Frequently Asked Questions about the Cook Honors College Achievement Fund

When can I apply?

How do you decide who gets awards?

What are the odds?

Why not just give everyone who applies some money?

What is the biggest mistake students make in the application?

What’s the next biggest mistake students make?

What is a reasonable family contribution?

How would scholarships and community service work if I apply to be abroad during the academic year instead of summer?

Why does the application ask if the opportunity includes college credit? Does it have to be for college credit?

Should I apply as a freshman?

Can I apply for achievement funds to take summer classes at IUP?

Can I apply for achievement funds to study at another U.S. university?

Why do I have to agree to attend a three-day career workshop right before my senior year begins?

What if I can’t come to the required career planning workshop right before my senior year starts?

I’m going into a low-paying field. What if I can never repay the money?

What criteria does the committee use to judge applications?

When can I apply?

There are two rounds of achievement applications (usually in February and April). Students will need to apply in spring for funds needed for the following summer and school year. In some cases a student might apply during the spring in which he/she is already in the midst of an activity. In the case of a February application which is incomplete or in need of serious revision, the applicant could be advised to resubmit in April.

How do you decide who gets awards?

The achievement fund committee is made up of faculty members—usually different ones each year. The committee makes recommendations to the HC director. Normally the members rank applications from 1 (low) to 5 (high) and offer comments on some or all applications with concerns or insights for committee discussion. The composition, deliberations, and conclusions of the committee are confidential. Applicants receive information about their status from HC director. Any suggestions committee members have for improving an application are shared with the student via the director or HC staff. (See “criteria” below)

What are the odds?

In a typical year there is very roughly a 1-to-2 ratio of dollars available to dollars requested. It always depends on how much Bob Cook, HC alumni, and others donate that year and who else is applying.

Why not just give everyone who applies some money?

There will never be enough money to award every dollar all applicants ask for, but it is not effective to simply reduce award amounts across the board by a certain percentage in order to award to everyone. Many students will have to have the dollars they have requested because a lesser amount will simply make it impossible for them to participate. (A dollar reduction can be recommended due to specifics of a particular application.)

What is the biggest mistake students make in the application?

Not doing homework on the question of what other programs the student has looked at followed by what other funding sources (LINK) the student has applied for. It makes a very bad impression on committee members if the student has just stumbled onto an opportunity without really researching alternatives. This takes some work and often some guidance.

What’s the next biggest mistake students make?

A bad budget. This could be greatly under- or overestimating the costs. Donors should not be expected to pay for your souvenirs or shampoo. On the other hand, you have to have enough to survive.

What is a reasonable family contribution?

We assume that you and your family are making some sacrifices to make this opportunity possible. It should hurt a little. Many students prefer not to graduate with debt. That’s a fine plan, but not a reason for the HC to fully subsidize their preference while other students with much debt might be excluded. If you don’t already have hefty student loans, you should be trying to take one out to cover part of your expenses for your opportunity. How much or what percentage of expenses you request will depend on your family’s particular financial circumstances, which you can describe in your application (and it will remain confidential).

How would scholarships and community service work if I apply to be abroad during the academic year instead of summer?

You are not required to do service while abroad, though it is often a very interesting way to get to know another culture. Students who are enrolled for credit somewhere can still maintain their student status and usually can retain loans and even HC scholarship awards. These should be included in your budget, not lumped into the Achievement Fund request. So, for example, a student with a $2,000 annual HC scholarship requesting $8,000 from the Achievement Fund for a year abroad would be receiving a total of $10,000 from the HC.

The family contribution for a semester or year abroad should normally not be any less than you would have paid for a semester or year at IUP. Some adjustment might be made for your inability to work part time while abroad. Out-of-state students may find some study abroad years actually cheaper than attending IUP.

Why does the application ask if the opportunity includes college credit? Does it have to be for college credit?

Your opportunity does not have to be for credit. No preference is given for this. We need this information to ascertain how and when we can pay you, given your financial aid status as payments are made to your IUP account.

Should I apply as a freshman?

