I was a Benson Scholar

Towards the end of my time at BYU, a friend mentioned to me that he knew some Benson scholars (today we would say Hinckley scholars, or more generically, presidential scholars), and that they were all stuck up and full of themselves. I told him, to his surprise, that I too was a Benson scholar, which goes to show that I can deceive even friends into thinking I’m a down-to-earth, non-snooty person.

The Presidential Scholarship is the most prestigious academic scholarship granted by BYU to incoming freshmen. When I was a senior in high school, I spent many hours researching, writing, and formatting the written application. In the spring of 1989, BYU flew me and 29 other male finalists to campus (and 30 women the next week) for three days of interviews and evaluations.

The interviews were an overwhelming experience. “Competitive” is not the right word to describe them, as much as the objective was to winnow 30 finalists down to 12 scholarship recipients. We were run through a battery of interviews, small-group discussions, and evaluations in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences. Given the talent and preparation of the other finalists, the standard of accomplishment was quite high, and I felt a lot of pressure. Once I was back in California, BYU was slow enough in contacting me that I gave up hope of hearing good news. I felt pretty crummy for a day, but I’m pretty good at finishing second. When BYU called the next day to inform me that I had been selected me as a Benson Scholar after all, I was thrilled. In a year of almost-but-not-quite moments, it was one victory that did not remain forever out of reach.

While winning was nice, the greatest impact on me was neither academic nor financial. There was a handful of good students in my high school class in Southern California, but I was the only Mormon among them. But during the interviews in Provo, I was with 29 others who were from distant places but like me in a way that was entirely new. Despite the similarities, there were always surprises: during one free moment, I was comparing experiences as a distance runner with one finalist (hah! I was faster), only to find him the next minute giving an impromptu Chopin recital (note to self: do not touch piano). People I met during those three days became friends and roommates while I was at BYU and are still friends sixteen years later. Other finalists, that year and in other years, forged similarly close friendships.

Many of the other finalists I met, and many that I saw my last two years at BYU as a student representative on the Presidential Scholar selection committee, were recruited by the best colleges in the country. I think that BYU is correct to attempt to attract these students, many of whom will go on to earn prestigious awards and fellowships or otherwise increase the university’s reputation. A few presidential scholars will come for the money, although the financial benefit is quite modest as far as these things go. A few will come for the prestige, although there is almost no recognition for presidential scholars once they enroll, no event or institution around which to form a group identity. I would guess the most important factor for some who decide to accept BYU’s offer was the friends they made in three intense days. (In my case, BYU wasted its financial aid: apathetic about where to go to college, I didn’t apply anywhere else; BYU could have had me for a much lower price than it paid–although I appreciated the scholarship nonetheless.)

This doesn’t happen anymore, though. For the last few years, there has been no final round. Applicants fill out a paper application, send it in, and are notified of the outcome in April. While I was on the selection committee, there was talk every year that the process could be made more efficient by simply taking the top twelve based on their ACT/SAT scores and written applications and foregoing the interviews. Now the committee uses just that process to select the top twenty-five men and women among freshmen applicants. It’s probably cheaper and more efficient, but I can’t help but think that something important has been lost. A paper application doesn’t compare to a first experience with air travel, individual interviews with university faculty, and friendships forged in the heat of competition.

Then there is the small matter of the current application, which is an abomination. The application in 1989 asked for serious responses to serious questions. The current application asks for a short essay concerning jellybeans. The old system played to the strengths of a budding Jared Diamond, the new one to the talents of an embryonic Maureen Dowd. As a tool to attract serious students to BYU, I’m skeptical about its effectiveness. I can only assume that the people in the BYU Scholarships Office, who have more experioence with this kind of thing than I have, know what they’re doing.

Not just as Mormons, but as Americans we have a terrible reluctance to admit academic achievement. As often as not, it attracts resentment rather than admiration. Bryce I. has compared admitting liberal tendencies to coming out at BYU, but he should know better. The biggest taboo was letting anyone find out about your scholarship. (Do I feel bad for outing Bryce? Since he has already outed his own cousin, no.) The smoothest way I’ve ever seen to covertly announce your membership in the ranks of BYU presidential scholars is the admission that one had a scholarship for which women at one time were not eligible; he that hath ears to hear hath heard!

I know there are more than a couple presidential scholars who post or comment regularly. (Your secret is safe, as long as you think it’s something that needs to be hidden, and as long as you keep your payments coming in on time.) What was the experience like for you? How did it affect you? If you were a finalist but not ultimately selected, was it the kind of experience you never recover from? If you have any experience with the presidential scholar program at all, what are your impressions? Or are you firmly convinced that BYU presidential scholars are all snooty, stuck-up snobs who don’t need another ounce of positive reinforcement?

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185 comments for “I was a Benson Scholar

  1. July 21, 2005 at 1:53 pm

    For some reason, coming in at the 20th percentile for my high school class made me insufficiently impressive to qualify for being even a finalist. But I think you may be right that BYU gets something out of the intense recruiting of that crowd.

  2. A Nonny Mouse
    July 21, 2005 at 2:11 pm

    Are you sure that no final selection round occurs? I remember seeing hinckley scholarship finalists padding around the BYU campus as recently as 2 or 3 years ago…

  3. A. Greenwood
    July 21, 2005 at 2:13 pm

    Jellybeans? Jellybeans? Oof.

    Even snooty, stuck-up snobs like you, Jonathan, shouldn’t have to write essays on Jellybeans. I’m glad you were spared that.

    Looking at things from the view of the vast majority who weren’t Presidential scholars, I’d say that I like my elites better if I feel they had to sweat and sacrifice for their elite status. Having to do an interview and write real essays sounds just about right to me.

    Also, there’s a person I know well who’d have been weeded out by the old system and not the new. I’m pretty sure this person would be the first to tell you that they weren’t really a good intellectual investment on BYU’s part.

  4. Mark B.
    July 21, 2005 at 2:19 pm

    When I applied (did I, or did they simply invite me to show up?–I don’t remember) they were Joseph Fielding Smith Scholars, there were only 15, and they were all men. (If there had been 30, maybe I would have got one–who knows?)

    I don’t remember writing an essay as part of the application–but I might have. Thirty-five years have dimmed the lights a little.

    I do recall driving down early one Saturday morning for an interview, with a man who had been my bishop a few years earlier. I didn’t meet any of the other applicants, there was no air travel, no new and exciting places (that’s one problem with growing up a BYU brat),and, zannennagara, no Smith scholarship at the end of the process.

    On the other hand, I had invested so little in the process that there wasn’t much feeling of loss.

  5. Jason Richards
    July 21, 2005 at 2:22 pm


    Just a minor historical quibble. Back in our day wasn’t a “Presidential scholar” different from a ‘Kimball/Benson/Hinckley Scholar’. If I remember correctly, it went: Benson Scholar (8 semesters tuition+ stipend); Trustee’s Scholar (8 semesters tuition); Presidential Scholar (4 Semesters??). The Presidential scholarship was smaller than the Trustee’s scholarship as it is named for the President of the University, not the President of the Church. Besides, the really cool part was getting to meet President & Sister Monson together with Rex Lee.

    And technically, you are still a Benson Scholar–they never did defrock you did they?

  6. danithew
    July 21, 2005 at 2:37 pm

    Since you outed Bryce I can say something. I didn’t realize it was a bad thing to let people know a person was a Benson scholar until I outed Bryce once or twice when I was in the company with him and another person. He was noticeably uncomfortable when that happened. It was too late but I learned a lesson from that. Not everyone wants to be introduced to others with mentions of their achievements or tremendous talents.

    And now I understand the Bryce I. / Jonathan Green linkage better.

  7. Aaron Brown
    July 21, 2005 at 2:41 pm

    I vaguely remember some mentor at the Admissions office constantly trying to get me to apply for the Benson scholarship, which really made no sense, given the fact that I had already been offered the full, one-year renewable scholarship, but not the 4-year version. I figured that if BYU didn’t want to give me one of the 4-year kind (but it did want to give them out to others), that was a pretty good indicator that I wasn’t going to make the grade. Nonetheless, my mentor inexplicably continued to insist I apply.

    So who’s dumber: Him, for insisting, or me, for applying even though I knew I had no chance?

    Aaron B

  8. John Mansfield
    July 21, 2005 at 2:52 pm

    My wife grew up in a ward (Los Alamos, New Mexico) that produced a fair number of National Merit Scholars. Something she and her sister noted is that National Merit Scholars were never considered for Benson Scholarships. So here’s a chance to set the record straight: Are you or do you know a Kimball/Benson/Hinckley Scholar who is also a National Merit Scholar? And are there any Hunter Scholars?

  9. alamojag
    July 21, 2005 at 2:52 pm

    Jason is right, it used to be the Kimball/Benson/Hinkley scholar, with others on down the line. I was a lowly presidential scholar, and the one person I know who identified himself as a Kimball scholar was indeed a snooty, stuck up snob. My only consolation was that I scored higher on the LSAT than he did.

  10. Gabrielle Turner
    July 21, 2005 at 2:52 pm

    I’m not sure exactly when BYU made the change from flying out candidates to evaluations based simply on applications, but it was certainly within the past 3 years or so. My younger sister received the scholarship in 2002, and at that point they were still flying the candidates to BYU. My younger brother just received the scholarship (he’s starting BYU in the fall), and it was all based on the written application.
    I, too, feel that the scholarship applicants are really missing out. I suppose it is quite expensive to fly everyone out, but the experience for me and all my siblings (yes, Benjamin is the 5th Frandsen to be awarded the scholarship, and the 6th Frandsen finalist) was really amazing.
    If I recall correctly, the application itself, back in 1994, was quite extensive, and then the 3 days of interviews and testing was even more intense. We had written and oral examinations in math, science, history, literature, social sciences, and then a final oral presentation on a topic of our choice. But beyond that, we had lots of time to spend with the other candidates, in both competitive and purely social situations. In my year, I know a lot of the finalists did go on to become great friends. I think there were even a couple of eventual marriages between Benson scholars. My older and younger sisters both ended up being roommates with fellow finalists.
    While I ultimately did not accept the scholarship (I was already intent on going to a different university), the experience remains today as one of the most memorable of that time of my life. I was very disappointed to hear that BYU has discontinued the formal interview process. If anyone here has any clout with the BYU scholarship office, I would like to pass on my sincere hopes that BYU will re-instate the old presidential scholarship process.

  11. Gabrielle Turner
    July 21, 2005 at 2:54 pm

    Oh, and by the way, at least 4 of us Frandsens who were offered the scholarship (maybe Rachel, too, but I can’t remember) were also National Merit Scholars, so, in response to #9, that did not hold true with us.

  12. July 21, 2005 at 2:54 pm

    As I recall, I met Rosalynde at a meeting of the Benson nominees. Or maybe that was someone else. My failing memory was the reason I missed that brass ring by a hair.

  13. danithew
    July 21, 2005 at 2:57 pm

    From what I heard, presidential scholars actually previously got to meet (maybe it was briefly) with a member of the First Presidency at a luncheon of some sort. That sounded like a very positive and worthwhile experience.

