Megan Ernst

A “to do” list a mile long was the only thing keeping me sane.

Months spent working on an intensive application and an on-campus interview weekend were about to culminate in a phone call that could drastically change the course of my college experience.

The anxiety of waiting was well worth it when, at 6:07 p.m. on a Monday night, the phone finally rang and I heard Dr. David Williams, director of the Honors Program at the University of Georgia, say, “Megan, I am pleased to offer you a Foundation Fellowship.”

A recruitment officer for UGA had introduced me to the Foundation Fellowship, UGA’s premier scholarship program. It sounded incredible, from the study abroad experiences to the on-campus opportunities, but it seemed way out of my reach. Still, I decided to apply.

The application was tough and it differed from other college applications I had completed. It delved deeper, wanting to know my passions and goals, and how I was going to get myself to where I wanted to be. The application’s two extended essays and two short essays took about a month from brainstorming to completion.

I am not good with brevity, so my main struggle was squeezing my thoughts into the word limits. Pressing “submit” brought no relief. After that, I could only think about who was reading it, what I sounded like on paper, and a slew of other mini-worries. At least it was out of my hands.

Carrie Moore

About two-and-a-half months later, just the amount of time necessary for me to forget about my application, I received an email. I had taken advantage of a lull in English class to check my inbox and was hit with the news that I had been awarded a scholarship to UGA and invited to interview on campus for the Foundation Fellowship. It was all I could do to contain my excitement for the rest of the period.

I was dumbfounded. I thought the program was incredible, but I couldn’t believe they thought I was incredible enough to be a candidate for it. Once the shock wore off, I realized how important this interview weekend would be.

Top scholars
The University of Georgia calls its Foundation Fellows program the premier scholarship program offered undergraduate students. Fellows study in the university’s Honors College and travel the world. Megan Ernst was one of the students offered a scholarship this year and this is her account of her application to be a Foundation Fellow.
Other students offered Foundation Fellowships this year include Eilidh Geddes of Dunwoody High School, Carrie Moore of Chamblee High School, Claire Pendergrast of Westminster Schools and Avery Wiens of The Lovett School, according to the university honors program.

Eilidh Geddes

Fifty-five students were invited to the interview weekend at UGA. They were all incredible: valedictorians, president of this, that and the other, and all driven and committed. I was excited to be there but a little intimidated by the accomplishments of everyone around me. This is my competition? I thought as they announced that the average SAT score was 1560 out of 1600 and the average ACT score was 35 out of 36.

Avery Wiens

However, the more I got to know the other candidates, the more I started to wish we all could get the fellowship. By the end of the weekend, I had fallen head over heels in love with the program and was sure I had met at least five new best friends. The weekend didn’t feel competitive. The fellowship is based upon the creation of a learning community, and I could feel that community forming before the interviews were over.

We had small group discussions after hearing keynote speaker Locke Johnson speak on “WikiLeaks and the American Cult of Secrecy.” We dined and toured campus with current fellows and faculty, stayed in the university hotel with other candidates, and attended individual interviews the next day.

I had the last interview of the day on Saturday, so my nervousness had plenty of time to build, but I survived and returned to my parents in one piece. I was exhausted Saturday evening, but my anticipation for the phone calls to the recipients of the scholarships on Monday kept me from relaxing at all.

Claire Pendergrast

I did everything I could Sunday and Monday to keep my mind off the phone. I created a multi-page “to do” list to avoid the anxiety building within me. The list included things like cleaning out my closet, organizing my sock drawer, and registering to vote — things I had put off for months.

I almost had forgotten I was waiting for a call when the phone rang. I took the call nervously, but as soon as Dr. Williams said those magic words, I was uncontainable.

I am proud to say that I will be attending the University of Georgia next year as a Foundation Fellow, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

Megan Ernst is a senior at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School in Sandy Springs. She is an intern at Reporter Newspapers.