No preference is given to year in school. A freshman application which is stronger than a senior application will be ranked higher. It doesn’t matter if a student has received Achievement funding in the past or is applying for the first time. Every year is a new review based on “bang for the buck.”

Can I apply for achievement funds to take summer classes at IUP?

The Achievement Fund cannot be used to pay for summer IUP classes on campus or on line.

Can I apply for achievement funds to study at another U.S. university?

It is very difficult to justify to the Foundation for IUP payments to another U.S. university. Applications for simply taking classes elsewhere within the U.S. must have extraordinary justifications. An alternative for you might be to apply for the National Student Exchange Program which bases costs on the price of your current university (IUP) for extraordinary applications.

Why do I have to agree to attend a three-day career workshop right before my senior year begins?

Three years of experience has convinced us that this workshop is hugely important for your future. We have seen the results, and they are pretty much indisputable. If the Achievement Fund is an investment in your future, the value of that investment is seriously jeopardized by your missing this workshop. This is a serious requirement, and we will take back the funds from any recipient who fails to honor it, no matter what year you got the money.

What if I can’t come to the required career planning workshop right before my senior year starts?

If you have an employment or academic obligation which absolutely forbids you to attend the three-day workshop, you can petition to be excused. An OHRL job or a required commitment to remain at your summer internship is a reasonable petition. Staying at home to get in an extra few days at your summer job is not. We do take the requirement very seriously.

I’m going into a low-paying field. What if I can never repay the money?

We know some people will earn more than others. We know it might be years before you have anything to spare. This is a moral obligation that once you can spare a bit, you will pay it forward for later HC students. Five dollars a month five years after graduation is perfectly fine.

What criteria does the committee use to judge applications?

The overarching concept for making awards is “bang for the buck.” What is the value to be gained from every dollar spent in terms of the student’s future and with some concern for value to the HC and its goals as well? Students should be making the case for themselves in the application. “Bang for buck” will vary with major and year of the student. Some of the principles/questions we have come to agree on over the years:

  • Given where the student is now and wants to go, how valuable is this activity? 
  • Will this activity set the student up for a next important step toward achievement? Cambridge Summer School might be the perfect choice for a freshman science major who could then apply for a junior year at Cambridge and later a Gates-Cambridge Fellowship. That same activity would be far less valuable for an upperclassman. Underclassmen might have a larger component of exploration in their applications than we would want from seniors.
  • Will this activity put the student in a good position to apply for future external awards to further support him/her? The “seed money” value should be considered. There are many external awards for non-western junior years abroad as well as Trumans for juniors providing applicants have built the credentials in the freshman or sophomore years. Any activity that is likely to lead to that next step is a good investment and ultimately good for the sustainability of the HC Achievement Fund.
  • Can the student participate in this activity without Achievement Funding or with less of it? This is not strictly a merit award, so students should be contributing and making sacrifices. Students of modest means may need more support. This is sometimes difficult to ascertain with the financial information in the application, but do your best to keep it in mind.
  • An external credential is important. Will this opportunity result in a course on the transcript or letter of recommendation from someone outside IUP? While an IUP faculty-led summer experience is often critical to get our typical underclassmen to a first experience in more intimidating parts of the world (i.e. Africa, China, or the Middle East), priority should be given to those experiences abroad which put the student abroad with faculty and students from the host country. An IUP course with IUP peers and faculty in a new location is not as valuable in broadening horizons, learning languages, or in terms of credentials. This is especially a concern for study in Europe and the UK.
  • Overseas programs should ideally come from direct application to the overseas institution rather than being brokered by a U.S. institution. (For example, attending Trinity University in Ireland via the University of Arkansas costs more than direct application to Ireland. It also results in transcripts/credits from the University of Arkansas rather than Trinity.) Has the student investigated direct application?
  • Length of activity should be considered. Sometimes a student’s major makes longer stays impossible. Nonetheless, a year abroad just is more valuable than three weeks.
  • It is not always necessary for a student to apply for IUP credits for an internship. In the case of summer internships, this increases the costs. The internship still goes on the résumé and results in experience and recommendations without the credits. During the academic year credits may be an advantage for retaining financial aid.