  14. July 21, 2005 at 3:29 pm

    I was offered a Kimball Scholarship at BYU and I turned it down. I had a similar one at Utah State. I grew up in Logan and felt it was a better school. Better for me anyway.

  15. Robert Ricks
    July 21, 2005 at 3:58 pm

    I was a 1996 Presidential scholar and worked in BYU’s Scholarship Office during the 2000-2001 year. I’m not privy to the actual decision-making rationale for axing the final round evaluations–which, as far as I am aware, did not stop until this year–but based on my experience working in the office I can offer my speculations. In 1998 the number of finalists was raised to 100 (50 men, 50 women) and the number of winners to 50; there were also some changes in the evaluation format (my 1996 experience sounds pretty similar to Jonathan’s). At that point, the annual cost of bringing the 100 finalists to Provo for evaluations was in the $75,000 range, and some in the administration felt that the cost was not justified. They argued that it was no longer serving a significant recruiting purpose: 90-95% of the finalists ended up at BYU, whether or not they were awarded the scholarship. Why not save the money and give 10 other deserving students a multi-year award? (Not an unfair question, really.) Some higher-ups (I won’t name names) wanted to go a step further and get rid of the Presidential Scholarship program altogether–as it perpetuates elitism, favors “generalists” over “specialists,” didn’t promote university “diversity,” etc. Against proponents of this nuclear option were those who sensed that the scholarship by now represented an important university tradition that was worth preserving, whether or not the program now fulfilled the purpose that motivated its inception. I’m not surprised, in view of the threat to the very existence of the scholarship and their stastically negligible recruiting results, that the final evaluations were eliminated. I am sad, though: as you point out, Jonathan, it was the intangible fruits of the competition, like friendships, that may have been the most valuable.

    “A few will come for the prestige, although there is almost no recognition for presidential scholars once they enroll, no event or institution around which to form a group identity.”

    This was no longer the case by my time at BYU. There was an annual Presidential Scholar banquet, usually at the beginning of winter semester, for all currently enrolled scholars (and their spouses or fiancé(e)s–but no dates, a point of some heated discussion in the Scholarship Office.) My brother met his wife at one of these dinners. Also, for the first-year scholars there was traditionally a brief meeting and photo-op with President Hinckley before his annual BYU devotional address.

  16. danithew
    July 21, 2005 at 4:06 pm

    That diction of mine in comment #14 shows why I would never receive such an honor.

  17. mccartney
    July 21, 2005 at 4:29 pm

    This entire thread is just nauseating.

  18. Mark Martin
    July 21, 2005 at 4:36 pm

    I applied for the Kimball Scholarship in 1982, and remember spending about 24 hours completing that application and the essays that it required. I was not a finalist, and didn’t even learn about the interview process for finalists until I met some of them when I started my first semester at BYU. By then, I was glad I hadn’t been a finalist, because the written essays were grueling enough for me. I would have been rather intimidated.

    About 12 people in my BYU ward were Kimball scholars, and they were (and are) terrific people. The word “snooty” never comes to mind when I think of them. They were as fun and friendly as those of us who hadn’t received the prestigious scholarship.

  19. Prudence McPrude
    July 21, 2005 at 4:42 pm

    I was so smart, so well-read, and so spiritual when I applied to BYU, that I was actually awarded TWO Benson scholarships, believe it or not. At first, I thought this was a mistake, but I was reassured by the First Presidency, in person, that it was not. I was also allowed to receive my 2nd scholarship award in cash, at which point I quickly spent it on cool stuff like a gold-plated triple combination, season passes at Sundance and all the entire Signature Press catalogue. Neenerneenerneener.

  20. Jason Richards
    July 21, 2005 at 4:42 pm

    So how do you reconcile the paradox that “the most prestigious academic scholarship granted by BYU” is also the “biggest taboo”?

    Is it really prestigious if it’s something you never talk about and indeed attempt to conceal?

  21. Kevin Barney
    July 21, 2005 at 4:45 pm

    In my day it was Kimball scholars, and IIRC there were 12 of each gender. I never knowingly met any, but if I had, I would have been suitably impressed (12 out of such a large student body is pretty darned elite). I just got a Dean’s scholarship (1/2 tuition), and I partied so hard my freshman year that my grades slipped below the minimum level and I temporarily lost even that. (I got it back after my mission when I had a more serious approach to academics.) But quite frankly, in restrospect, it was worth it losing the scholarship, and I wouldn’t trade that freshman year of fun and good times for anything.

    In the interests of institutionalizing the scholarship, and avoiding the problems of occasionally having to change its name when a new Church President is installed, I vote that we change the name of the scholarship on a permanent basis to the Frandsen Scholarship, in recognition of its rightful owners.

  22. m.t.carnes
    July 21, 2005 at 4:47 pm

    I think this discussion is evidence enough that the alleged reluctance to admit to being a kimball/benson/etc scholar is a myth.

  23. danithew
    July 21, 2005 at 4:54 pm

    I have the feeling that someday (maybe years from now) the ‘Nacle is going to be so established and successful that there are probably going to be ‘Nacle supported scholarships. It’s not too hard to imagine.

  24. Jared
    July 21, 2005 at 4:57 pm

    Just to brag, my wife was a Benson scholar. She had to go through the interviews and such. I figure she’s not a snob if she married me.

  25. Jason Richards
    July 21, 2005 at 5:07 pm

    McCartney & Friends (#18, #20 & #26)

    I was hoping for an answer to my question, but your full-blown demonstration serves just as well. ‘Such insecurity and need for recognition’ indeed.

  26. Jedd Fowers
    July 21, 2005 at 5:27 pm


    I was also a member of the competing group in 1989 (I’ll have to look you up in the group picture BYU sent). I’ve never been captive with so many intellectual powerhouses as I was in the days we spent competing. I didn’t receive the scholarship, nor should I have. Frankly, I was out of my league. But it was a good opportunity to be pushed harder than I had before and to rub shoulders with a very impressive (and seemingly humble) group of people.

    On one of the days when I had a large number of faculty interviews, I completely lost my voice. Really. I had to laugh at the timing. I conducted the interviews in barely a whisper.

  27. Travis Anderson
    July 21, 2005 at 5:33 pm

    I still vividly remember my first-round interview for the Kimball Scholarship, which was conducted by a prominent member of the physics dept who retired a short while ago. Having graduated as the valedictorian of my high school and having won numerous awards, including a presidential citation and an appointment to the Nasa-Ames Student Space Biology Program, I was stunned that my interviewer seemed completely uninterested in my scholarly interests and pursuits, but focused almost entirely on my level of church social activity–at one point chiding me for participating in a science fair rather than attending a stake dance, which he said indicated an unbalanced life. That personal experience among others, along with the many troubling discussions about BYU scholarship distribution to which I have been privy in my teaching and committee assignments, have led me and many of my colleagues to believe that the scholarship program here is deeply flawed. So, on the one hand it’s very interesting to hear your various experiences and opinions on these questions. On the other hand, my concerns notwithstanding, I’ve known and taught a good many recipients of these particular scholarships, and to a person they’ve been wonderful people and excellent students who more than deserve the recognition they received.

  28. July 21, 2005 at 5:56 pm

    We need a thread for all those who got football scholarships to BYU. Well, I guess it wouldn’t be a thread, just a post.

  29. Jonathan Green
    July 21, 2005 at 6:11 pm

    Jedd, nice to hear from you. Even though our paths didn’t cross much at BYU, I still remember you from the interviews. In the picture, I’m the only one wearing a sweater rather than a suitcoat. My suitcase got lost on the way to SLC, and I had to borrow a tie from a roommate, Art McCune, who was one of the kindest people I’ve ever known.

    Robert–Stephen’s kid, right?–I was at BYU for the first dinner or two. That’s what I meant by “almost” in “almost no recognition.” The photo-op with an apostle is nice, too, but very brief. Other universities do quite a bit more to build an institutional presence for recipients of their top scholarship, including scholarship-specific dormitories, seminars or other courses taken together, early registration privileges, or other regular events. I’m not saying that BYU needs to implement any of these or anything like them, but there is very much more that it could be doing if it wanted to create a sense of group cohesiveness for its presidential scholars. As it was, it was almost impossible to get to know recipients in the cohorts ahead or behind of one’s own. But as you said, there is already considerable hesitation at BYU to promote elitism in any way, at least of the academic variety. I’m glad the program has been saved, even in its current form.

    Jason, you ask a really good question, one I asked myself a lot. The Benson,etc. scholarship was the most prestigious because BYU said so, not necessarily because the school did much to make it prestigious. It was the scholarship that dared not speak its name. Bizarre, I know, but there you have it.

  30. JKS
    July 21, 2005 at 6:20 pm

    “I think this discussion is evidence enough that the alleged reluctance to admit to being a kimball/benson/etc scholar is a myth. ”

    Not true. Being “smart” is something you often gloss over in company, unless you are amoung people that are smart in the same way, and then suddenly it is ok to refer to standardized test scores or your GPA. You spend years in school hiding your test that came back marked A because the people around you have B- and if they see the evidence of your A they are mean to you.
    It is very similar to being “richer” that someone. You can’t talk about how much you put in a 401K that year or the raise you just got.
    My life’s situation has almost always been that I am “smarter” and “richer” than my friends and peers. I can’t imagine being embarrassed that I can’t afford something, because at the times in my life that I couldn’t afford something, I have happily been able to be “poor” in comparison to someone else. In fact, I can go to any party where they demonstrate kitchen things/candles/stamps, etc. and happily say that I don’t have money in my budget for that sort of thing. And the vacation timeshare pressure salespitch–bring it on!!!
    Anyway, usually, I try to downplay things that will emphasize the “us vs. them” in the mind of the people around me. Telling people you are smart or rich is considered extremely rude.

  31. Jonathan Green
    July 21, 2005 at 6:27 pm

    Travis, what I wouldn’t give to hear all the ugly details… I don’t know anything about other programs, but I was convinced that the Benson selection committees I served was fair. Of course, that’s coming from a student rather than a faculty perspective, but that was why I found the subject evaluations the most useful part of the whole thing–you can’t fake your way through a math problem in front of three math professors.

    As you mention, though, different committee members took very different approaches to interviews. One fellow finalist came out of an interview and asked frantically, “What language do they speak in India?” Other interviewers were after less factual and more personal information, usually in an attempt to make sure that selected candidates were basically faithful members of the church.

  32. m.t.carnes
    July 21, 2005 at 6:53 pm

    “My life’s situation has almost always been that I am “smarter” and “richer” than my friends and peers.”—-wow. You might try getting out more.

  33. N Miller
    July 21, 2005 at 7:24 pm

    Good ridence to such a practice. In the preceding posts, it sounds like there was some benefits to the recipient during the interviewing and competing, but I wonder if it is really beneficial at an institution such as BYU?

    What are scholorships used for? They are of an economic benefit for the school. The school intices a person who has the potential to make a name for themselves, either at the school or postgraduatly, to associate themselves with the school. The school then, in turn gets to tie that individuals success to the school which then increases the ease and ability to recruit more people who are willing to pay a higher price to attend who have hopes of being as successful as person X because they attended there as well. Perhaps at BYU, it is not to get people to pay higher tuition, but rather a way to get the LDS name out there.

