marshall Scholarship and go on to law school. Ray and Stephanie have been comparing notes in preparation for the GREs.
Why is Ray so driven? He considers his bachelor’s degree as just the beginning. He wants to “fill [his] toolkit” to the brim so that he is as marketable as possible when it comes time to start his career. If all goes well for Ray, he won’t be starting his career for another five years, two of them spent at Oxford among the greatest minds of his generation. He already has an application, eight letters of recommendation, and one personal interview behind him, but he has a whole set of interviews yet to go. The next step is statewide, and from there Ray aspires to go on to the regional level of interviews. The process is rigorous, but Ray’s chances are as good as anyone’s, if not better. For now, he’s fending off the nerves with school work.