    So then, why, if 90-95% of them attend anyways, are they even given the award? It is money wasted. My tithing money wasted on some snobbish intellectual who complains that they aren’t spending more money on airplane trips and can’t enjoy writing about jellybeans (not meant against any individual, but that is what I have to work with) If they can’t be thankful for what they have and are without the fun trips, then more power to the rest of us dumb ones. Use the money on sports, arts, or other things that will actually help bring students into BYU that would otherwise not come.

    (Really to those that would receive this award, this is a compliment. If you are smart enough to recieve such an award, then hopefully you know that these antics played by many of the universities are just that, spoofs to try to get you to believe that they are the best University for you to attend. Therefore, if this practice is continued, then you smart ones play into the universities hands and aren’t that smart afterall.)

  34. A. Greenwood
    July 21, 2005 at 7:43 pm

    Come on, M.T. Carnes. Its just in the nature of things that some of God’s children are going to be smarter and some are going to be richer, and in the modern world there’s also going to be a lot of overlap.

  35. JKS
    July 21, 2005 at 7:52 pm

    “wow. You might try getting out more.”

    Scoring 98 percentile on one’s ACT makes it hard to find people around you who scored higher. I can easily see that other people are better than me in other areas, so I don’t require that they match me in test taking abilities in order to associate with me. My old college friends are all my roommates from living in Heritage Halls. We were not grouped by income bracket or intellectual ability (except for the fact that we all got into college).
    As for coming from a “rich” family, I don’t know how to explain that my parents never put a priority on the prestige of wealth or the things it could buy. So I didn’t seek out rich friends, or marry a man from a rich family or a man who would become rich, so we live where we live, and it is difficult to know what to say when you fly off to an all expenses paid family reunion in Hawaii when you know those around you just pitched in $300 to help fix their mom’s car even though they can’t afford it.

  36. Ryan S.
    July 21, 2005 at 7:55 pm


    I don’t mind that some people are smarter than me, and I don’t mind that some people being richer than me. What I don’t like is when those people think it makes them ‘better’ than me.

  37. Ryan S.
    July 21, 2005 at 7:56 pm

    I also don’t mind that some people proofread better than me.

  38. JKS
    July 21, 2005 at 8:09 pm

    Rusty, since my husband will never actually post without me making him, I’ll comment.
    My husband got a football scholarship to BYU. I almost mentioned him when responded to MT Carnes, but since there is actually another football scholarship guy in our ward (although my husband doesn’ t know him) it made it harder to use him as an example of the best football player of all his friends and peers. I don’t think it is embarrassing to anyone for him to admit he went to BYU on a football scholarship. I mention it occasionally without qualms. He is not scarred for being so good on the football field. No one was mean to him about that…..exactly. The “dumb jock” of course is a hurtful label. Who wants to fight THAT all the time. So, I wonder, does he in certain circles avoid mentioning it?
    Maybe I’ll ask him. “Honey, do you avoid telling people you got a football scholarship so people in a professional setting won’t think you’re a dumb jock?”

  39. JKS
    July 21, 2005 at 8:16 pm

    Ryan S.
    What I don’t like is when people think being less smart or less rich makes them better than me….or makes them think that I think I’m better than them.

  40. Prudence McPrude
    July 21, 2005 at 9:11 pm

    But Ryan,

    What about those of us that just simply ARE better than you? And smarter. And richer. And hotter. And more humble. Are we supposed to deny our inherent superiority? Wouldn’t that be dishonest? I’m not sure I’d be able to answer the ‘Have you been honest in your dealings with your fellow man?” temple recommend question correctly if I were not completely frank and open about these things.

    It’s lonely here at the top, believe me. I know. Have some more compassion for people like me. Please.

  41. July 21, 2005 at 9:44 pm

    Since everyone else has touted their proudest college-entrance achievements, I feel free to boast that I graduated in the bottom 10% of my high school class. : )

  42. July 21, 2005 at 10:14 pm

    I am shocked to see this post from Jonathan “The Bull” Green. Since I’m outed, I will say that I will be forever grateful for my Benson Scholar interview experience. I had absolutely no intention of even applying to BYU. I did so only to appease my parents. I went to the interviews expecting nothing, and came away with a strong desire to go to BYU to be around the kinds of people I met during the interview process (I ended up living with Bill and Jonathan). And of course, I would never have married my wonderful wife had I chosen some other school.

    Did any of you notice this line in Jonathan’s post? “A paper application doesn’t compare to a first experience with air travel.” Jonathan still thinks airplane dinners are really neat.

    And if Maureen Dowd is ever replaced by a BYU grad, I’ll eat my shirt.

  43. Dan Barnes
    July 21, 2005 at 11:12 pm

    I hope we’ve all gotten that out of our system. We must have been waiting for years to find a forum to “out” ourselves.


  44. Robert Ricks
    July 21, 2005 at 11:37 pm

    Some of the comments (#28, 34) have pointed out criticisms that were made of BYU’s scholarship program. I think some of these concerns are valid. In defense, I can only say that from personal observation I know the decision-makers in the Scholarship Office took the criticisms seriously and honestly tried to do their best with the funds to serve the missions of BYU and the church. Getting rid of the final evaluation round may have been the right decision, but it still makes me sad that it had to be done.

    “Stephen’s kid, right?”

    Yeah, you’ve outed me–although I guess I outed myself by commenting. I didn’t realize other universities went to such lengths to create a feeling of community among their scholarship students. At BYU, I know that some administrators and faculty members (perhaps themselves Presidential scholars) wanted to sponsor more activities for scholarship recipients. Getting more funds for scholarship events was probably unrealistic, but at least one low-cost initiative was started: for the last 3 or 4 years the Scholarship Office has set up an e-mail group for the incoming class of scholarship awardees.

  45. July 22, 2005 at 12:00 am

    I didn’t make the joke to suggest he’d be embarrassed admitting he got a football scholarship. I made the joke to suggest that there probably isn’t a single person who regularly reads T&S that got a football scholarship. Football-playing intellectuals aren’t the norm around these parts.

  46. Ben H
    July 22, 2005 at 12:19 am

    Wow, this conversation makes me dizzy! I don’t know what it’s safe to admit . . . but I will say that I had well over two hundred credits when I graduated from BYU! Can anybody top that?

    : )

  47. Dan Barnes
    July 22, 2005 at 12:21 am

    Rusty, et al,

    I guess I should stop reading now.

    Back to homestarrunner for me! Lot’s easier to take for us thick of neck and brain.


  48. Ben H
    July 22, 2005 at 12:25 am

    I’m surprised the Kimball/Benson/etc. scholarships don’t get turned down for other schools more often. Notre Dame has nice scholarships that get turned down regularly. There are bright young LDSaints who go to Ivy League schools and the like. Are some of them not even applying to BYU? Maybe the scholarship folks need to think about how to target the people who are seriously thinking of going elsewhere. Proactive invitations to apply?

  49. norm
    July 22, 2005 at 12:36 am

    I had a very negative experience with the Presidential Scholarship process. I was a finalist, but not flown out, since I lived so close. In fact, there were 5 from my local high school. 4 ended up as Presidential scholars. Those 4 had a combined 7 BYU professor/administrator/staff parents between them. I was left out. Which was okay, so were most of the 30.

    A day or so before the program started, two of the winners were discussing their preparations, ‘their research’ on the process, etc. They talked about the various interviews and games.

    One involved a posterboard with famous faces. (In my interview, after asking me to identify many other people on the chart, the interview asked me to identify Mao and Brigham Young from their pictures, and the imagine what they’d have to say to each other… among other games.) One involved be able to sight read sheet music, match authors and their works, etc.

    Anyway, one I was in my interview, I was struck by the fact that they knew everything that would be on the various charts and games. (One had mentioned Mia Hamm, Maya Angelou, Harry Truman, etc–they knew that the songs to be sight read were Love at Home & Hey Jude, etc. , etc.)

    Basically they had all the answers ahead of time. In the interview, I played stupid on Hey Jude & Love at Home (since I’m a musical idiot, and thought it would be cheating–even though I actually recognized Hey Jude since I’d played it from sheet music before.) At the end of the day, though, I thought it was tremendously dishonest and corrupt for the professors’ kids to know all the answers ahead of time. And then to benefit from cronyism in the selection process.

    Blah. Blah. Now many winners that year came from other places; probably some won fair and square. But I was and am sickened at how much politics and nepotism determine about jobs, admissions, and scholarships at BYU.

  50. norm
    July 22, 2005 at 12:46 am

    that probably makes me sounds like a sore loser. in fact, i attended BYU on another scholarship for a year and never went back. i continue to be very good friends with many of the kids I met that week, and became friends with later on because of Hinckley ties.

    the visit was useful. it was fun meeting a bunch of other young LDS kids who were choosing between Ivy-caliber schools, the U, the Y. the significance of the week, though, was two-fold:

    1) i met a bunch of bright young hotshots who were LDS (why have men and women visit separately, btw?)
    2) and I realized the same thing about BYU’s professors and administration that I had started realizing about its football players: neither position meant anything about the individuals’ integrity.

    Incidentally, since I have a bunch of BYU profs in my home ward, I got to talking to one of them a few years afterward, after I’d transfered. He said it was common (I think he said every year or two) to have people use connections, get ‘inside information’ and then come back during the next few years, or as they prepared for missions, in tears, feeling that they needed to confess for cheating in the Hinckley interviews. If it’s true that they’ve discontinued the finalist visits, I think that might be a big reason why.

  51. norm
    July 22, 2005 at 12:56 am

    i hadn’t read all of the comments above. for your conspiracy theory, i was a National Merit Scholar. I think one of the 4 winners from my high school was too. But I know 3 were not. Among the Hinckleys generally, there were several, though.

  52. Katherine
    July 22, 2005 at 3:29 am

    For clarification of the campus visits issue: I was a Hinckley finalist and visited BYU in 2004 as part of the selection process, so they discontinued the practice just this year.

    Regarding National Merit: My understanding is that although Presidential Scholars may also receive a corporate or program National Merit scholarship, they will not receive a school National Merit award since its value is less than that of the Presidential Scholarship. However, finalists may receive either the Heritage or BYU National Merit, depending on their qualifications, since they have essentially the same value.

    Anyway, although the selection process was a valuable experience for me and contributed significantly to my decision to attend BYU, I do think the expense involved is unjustified. Very few of the 50 girls ended up attending other schools, and from what I gathered, most already had a fairly good idea of where they would end up before even coming to campus for that week.

    Also, I find it ironic that while we were there it was repeatedly emphasized that the scholarship was an enormous honor and, because of the name it bore, a great responsibility–and yet to this day I don’t have the slightest idea who ended up actually receiving the award. If the idea is for the Presidential Scholars to be shining examples of spirituality and scholarship, or whatever the University expects of them, it would help if they didn’t feel obligated to hide from anyone who might suspect something…

  53. Jonathan Green
    July 22, 2005 at 3:41 am

    Norm, thanks for your comments. They make me sad in a couple ways. Since the experience was so meaningful for me and I have clearly idealized them to a certain extent, I’m tremendously disappointed to think about someone short-circuiting the process to benefit a colleague’s child. And the activity you describe sounds all too real to me; there was always a tendency to minimize the perception of elitism by appeals to mass culture and by replacing solid evaluation with fairly silly games. I’m glad that you still managed to gain some lasting friendships from the experience.

    I understand the efficiency of the new approach from the standpoint of admissions–most of the recipients would have chosen BYU anyway. But the 5-10% whose minds are changed is an important segment, I think. Beyond that, the on-campus interviews shaped the students’ expectations of BYU and of themselves in a critical way, leading not just a few extra students to enroll, but affecting what all participating students do with their time at BYU. I like to think so, at least.

    And having men and women finalists on campus at the same time would not have been a good idea. At the time I was dismayed, as I had already constructed extravagant fantasies of what might occur, but now I think it would have been a bad scene. It’s exciting enough for an 18-year old to see for the first time that there are other bright Mormons in the world. But to see that there are other bright Mormons who are also hot babes? Heads would have exploded. And really–30 top students competing not only for scholarship money, but for the hot numbers among the opposite sex? It sounds like a bad reality show. No doubt amusing to observers, but hard on contestants, and ultimately detrimental to their health and psychological well-being.

  54. JKS
    July 22, 2005 at 3:51 am

    I know you didn’t think he’d be embarrassed. And at first it didn’t even occur to me that he might be embarrassed. Usually it is just considered wow, cool. But as I thought about it I had to remember my own bias about football players, back in the day.
    I asked him and he said that he seldom mentions it. He says he’s neither proud nor ashamed of it. Why am I asking, he wanted to know.
    Oh, the topic came up on the blogs.

  55. JKS
    July 22, 2005 at 3:52 am

    One of these days, though, he might decide to show up on here.

  56. Emma Marsh
    July 22, 2005 at 3:53 am

    In response to #49
    “There are bright young LDSaints who go to Ivy League schools and the like. Are some of them not even applying to BYU?”

    I know a guy who didn’t apply to BYU to because they wouldn’t except his ~1400 SAT score, and insisting he take the ACT (they’ve wised-up since then)…and he said screw it, I’ll go somewhere else. And, yes, it seems that within the church it’s acceptable to go to an Ivy League or other institution instead of BYU…and many people do it, and many of those never apply or never really consider BYU.
    I chose a small liberal, liberal arts school, with a derth of mormons, and yes, that was certainly a risk and could’ve put my ability to find a mate in jeopardy. (That’s the real reasons smart mormons choose BYU anyway, they want to marry a mormon, and they’re afraid if they go somewhere else it won’t happen.)

    “Maybe the scholarship folks need to think about how to target the people who are seriously thinking of going elsewhere. Proactive invitations to apply?”

    Not a bad idea, although, I think for me and many of my Ivy League peers it wouldn’t real make a difference. BYU is a self-selecting place, and as for why I didn’t want to go — there are those of us who feel like they can live the gospel better without the ‘big-brother’ looking over their shoulder, or that, on the flip-side, they can have more freedom to pursue intellectual pursuits if they surround themselves with open-mindedness (and please don’t try to argue that BYU is open-minded, becuase is the larger world, it’s not.). As for myself, it’s not that I didn’t apply to BYU…but it was definitely a safety school. I was also pretty appalled by the fact that they assume everyone is coming – no please reply by May 15th, or anything. As I recall, it started with my mom sending in my housing papers (because I had to be in Heritage where my sisters had lived), and then my ‘friends’ at church telling me that I better send in my application soon because the only took 25,000 of them or something, when I got around to it (after all the other more important, earlier deadline, real essay apps were done) I sent it in, I got my acceptance/welcome letter in like 3 weeks, and two months later I got a scholarship letter saying (even though I hadn’t applied for any scholarship) I’d have a full ride (waiving the measley $2k a year, woohoo!). I think it was just a one-yr thing, but it might have been a renewable thing, I don’t recall. I think it was this statement that turned me off “so many students like you help make BYU what it is, an institution where individuals can be assisted in their pursuit of perfection”. Oh, and then there was the call in the middle of June, double-checking that I was coming.

    Also, it’s time to pose some bigger questions here:

    Is this disallowing of scholarship students to identify themselves (or the pressure from the school/other students to keep them secret) institutional discrimination against intellectuals or “church policy” about the dangers of intellectuals congregating together? Or is it a way to protect the smart kids from the masses (yes, you’d get sick of ‘wow, you’re a hinckley scholar’, but other than that, would it actually be damaging)? Or is it to protect the masses from the smart kids?

    Intellectuals are oppressed in the chruch, and this example of it is from ‘the source’ (if BYU=the church). This makes me think of being in Sunday School, and not being able to raise my hand because what I say might ‘invite someone else to question the gospel and damage their testimony’?

  57. JKS
    July 22, 2005 at 4:14 am

    I don’t think BYU tries to keep their scholarship recipients secret.
    When I applied, BYU had an easy application and a late deadline. I find it odd that you find that so offputting. As for BYU not caring about an RSVP about you coming, I find it really, really odd that it upset you.
    I think it is great that Mormons attend other schools. BYU can’t educate every mormon in the world. So, some will choose BYU, some won’t.
    I personally thought it would be a great experience to meet Mormons and have Mormon friends. I thought it would be a nice change. So I chose BYU and didn’t bother applying anywhere else.

  58. JKS
    July 22, 2005 at 4:33 am

    I was never a Bensen scholar, but I can think of some more smartie things that I usually don’t get a chance to brag about. In 10th grade, my history teacher photocopied my final exam (one big long essay question) and passed it out to all her students and said “This is what you should have written.”
    I really don’t get the chance to brag about that very often.
    And did you know that when I was 18 months I couldn’t talk much, but I could identify all the letters of the alphabet. My parents thought I was a genius!

  59. Dusty
    July 22, 2005 at 4:53 am

    I guess I would have to side slightly with Emma on this one… there is a sort of perceived arrogance in not giving a student the opportunity to formally accept the invitation to study, when virtually every other school does offer the same.

    Of course, BYU does get most of its accepted students, and maybe they don’t mind fielding a small annual wave of awkward phone calls where the prospective student has to explain his/her decision not to come.

  60. Emma Marsh
    July 22, 2005 at 5:02 am

    JKS –

    “When I applied, BYU had an easy application and a late deadline. I find it odd that you find that so offputting. As for BYU not caring about an RSVP about you coming, I find it really, really odd that it upset you.”

    I guess to me, easy application and late deadline meant ‘less academic rigor’. And the not asking for an RSVP didn’t upset me, it was just appallingly presumptuous — all the other schools recognized that students would be making a ‘difficult decision’. I’m sure part of it is just a numbers game and it wasn’t as important for BYU to know exactly how many were accepting if 90-95% typically do (whereas the other schools matriculation rates probably vary more widely from year to year…and if a student decides not to come it can open up a spot for another kid).

  61. Dusty
    July 22, 2005 at 5:20 am

    Emma, I take exception to the idea that smart Mormons only go to BYU to get married. Although I did not attend BYU, those friends of mine who did cited reasons such as the general LDS community (which you seem to object with), affordability, and better-than-adequate academics. None of them held that BYU was at par with say Princeton or Stanford, but because of the many smart members who do matriculate, the school possesses a level of academia that both offers challenging work and valuable relationships with other students.

    In general, my friends who attended BYU had it as the top school they applied to, with the usual exception of a couple top-notch schools to which they either were not admitted or could not afford.

  62. JKS
    July 22, 2005 at 5:33 am

    I guess to me, easy application and late deadline meant ‘less academic rigor’.

    I think the late deadline has more to do with the numbers of starting or returning students being on missions during the previous year. They want to make the process a little easier for their clientele.
    While BYU is considering a good school, there are many schools that are more academically vigorous. A few departments at BYU might be Top 10, but I think no one actually thinks it is the best academic university.
    Some people, however, don’t choose a college on that criteria alone. Cost, location, financial package, and personal preference enter into this decision.
    Obviously, you preferred a more academically elite college.

  63. Wilfried
    July 22, 2005 at 5:44 am

    Interesting thread. Can international students apply for a Presidential Scholarship? Doesn’t seem so and that makes one wonder. Not to threadjack here, but perhaps to orient a little to related discussion… My experience is that BYU still has a significant amount of work to do to realize its mission towards the international membership. On various fronts: Criteria of admission in relation to relevancy for the home country? Proper evaluation of credit transfer? How to maximize the relevancy of studies at BYU for an international student? How to improve the recognition / impact of international students on campus instead of only using them as occasional folklore objects? etc. On the other hand, I’m afraid there are so many more important US-oriented topics that my remark will hardly get attention.

  64. Robert Ricks
    July 22, 2005 at 6:15 am

    Emma, I think a few of the comments may have led you believe that Presidential scholars are under some institutional obligation not to reveal their scholarship status. In fact, any such silence is self-imposed or perhaps conditioned by a desire not to appear elitist or prideful. I don’t think it’s much different than high school kids being reluctant to admit they do Academic Decathlon, chess club, or like activities. The “outing” Jonathan is talking about is (as far as I can tell) an inside joke about how it feels to be put in a potentially awkward situation.

    Also, it’s a bit ungenerous to assume students choose to attend BYU just to meet someone they can marry. If this were the case, I and many like me would be sorely disappointed at our failure. (No doubt some are disappointed; others, like me, are not.) Students choose BYU for a variety of reasons, some better than others. I had a great experience and have no regrets.

    Norm, I’m sorry you had a negative experience with the evaluations. I find it unlikely, however, that cheating was much of a factor in getting rid of them. (It seems that it would be just as easy–or easier–to cheat by having unfair help in writing the application essays that are now the only basis of judgment.) Negative feedback from the finalists may have played some role in the change, but I strongly suspect the overwhelming reason was a sense that the cost could no longer be justified. Also, I know that the Scholarship Office is careful to avoid nepotism. Faculty members who are on the selection committee are expected to recuse themselves if one of their children is a finalist.

    I think the Presidential Scholarship program brings up many interesting issues, not all of which are germane to this thread. Any of the evaluation formats that were tried were inevitably subjective, but they generally favored students who were widely read and articulate in pressure situations. In other words, they measured something, but there was always some uncertainty in the Scholarship Office about whether the evaluations measured the right things. What should they measure? What are the criteria by which to make judgments of merit? What are the qualities of the ideal Presidential Scholar? I certainly don’t have the answers, but I think that the lack of consensus on this point may also have doomed the evaluations.

    There is something to the criticism that the evaluations favored generalists. Why isn’t there an equally prestigious scholarship that rewards a brilliant musician/composer who may not have met the minimum standardized test score requirement? Questions like these were constantly debated. My opinion is that the Presidential Scholarship program was under strain to be too many things to too many people. Cutting the evaluations was probably inevitable. I do hope the scholarship continues in some form, but I would be surprised if it continues to have the same profile and importance that it was seen, rightly or wrongly, as having in the past.

  65. Robert Ricks
    July 22, 2005 at 6:18 am


    I missed your comment while I was writing. International students are eligible for the Presidential Scholarship and a few (although not many) have received it. People in the administration (or at least in the Scholarship Office) are concerned about this issue. I think there was even talk of creating an equivalent or analogous scholarship for international students.

  66. Wilfried
    July 22, 2005 at 6:59 am

    Thanks for the update, Robert. I was wondering about international students and the Scholarship, also when one looks at eligibility criteria. E.g. a candidate must be in last year of high school. I cannot imagine a very bright student in a European high school considering going straight to BYU. The required essay “Describe the way you eat jelly beans and what that does or does not say about your character” sounds like cultural disregard for people coming from outside the US (“What are jelly beans?”). ACT scores would be based on American curricula and norms, etc. Anyway, the official info on the BYU site does not give explicit indications that international students can apply for the Presidential Scholarship. This is of course no criticism towards the program as such, which remains a great initiative. My concern is also much more with the overall and in-depth handling of the relation between BYU and Mormon students from abroad with an eye of serving the international Church.

  67. a random John
    July 22, 2005 at 9:47 am


    If it makes you feel any better, I probably scored higher on the ACT test than you did. It actaully became a stigma. I remember crumpling up the results sheet when I got it and stuffing it in my pocket. My next class was seminary and people were passing their test scores around and I left mine as a ball in my pocket, knowing that it would be isolating if anyone saw the thing. At some point during the period some school administrator got on the intercom and announced my score to the school. The seminary teacher asked if I had my score sheet. I said yes and he asked to see it. He was surprised to see it emerge from my pocket in a ball. He uncrumpled it and then proceeded to pass it around the class. I had a year and a half of high school left and I knew that this would color how people perceived me.

    I ran into someone that looked familiar at church last week. I told him I was sure I knew him from highschool. He told me his name and I mentioned that he had been on the cross country team. I told him my name and he told me about my test score. I would really rather be remembered for something else. This is 13 years after graduation. At some point (about two weeks into your freshman year) test scores shouldn’t matter.

    There are several reasons why this sort of discussion is annoying. I realize that I am saying this in the middle of such a discussion. The primary one is that people would much rather find out that you are smart through their interactions with you than because you announce some supposed measure of your intelligence.

  68. July 22, 2005 at 10:32 am


    I don’t recall the test scores in high school coming as a huge shock to many people. By that point in the game (junior year) the nerds are largely outed…

    You’ve reminded me of my freshman year when I was living in DT and four Benson scholars came and stayed in the commons room. We went in and chatted with them (they seemed very young to us mature college students). Sure enough, they had all exchanged ACT scores within the first few hours of arrival.

    That is the thing about going away to college. Everybody spends some time trying to place themselves in this new distribution of students. After a while (a couple months?) the tests scores and the class presidencies and the national violin honors sort of fade away into the background as people relax a bit. Obviously, some people never get over it, but that is its own punishment.

  69. a random John
    July 22, 2005 at 11:09 am


    Maybe I’m just hung up on this. Yes, I was a major nerd and I would guess that I still am. However I did a lot of other things. I was on the swim team and was a reasonably good swimmer. I was an avid mountain biker and actually won a few races. But even if I was simply known as a huge nerd that would have been preferable to being known as a test score. High school sucks, what can you do?

  70. Kaimi
    July 22, 2005 at 11:27 am

    My great shame and embarrassment at not being a Benson scholar is mitigated entirely by the fact that I didn’t apply to or attend BYU. . .

  71. July 22, 2005 at 12:03 pm

    Norm, your scholarship interview experience (#50) sounds appalling. Who cares if you can sight read music, identify faces, or match authors with works? What does that reveal about a person’s potential for scholarship?

    Now, if you’re looking for quiz bowl players, on the other hand…

  72. July 22, 2005 at 12:29 pm

    Mountain biking was a much better high school activity than reading Kant. If you were screaming down the trails, you were not a nerd my friend, you were a rockstar.

    Dan Barnes,
    My apologies. It was meant as a throw away joke playing up a stereotype. Trust me, I’m the least smartest person here.

    (Speaking of Benson, it was he who said pride was not only those above looking down on those below, but also those below looking down upon those above them.)

    …stupid intellectuals.

  73. Jonathan Green
    July 22, 2005 at 12:49 pm

    ARJ, I feel your pain. My high school yearbook selected me as one of the ‘trendsetters,’ or whatever they called them, but insisted that my SAT score had to be included, despite what I thought were far more interesting achievements. Why do yearbook staffs always have the switch on the side of their necks flipped to ‘annoying’?

    Frank, there’s definitely a hierarchy based on high test scores: those who flaunt their scores are mocked by those who don’t. There are few things more pathetic, or amusing, than a college freshman who boasts about his SAT score in front of people who actually have higher scores, but aren’t saying anything about it.

    Emma and Wilfried bring up the important matter of image. Emma, I don’t think you have a good understanding of what BYU is like, or the students who go there, but you would probably find the truth both less alarming and far stranger than you imagine. That scholarship recipients are reluctant to identify themselves as such is not an institutional BYU thing, but rather part and parcel of the American character, I suspect. I think you’re quite correct, however, that BYU’s institutional identity and assumptions show up in how it treats applicants, and that the consequences are not always carefully thought out. Like, as Wilfried mentions, the point about the jelly beans, which actually relates to a quote by Ronald Reagan. (Would someone please just click on the link and Read The Flippin’ Application?) Scholarship applications create intended audiences–that is their very point, in fact–but this one may be excluding some people unintentionally, like international students who have no concept of ‘jelly bean.’

    Robert–who can claim even more pre-college prestigious achievements than he’s admitting for now–points to one of the fundamental tensions. What are Benson/Hinckley/etc. scholars supposed to be? For that matter, what are BYU students supposed to be? Some wanted paragons of faithfulness–however you define and measure that–while some wanted all-round academic standouts, while others wanted specialists. The new system doesn’t resolve that issue, but it does spread the wealth more broadly and, by avoiding interaction between finalists and selection committee members, it depersonalizes the relationship, which lowers the stakes in the decision for the selection committee.

  74. July 22, 2005 at 1:27 pm

    Ok, I looked at the application. Lame. Still, it’s not like the jelly bean question excludes international students unfairly. For one thing, there are two other equally lame questions that they can choose from if they wish. For another, the clever international student turns unfamiliarity with jelly beans to his or her advantage — How do I process new experiences? How do I understand my relationship with a foreign culture through my consumption of its candy? Given that haven’t eaten a jelly bean, how do I imagine the experience? The unfamiliarity provides an extra opportunity for the student to highlight what makes him or her different and interesting, which is the point of these essays.

    The personal potpourri section is awful. I can’t imagine it doing anything except to prejudice the evaluator’s opinion for no good reason at all (He likes anime — he must be cool. Pumpkin ice cream?!?! Blech, what a loser.)

    I think this thread provides ample evidence for why most Presidential Scholars aren’t so keen to let other know about it on a first meeting.

  75. July 22, 2005 at 1:28 pm

    The real advantage of being awarded a presidential scholarship is to be chosen, honored, singled out, whether anyone else knows it or not, building their loyalty to the giving group. This post allows people to admit that they too were part of the chosen band. As Napoleon once said, “Give me a spool of ribbon and I will rule the world.” Honor is what matters.

    That being the case, I propose a wider system of honor. BYU can no longer admit all the smart and faithful who apply. Let’s say that the qualified are 10% over the admission limits, although it is much larger than that now. I propose that BYU then admit not the top 90%, but the bottom 90%. The others should be offered Church scholarships elsewhere, not just to Yale and Princeton and to Oxford and Heidelberg, but to schools in China, Australia, and India.

    Too expensive? BYU’s Dean Magleby recently estimated that a BYU education required a $10,000 subsidy PER SEMESTER from the Church, above tuition costs, comparing expenses to Peppardine, a similarly church-owned, private school. We all know the benefits of international missions for expanding world views. The college experience would help fit many of Zion’s brightest to lead the international Church.

    After that, the Church should go beyond supplying CES classes for LDS students and work toward chairs of LDS studies in the regular curricullum.

    I did propose this idea to Rex Lee when he was President of BYU. For some reason he did not take it seriously.

    If the Church should consider such an idea too radical, perhaps a consortium of rich lawyers could take it on.


  76. Elisabeth
    July 22, 2005 at 1:29 pm

    Yeah, aRJ, I don’t think even your nerdiness would measure up to the nerdiness of some of our acquaintances. I personally witnessed a new level of nerdiness this last weekend during a round of the Star Wars DVD game. Scary.

    P.S. I’m jealous of your ACT score. Mine sucked, but I was supposedly one of the “smart” kids. At least you lived up to your stereotype!

  77. Mark B.
    July 22, 2005 at 1:46 pm

    When my lovely daughter (who, by the way, is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful person I’ve ever known in my life–hat tip to Google) was not even considered for the Hinckley Scholarship, I lost all respect for the process. Any system that would select me as a finalist and leave my daughter out is obviously screwed up.

  78. July 22, 2005 at 1:52 pm


    The U.S. has the best universities in the world. Why would we want to send the brightest students to India to study when those in India are clamoring to come here? I can see lots of advantages of encouraging year-long study abroad programs, but I don’t see why those advantages would be larger for the best students than for the average students. Nor do I see why the best students would make the best Church “ambassadors” to other countries. Furhermore, sending students off to China for their whole college experience might be great for some, but is not a _generally_ good way to help their spirituality or let them interact with other LDS people from whom they can draw strength. This is to say nothing of marriage.

    Also, I really doubt Dave Magleby’s numbers, if those are what he said :). The standard line from the Church is that they pay about 2/3 the cost, which puts the expense at closer to 10K/year with a $7K/yr subsidy from the Church. We are not, after all, the same as Pepperdine. For starters, they have a student/faculty ratio of 12:1. BYU is 21:1.

  79. Wilfried
    July 22, 2005 at 2:10 pm

    Frank, I think Claudia meant to provide scholarships to students in their own country, not to send American students to India for their full studies. (?) That would make sense. But, Claudia, how do you relate this to the Perpetual Education Fund? I guess you would make a difference between a system providing maximal incentive to our brightest student abroad and the “loan system” for all?

  80. alamojag
    July 22, 2005 at 2:10 pm

    I’d like to get back to the issue of pride on this discussion. I am pretty certain that I am not richer or smarter than most of you–especially those who are posting. But I had scholarships to cover my tuition for undergrad and law school, and was able to work to pay for books and housing, so I think I did okay.

    As for pride? One of the kids in my freshman branch in Desert Towers was a Marriott–yes, one of those Marriotts. But there were LOTS of kids on our floor that acted like their daddies were hot stuff because they made so much money, and he was so quiet and unassuming that I didn’t associate him with the family until he complained one day that he had to attend “some stupid function honoring [his] grandfather.” Who turned out to be J Williard Marriott.

    We lost touch when we went on our missions (actually, we were never really very close), but the next time I saw him was after a basketball game in the building his grandfather paid for. I was coming up from one of the lower-level chair seats, and he was coming down from the nosebleed section. I have been a HUGE Marriott fan ever since.

  81. a random John
    July 22, 2005 at 2:14 pm


    That is the most interesting proposal I’ve seen for BYU in a long time! However I can assure you that under it some (many?) people would purposely sandbag themselves in order to do poorly enough to attend BYU.

    The international angle brings up a sore spot for me. Why doesn’t the Perpetual Education Fund fund college educations instead of trade schools? Isn’t a college education considered a “good investment”?


    I will admit that I felt a twinge of nerdly jealousy when I heard about the Star Wars game, but I was relieved to hear that there was no way I could have defeated the bishop. My own nerdiness is insignificant when compared to the power of Darth Busse.

  82. July 22, 2005 at 2:49 pm


    Your suggestion points to what has been bothering me about this thread. There’s something provincial in trying to lure the “best and the brightest” to BYU when BYU might not necessarily be the best place for the best and the brightest to be.

    If a Latter-day Saint high school student has the qualifications and desire to attend an Ivy League school, the Church should be just as willing to offer a scholarship to those top-tier students. Their presence as faithful Mormons on those campuses may do more for the Church and for them personally than having them come to BYU.

    I looked at the link and found the application laughable. Besides being culturally biased, which has been pointed out, I’m not sure what asking a student about her favorite TV show is supposed to measure.

    Asking the student to confirm that all the work is his or her own is a smart move though. As a fellow at the writing center I’ve helped countless Brown undergraduates in the last three years with their personal statements for law school, business school, and grad school. One student’s application was so abysmal that I basically re-wrote it for her. When she came back to thank me for getting her into Harvard and Georgetown I was more than a little uncomfortable.

  83. Swingline
    July 22, 2005 at 2:49 pm

    I did not get a Benson scholarship at BYU, but got a Trustees scholarship. Not being from Utah, I hadn’t heard of either scholarship, and was happy to get what I got there–which was similar to the scholarship I was offered from the state school I applied to (nobody had sat me down to explain why it might be important to apply to ivy-league schools). I was going to go to the state school, but actually prayed about that decision and felt I was supposed to go to BYU. So the scholarship didn’t get me there, but did make it easier to “follow the Spirit”.

    Once I got to BYU, there was a bit of snobbishness associated with talk about the Benson scholarship, but I didn’t really pay too much attention. I had a hot girlfriend and was preparing for a mission.

    When I left after my freshman year, I lost my Trustee’s Scholarship because I had to work for a year to earn my mission money…BYU would defer the scholarship while you served a mission, but not while you earned money to serve. Always thought that was strange. When I went back to BYU after the mission, I got a half-tuition Presidential Scholarship the first year, and then for my last two years got an Edwin S. Hinckley scholarship.

    BTW, I know a couple of Benson/Hunter/Hinckley Scholars who have left the Church after graduating from BYU–anyone have any info on how common that is? Thought it was a pretty sad waste of money–though I’m comforted to find out that it is maybe only 1/3 more of a waste than people who go inactive after only recieving the standard 2/3 Church education subsidy.

  84. A. Greenwood
    July 22, 2005 at 2:57 pm

    “Football-playing intellectuals aren’t the norm around these parts.”

    Can somebody tell me in what part of the bloggernacle they are the norm? That blog would be AWESOME.

  85. A. Greenwood
    July 22, 2005 at 3:00 pm

    C. Bushman,
    An interesting ivory-tower proposal. It wrongly assumes (1) that the best and the brightest are firm in the faith and would make great ambassadors to other places and (2) that there is no contribution to the Kingdom that can be made by the best and the brightest of the Saints rubbing shoulders with each other.

  86. A. Greenwood
    July 22, 2005 at 3:02 pm

    “If a Latter-day Saint high school student has the qualifications and desire to attend an Ivy League school, the Church should be just as willing to offer a scholarship to those top-tier students.”

    This is true ONLY if you assume that the Church’s sole purpose in giving scholarships is to give students the best opportunity for secular academic achievement. Don’t make that assumption.

  87. July 22, 2005 at 3:10 pm

    “If a Latter-day Saint high school student has the qualifications and desire to attend an Ivy League school, the Church should be just as willing to offer a scholarship to those top-tier students.”

    Adam: “This is true ONLY if you assume that the Church’s sole purpose in giving scholarships is to give students the best opportunity for secular academic achievement. Don’t make that assumption.”


    I didn’t make that assumption. In fact, the rest of what I said was :

    “Their presence as faithful Mormons on those campuses may do more for the Church and for them personally than having them come to BYU.”

    Secular academic achievement was not listed as a reason.

  88. Jonathan Green
    July 22, 2005 at 3:20 pm

    Claudia’s proposal is debatable on the details, but it really gets to the heart of BYU’s mission. Should it aspire to serve the best and brightest of LDS students, so that academic scholarships and an honors program and all the rest of the trappings of elitism make sense, or should BYU encourage LDS students who can get into Stanford to enroll at Stanford? I’m in favor of BYU having high aspirations, and I think it’s possible to get a great undergraduate education there. Others disagree.

    Swingline, I wanted the Benson scholars I helped select to take their religion seriously, even if that eventually led them elsewhere. I was actually more disappointed by one who stayed active but decided that school was more important than serving a mission.

    Melissa, being absolutely sure that you’re seeing what the student can do without help from anyone else is one more thing that on-campus interviews are good for. In my own courses, I weight in-class tests much more heavily for the same reason.

  89. Jim F
    July 22, 2005 at 3:26 pm

    Melissa (#83): I like the intent of Claudia’s suggestion, though I don’t know how I would go about implementing it–and I think there are goods to be gained by young members who come BYU, even those in the top 10%, so I would hesitate simply to say “no” to all of them. A wider selection distribution among the applicants could have a similar effect.

    However, you say, “If a Latter-day Saint high school student has the qualifications and desire to attend an Ivy League school, the Church should be just as willing to offer a scholarship to those top-tier students.” Perhaps the Church should be just as willing, but should BYU? To my knowledge, the Church doesn’t decide how scholarships are allocated at BYU, and the money allocated for scholarships of whatever kind comes from BYU’s budget. We don’t give scholarships to BYU-H or BYU-I. It would be odd for us to give scholarships to Harvard or Yale (especially considering how much such scholarships would cost).

  90. a random John
    July 22, 2005 at 3:30 pm


    And you are assuming that our best and brightest would falter without the BYU experience and are not good ambassadors of the faith. This has been hashed out repeatedly on the blogs. There was a Stanford-specific thread on M* a while ago in which I argued that those that are strong in the faith were stengthened by their experience there. The church and its members have nothing to fear from elite institutions.

    You are also assuming that the best and brightest saints aren’t rubbing shoulders with each other already at various institutions other than BYU. I can tell you that this assumption is flawed.

    The question of whether the church cares to fund eduction beyond church based schools is an interesting one though as is the question of what does the church get out of subsidizing some educations.

    Would the goals of BYU itself be well served by the church funding scholarships to a variety of institutions? I would say probably so based on the simple idea that putting all your eggs in one educational basket seems shortsighted. Encouraging members of the church to attend a variety of institutions would not only ease the demands placed on BYU but could be seen as part of the missionary program and even change the perception that the church is insular. Does that mean that the Hinckley Scholars of the future will be able to use their scholarship towards any institution they can get in to? I doubt it.

  91. Edna
    July 22, 2005 at 3:57 pm

    I like the comment posted by alamojag (#81). I would guess the purpose in not disclosing scholarships is to discourage arrogance and pride- which is often accompanies a merit based reward, and is not in accord with the spirit of BYU.

    In response to the question whether BYU should offer the scholarship, I would say that if a student wants to come to BYU, but has financial incentives to attend another school and finances are a concern, they would probably go to the other school. BYU can level the playing field by offering a scholarship.

    If a student receives a scholarship and doesn’t need the money, they should donate the money back to BYU. Of course no one can require or monitor this, but maybe it should be encouraged.

  92. July 22, 2005 at 3:58 pm

    Wouldn’t those up for Benson scholarships at BYU be fairly likely to get a wide range of scholarships at other schools? Every Benson scholar I’ve know was offered quite a few scholarships elsewhere – often full ride scholarships.

    Given that, what would be the benefit of offering a scholarship to go elsewhere? Isn’t the point to encourage people who might be thinking about Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, Yale or Princeton to come to BYU and by association improve the educational experience here?

  93. a random John
    July 22, 2005 at 4:06 pm


    Didn’t they used to publish the names and photos of the presidential scholarship winners in the Church News? I have no idea if this is still the case.


    It might surprise you to know that many serious academic schools do not offer academic scholarships. They offer financial aid, which might mysteriously be improved by “significant academic promise” but they don’t give out scholarships in the way that BYU does.

  94. Edna
    July 22, 2005 at 4:21 pm


    K, sorry, just going off some assumptions of earlier posts.


    It seems like the church is already contributing to education significantly. Why would they pay 10x their tuition amount to send someone to another school? BYU is running a school where a person could work and go to school full time and graduate with out any debt even if they paid full tuition (I did!). If you want to go to Harvard, why shouldn’t you shoulder the debt? Maybe I’m sounding a bit socialist.

    I never felt like BYU was trying to get better students to improve their image, but was trying to better educate and serve those they have.

  95. Robert Ricks
    July 22, 2005 at 4:27 pm

    “There’s something provincial in trying to lure the “best and the brightest” to BYU when BYU might not necessarily be the best place for the best and the brightest to be.”

    It seems a bit unfair to expect BYU not to go after the best students–however “best” is defined–they can get. I don’t think that’s provincial; that seems to be the name of the game in higher education.

    Personally, I don’t think BYU is the place for _all_ the “best and brightest,” but it is the best choice for some. Although I am sure there are anecdotes to the contrary (undue pressure from parents or church leaders to attend BYU), the official church rhetoric encourages members to get the best education they can, not simply to get the best they can at BYU. There is no reason to doubt that many Latter-day Saints have had positive experiences and made important contributions as undergraduates at other universities. I hope this trend continues. At the same time, I still believe BYU can offer an excellent education and that there are valid reasons for choosing to go there, even if it means passing on the chance to attend other universities. I hope that choice would not simply be considered provincial.

  96. A. Greenwood
    July 22, 2005 at 4:27 pm

    “And you are assuming that our best and brightest would falter without the BYU experience and are not good ambassadors of the faith”

    I am assuming that *some* of our best and brightest would falter. More precisely, I am presuming that some of our best and brightest (some of everyone, in fact) can’t falter because they don’t have anything to falter from. I am assuming that their religious views are largely inchoate, are susceptible to intellectual pressures, and need to be informed by experience. You can argue that there aren’t people like that, if you want, but I knew them. I was one of them.

    This is why I don’t favor Claudia Bushman’s proposal, in which the best and the brightest are not permitted to attend BYU. They need the place as much as anyone else.

  97. July 22, 2005 at 4:31 pm

    John, while some schools don’t give out aid, there are plenty of third party groups who do. But I will confess not knowing which schools give what kind of aid. As I said though, my friends I knew with Benson Scholarships didn’t appear to have any trouble getting their tuition potentially paid for at big name schools. They choose BYU primarily because of the religious issue, but I suspect that without scholarships that might have been a more difficult choice.

  98. July 22, 2005 at 4:55 pm

    President Hinckley has repeatedly commented that not all the Church’s young people can or should expect to go to BYU. Those who don’t wish to attend are welcome to go elsewhere. Those who wish to apply should be encouraged to give it a shot.

    If BYU cannot meet the needs of its undergraduates, then that is the fault of the faculty not living up to its students and should be corrected. I know from first-hand experience that BYU can provide phenomenal preperation for further study, if that is the goal of the department. Graduate school is where a lot of the specialized learning takes place anyway.

  99. Kaimi
    July 22, 2005 at 5:36 pm


    I’m not at all convinced that a person who would falter (however defined) if she went to Harvard would not also falter if she went to BYU. BYU is not a perfect retention tool.

    In addition, there may be something to be said for having one’s beliefs tested in a crucible of sorts rather than simply allowed to lie fallow at BYU.

    Not to say that Claudia’s idea is perfect. But I’m not at all convinced of your apparent belief that BYU is less hazardous for members than the Ivies.

  100. July 22, 2005 at 5:47 pm

    “BYU is not a perfect retention tool.”

    Let me know when you find one. I’ve got two little children at home I’d like to retain.

    Of course, BYU is probably much better than other schools for some people’s testimonies. Otherwise God would probably tell the Brethren to quit wasting hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

  101. Jim F.
    July 22, 2005 at 5:48 pm

    Kaimi (#100): I don’t have the figures at hand, but the last time I saw the comparisons between those who go to one of the BYUs and those who go to another institution that has Institute, the retention-in-the-Church rate was shockingly different, much higher at the BYUs than at other institutions. I doubt that anyone believes “BYU is a perfect retention tool,” but there is solid empirical evidence that any of the BYUs is less spiritually hazardous than other places.

    I don’t think that means everyone should go to a BYU. Instead, we need to improve the Institute experience and, particularly, and better socialize Mormon students at non-BYU institutions.

  102. Naomi Frandsen
    July 22, 2005 at 6:07 pm

    I’ve been roundly beaten to the punch, but for the sake of joining in the fray, here are my thoughts (using as many cliches as I can find):
    (1) I don’t think there should be any stigma attached either to being a Presidential Scholar or, if it’s relevant to the conversation or issue, to talking about it. Since I’m not one of this elite group, I think I can say this without the charge of self-promotion. I think it’s something to be proud of and grateful for–it seems strange that someone should work hard, be rewarded generously, and then say “Okay, now that the Church has paid for my college education, let’s never talk about it again.” It seems like a gesture of that magnitude would make one want to be at least occasionally public in their gratitude. Conversely, I don’t think non-scholarship recipients should have sour grapes about it (be sour grapes? eat sour grapes? It turns out I don’t know my cliches very well). Sure, it’s hard not to laugh secretly at someone who talks about themselves all the time and thinks they’re the best thing in the world. Like JKS said in #31, that’s just rude. But why all the vitriol? Hey, people who work out a lot get to parade their hot bodies, and people who practice music a lot get to perform–why shouldn’t smart people get to have their strengths be a part of how people perceive them, too? Actually, that’s largely a moot point–usually you can appreciate how clever someone is within the first few minutes of conversation. But I think the reason elitism and intelligence is sometimes controversial in Church circles is because there can occasionally be a tendency to equate intelligence to righteousness. This is false. (okay, D&C definitions of intelligence excepted). As has been pointed out, some presidential scholars or other scholarship recipients later go inactive–I can think of three off the top of my head among my acquaintance at BYU. Anyway, that’s that.
    (2) Maybe there should be another thread about people who decided to apply to or attend Ivy League schools. I personally didn’t apply to any–something which I think I regret a little. But I, for one, would like to know what those students would think about Claudia’s proposal. And I’d like to hear about all of the secret elitism going on among those Ivy League Mormons. It’s gotta be even worse than among Presidential Scholars, right?

  103. Mark B.
    July 22, 2005 at 6:08 pm

    Jim raises an interesting point re: retention rates.

    It would be more interesting if the data were controlled for factors such as:

    Marriage in the temple/within the church
    Family membership (are one/both/neither parents of the student members of the church?)
    Time as a church member (born in the covenant, recent convert?)

    It may be that the first is a better predictor of future activity in the church than what college/university a person attended. If that’s the case, then we need to have better Institutes, better efforts at “clustering” students at certain state or regional schools, and better luck.

  104. A. Greenwood
    July 22, 2005 at 6:09 pm

    “I’m not at all convinced that a person who would falter (however defined) if she went to Harvard would not also falter if she went to BYU.”

    Maybe you missed the part in my comment where I outed myself as one such person. Next.

  105. Naomi Frandsen
    July 22, 2005 at 6:12 pm

    Jim–I think improving the Institute experience is key here. In the last couple of years, I’ve witnessed the disaffection–not de-activating, but still–of one of my fellow students in our Institute class because of the way the discussion constantly privileged authority over inquiry. Perhaps that’s a good thing to privilege, but I think the discussion could have been handled a little better, and I wondered if maybe our teacher didn’t exactly know how to relate to this student. I think the presence of an LDS professor teaching at the university could be absolutely key to retaining LDS students–which means that we need to start placing a lot more Mormon Ph.Ds at prestigious schools. Any volunteers?

  106. Robert Ricks
    July 22, 2005 at 6:31 pm

    “In addition, there may be something to be said for having one’s beliefs tested in a crucible of sorts rather than simply allowed to lie fallow at BYU.”

    Kaimi–there may indeed be something to the crucible idea, but why do you think one’s beliefs lie fallow at BYU? That wasn’t my experience, and it seems more than a bit unfair.

    Naomi, you’re not talking about my poor Institute attendance, are you? :) (I’m guessing not, although I did have similar issues with the class.)

    arJ–totally off topic, but I thought you might read this. I recently read through an old bcc thread about random encounters with missionaries. You talked about running into two elders in Florence and buying them pizza. Was this in July or August of 1998? I think I was one of those missionaries. Small world.

  107. Chad too
    July 22, 2005 at 6:45 pm

    Robert, good to see you here! I was one of the College Bowlers too. Please tell your parents hello from me.

    I didn’t attend BYU for my one pre-mission year, thus I took myself out of the running for any of the scholarships, presidential or otherwise.

    Other than hanging out with so many of the scholarship winners on the College Bowl team, my experience with Benson scholars is unique: I was teamed up with one as a mission companion. Same city, ten months together, 24-7. Given than we could finish each other’s sentences without blinking by the end, I think I should have at least gotten my books and tuition included with his when I got back to the Y post-mission. ;-)

  108. Edna
    July 22, 2005 at 6:46 pm

    It seems the discussion is saying that students who have other options should choose BYU so they stay in the church.

    Perhaps a larger portion of those who choose to go to other schools are already more likely to leave the church? The people who are less interested in the church are not likely to choose to go to BYU, though some feel coerced to and will end up there. This may explain the statistic.

    I can’t think of any of the better known church leaders who have gone to BYU- it looks like they turned out OK as far as loyalty to the church. I’ve wondered if this “crucible of sorts” is likely to create extrems- those more likely to be very strong and those that will fall away.
    Anyhow, I’ve very happy I went to BYU, and that I’ve lived other places with few members, too.

  109. JKS
    July 22, 2005 at 7:01 pm

    Kids should go to BYU if that is what they want to do. Kids who don’t want to go to BYU but want to go somewhere else should go to their school of choice.

  110. a random John
    July 22, 2005 at 7:17 pm


    You’re going to have to flesh out your anecdote a bit more. Did you split yourself in two, and have one of you attend BYU and the other attend Harvard?

    In any case, I know several people that were strong in the faith, went to BYU, became inactive there, left, and then became active again going to another school. Of course these anectdotes are about meaningless.


    I’d love to see figures on kids that applied to BYU, went to Ivies, and activity rates. I can tell you that the people that went inactive at Stanford did so before they got there and would never have considered BYU.

  111. A. Greenwood
    July 22, 2005 at 7:24 pm

    “You’re going to have to flesh out your anecdote a bit more. Did you split yourself in two, and have one of you attend BYU and the other attend Harvard?”

    One time I was in a car that nearly went off a mountainous curve. I’m willing to suggest that if it had gone farther I would have died, without creating an alternate one of myself to go through with the experiment. If we took your approach, self-knowledge would be impossible.

    “In any case, I know several people that were strong in the faith, went to BYU, became inactive there, left, and then became active again going to another school. Of course these anecdotes are about meaningless.”

    When the contention is merely that *some* people benefit from being in a faithful environment, anecdotes are meaningful.

  112. a random John
    July 22, 2005 at 7:54 pm


    You seem to have arrived at this point in your life with your faith intact despite your educational experience, which doesn’t seem to make you a shining example of the evils of elite schools. This is, unless I have formed a completely inaccurate picture of you in my mind. More details to flesh out your example would be appreciated since it currently doesn’t prove your point.

  113. Kaimi
    July 22, 2005 at 10:42 pm


    Your initial assertion “I was one of them” does not necessarily translate to your later conclusion “they need the place.” Absent analysis, we don’t know if you were an outlier of sorts. We also don’t know if the overall net effect of CB’s proposal would be more retention, less retention, or a wash.

    Not that your experience itself isn’t a valid story. But if for every Adam who would do better attending BYU there is an Eve who would do better going elsewhere, then you still haven’t established that Claudia’s proposal would have a harmful effect.

    If Jim’s statistics bear that out, it’s a different story.

  114. Travis Oliphant
    July 23, 2005 at 12:04 am

    I was one of the finalists in 1989 as well, so reading this post has been a bit of a nostalgic trip. I did not receive the award (although another student from my school did). I was probably bitter for a few moments, but I soon accepted the results in stride. Ultimately, I went to the University of Utah where I received quite a bit more money and had some fastastic experiences (including a singing tour to Church historical sites with the Institute Choire). Ironically, perhaps, after my mission I transferred to BYU largely due to a strong desire to sing with the University Singers.

    For me, the recovery from the disappointing outcome of the interview process took less than a few minutes. Sure, I have reflected now and then how different things might have been had I received the scholarship, but I have always been grateful for the path my life has taken.

    Unfortunately, perhaps because I did not receive the scholarship, I did not reflect on the interview process more. As a result, I only vaguely remember the people that were present during the interviews. I wonder if I still have a copy of that picture somewhere to connect names with faces….

    Best regards,


  115. Emma Marsh
    July 23, 2005 at 2:15 am

    You are spot on with this:
    “In addition, there may be something to be said for having one’s beliefs tested in a crucible of sorts rather than simply allowed to lie fallow at BYU.”

    But let’s take it a little further…

    Here’s what’s bugging me. There’s seems to be a general belief held by students/parents/bishops, etc, that once your kid to BYU they will be ‘okay’ (or to go further ‘saved’). We often hear ‘get that kid to BYU and get him on a mission and he’ll be fine’. Perhaps the logic goes something like BYU=no sin=testimony=life-long commitment to the church, etc. As for me, I didn’t go to BYU because I felt like I needed to be in a place where no one else was going to bug me about going to church. Some weeks I went, some weeks I didn’t, but ultimately, I was forced into making a proactive decision and gaining a testimony (or deciding to jump ship for the rest of my life, which was a viable option). I also relate to the student Naomi is talking about in #106, I wanted to be some place where questioning was the norm, because I already had lots of questions about the church before I went to college. Also, For those that went to BYU, do you feel like it would have been as easy place to go through the motions, without really pushing yourself to ‘find out for yourself’?

    Adam, all you seem to be saying is that BYU was the right school for me (meaning you), because somewhere else I probably would’ve gone off the cliff. Does that mean you needed the protective environment of BYU, or that you needed others there to help you build your faith, and that you personally think you needed that support? I, too, would like more examples, of why you feel your results can be ascribed to others.

  116. JKS
    July 23, 2005 at 3:32 am

    I wasn’t aware of the “general belief held by students/parents/bishops, etc, that once your kid to BYU they will be ‘okay’ (or to go further ’saved’). ” I guess that would be annoying if you weren’t wanting to go to BYU. I have heard of parents forcing/blackmailing kids into going to BYU, but I thought it was less of a problem nowadays since some kids don’t get in so there is less social pressure to go to BYU.
    I know several people who went inactive while at BYU and have been ever since (including my sister)–these were all “good mormons” through high school with no rebellion agains the church in the teen years. I figure it was because it was the first time they lived away from home and wanted to make different decisions. Or maybe it was because they felt uncomfortable being with all those mormons, when they had been so unique in their religion in their life before.

  117. Blake
    July 24, 2005 at 3:23 pm

    I’m always surprised when I’m around really bright people (def. someone brighter than me) at how dumb they can be. I was offerred a 4 year, full-ride debate scholarship to BYU. I was excited. I told my then-girlfriend and she was excited too. Then she said something that changed my life profoundly: “Blake, that’s great! You’re the best debater I’ve ever seen. You’ll do great. There’s only one problem.” I was stunned back to reality. “A problem,” I stammered? “Yeah,” she said, “debate makes you a jerk.” I was stunned by the sheer truth. I knew that she was right. Debate did make me a jerk and I was afraid it wouldn’t even take debate to keep me one. So I turned down the scholarship offer. I didn’t debate. Now of course it doesn’t follow that I lived happily ever-after as non-jerk, but I have no doubt I am less of a jerk than otherwise I would have been. (Can you imagine how bad it would be if I had debated?)

    The moral of the story (OK, this story really isn’t moral) is that I went to BYU for the right reasons: to date a lot of girls and attend football games. I did just that and had a great time and ate lots of cookies that I didn’t have to bake for myself. Ahhh, the good life.

    I teach philosophy from time to time on campus (whenever I’m invited) and the first thing I notice is how serious all the students are. It’s like life could be found in a book or personal meaning in being smart. So I begin every class the same way: “Get a life! Loosen Up! Have some fun! Let go! Live a little — and then live a little more!” I highly recommend something really stupid and exciting like dancing with the opposite sex, bungee jumping, motocross racing or dressing up as janitors and cleaning the windows to the Kimball Tower. For those offered 4 year scholarships, I say give them to someone whose parents are rich and who otherwise couldn’t afford to attend a decent school.

  118. July 24, 2005 at 4:21 pm

    So is that why you never became a trial attorney Blake? (grin)

    I do think that is a danger for intellectually oriented people, as well as a large divide between some intellectuals and more “regular people.” Those of you who knew me back in the early 90’s knew it was something I had to grapple with. Hopefully I’ve overcome it.

  119. Rosalynde Welch
    July 25, 2005 at 10:21 am

    Young people who excel in school are often morbidly insecure (I was and am)—although whether this is cause or effect of the constant stream of achievement validation from external sources of authority I can’t say. This may explain in part the strange valence of the scholarship at BYU, and the ambivalent attitudes of its recipients. I sometimes told people about the scholarship, and sometimes didn’t: I told if I was trying to impress a smart boy, and I didn’t tell if I was trying to impress a not-as-smart boy. What I learned too late, of course, was that in general the smarter the boy, the less impressed he was with academically-accomplished girls (with a few notable and exemplary exceptions, several of whom read and post at T&S).

    I don’t remember much about the interview process, although overall it was a positive experience. My clearest memory of the event is of standing crying in the dressing room of Marshall’s before the interview, where I was shopping for appropriate clothing for the occasion with my mother. I considered myself fat and ugly, as always, and I wept to my mother that I was sure the committee would favor pretty girls. In the end, though, I guess I was wrong, or I was prettier than I thought; another of the recipients that year was Miss Junior Utah (or some such title).

  120. Mathew
    July 25, 2005 at 11:57 am


    I would be interested to hear what leads you to believe that the smarter the boy the less impressed he is with academically accomplished girls. Your experiences sound so different from mine. I’ve known a lot of smart boys who seemed to place a high priority on dating accademically accomplished women. Most also placed a high priority on looks (who doesn’t?), but would not seriously date someone who was not intellectually interesting/challenging. I’m just guessing here, but I think what I observed is more likely to be the rule than what you observed. If you place a premium on personally succeeding academically, it seems natural to me that you would look for the same thing in a mate (speaking of marrying within one’s culture!).

    FWIW, I realize that in some sense the line I chose to focus was a throw away comment, but the idea intrigues me. I’m not trying to lure you into a gender bash here:)

  121. Rosalynde Welch
    July 25, 2005 at 12:29 pm

    Mathew: In short, nothing but my own highly anecdotal and quite possibly idiosyncratic experience—which may very well say more about my own drawbacks as a dating partner than about what smart boys want. Like you, I’ve known a lot of smart boys who value academic accomplishment in dating and marriage partners–in fact, I married one, and most of my women friends who were Benson scholars married men like that, as well. But the men we married—again, in nothing but my own limited observation—did not tend to be early-blooming academic superstars; they tended to be very smart and interesting men who came into their own in college and graduate school, and thus weren’t the SAT and high-school scholarship champs who were awarded the Benson scholarships. (And smart women, of course, have their own set of quirks and blind-spots in looking for marriage partners, too.) And given my experience with marriage, maybe this sort of social pairing is precisely as it should be, since I and my friends have had very rewarding experiences in marriage so far.

    I have some theories on why this is so, but obviously my own experience is inadequate as grounds.

  122. Mark B.
    July 25, 2005 at 1:01 pm

    This is a late response to Edna’s comment about prominent Church leaders who attended BYU.

    Elder Packer received an Ed.D. from BYU.

    Elder Oaks graduated from BYU in 1954.

    Elder Holland received both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from BYU.

    Elder Bednar received both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from BYU.

  123. Mathew
    July 25, 2005 at 1:01 pm

    I see that we were talking about two different animals–you were talking about smart boys; I was referring to smart men. High school academic achievers verses late blooming academic achievers. I can’t speak to that since I don’t know how the history of most of the people I’m thinking of. As a former high school teacher I can say that a lot of high achieving high schoolers deal with their insecurities in strange ways, but so do low achieving high schoolers. I had assumed it was something you out grow. Maybe not.

  124. Julie in Austin
    July 25, 2005 at 1:35 pm

    Wow, RW, I am evidience for your theory: I was an ‘early blooming academic’ with the usual high school honors; my husband very much a ‘late blooming academic.’

  125. July 25, 2005 at 1:55 pm

    I was not a Benson scholar. Nevertheless, in this comment I will take on the challenge of demonstrating that, when occasion requires, I can be as “stuck up” and “full of [myself]” as any presidential scholar. (Just teasing, you elite presidentials out there!)

    I applied, but did not make the final interviews. In the abstract I might have thrown up my hands and not thought much of it, but in this case I chafed because of a local comparison: I, the high school valedictorian and Academic Summit Award winner, did not even rate an interview, while a young woman a few notches down in our high school graduating class’s ranking became a Benson scholar.

    As it so happened, at the time I perceived the hand of the Lord in this outcome. In the best Old Testament and modern Mormon tradition of regarding material prosperity as diagnostic of divine favor, I ended up having the opportunity to shoot a Snickers commercial the very same weekend of the finalist interviews. The tens of thousands “earned” from the commercial far outweighed the miniscule (if any) difference in payout between the Presidential Scholarship and the second-tier one I ended up receiving.

  126. Jed
    July 25, 2005 at 2:06 pm

    Rosalynde and Julie: The combinations come in all shapes and sizes. My wife was a Trustees Scholar (4-yr tuition) at BYU but was not particularly “academic” in high school or college. She did not go to graduate school right away but got a job teaching school. Now three years removed from college, she is starting to read widely and develop positions on contemporary issues. So she is both an early bloomer AND a late bloomer.

    I think of myself in the same way: late and early. It all depends on the specific measure of “academic inclination.”

  127. Ivan Wolfe
    July 25, 2005 at 2:22 pm

    And then there are those of us mediocre academics who marry really smart women to make up for our percieved mediocrity. Like me. My wife had a very high GPA (over 4.0 because of Honors classes) in high school and a better than mine in college, got better academic scholarships than I did and overall was more widely read. Me, I did okay.

    Then when we graduated from BYU, and it was time to go to grad school, I tried to convince her that she should go, since she was smarter – and she pulled out “the man is the breadwinner and has to support the family.” She says she’ll try grad school once the kids are older.

    So here’s to us secondary intellects!!!!!

  128. JKS
    July 25, 2005 at 4:02 pm

    My brother’s plan was to find very tall, large woman to have children with (to compensate for his lack of a large frame) so he could have football playing sons.

  129. Ivan Wolfe
    July 25, 2005 at 4:54 pm

    JKS —

    In my case, I am 6’1″ and big boned. So I married a lady who was 6’2″ and bigger boned. We joke that we are part of a government program to breed a race of super intelligent giants for their army (did I mention we’re sci-fi geeks as well?).

    Our kids are well into the 99th percentile for height for their age (our second kid is off the charts – he would be something like 103rd percentile for height and weight combined – and he has a very lean frame – almost no fat at all – I’m jealous actually).

    So our kids may play football or basketball, but likely not gymnastics. I’m gonna try to push them towards wrestling, but with all the cuts due to Title IX compliance, that may not be around when they get to that age.

  130. JKS
    July 25, 2005 at 7:02 pm

    Nice to meet someone with giant children as well. All our kids have a nice growth curve….its just that it’s above that 99 percentile curve they have printed on the chart.
    I visited my friends family while out of state. They babysat my children. Her kids are small sized, 5 percentile and below. So, they wondered why my 1 year old son wasn’t acting his size like a normal 3+ year old. My friend said, “He’s a baby. He’s just really big because his parents are big.”
    The 5 year old’s eyes opened wide, “Is he a giant baby? Are his parents giants!??”

  131. A. Greenwood
    July 25, 2005 at 7:06 pm

    “I went to BYU for the right reasons: to date a lot of girls and attend football games.”

    I hear you, brother.

  132. Brian G
    July 26, 2005 at 3:57 pm

    I somehow managed to con BYU into giving me a Benson Scholarship way back in 1990. To this day I’m pretty sure I was an alternate, the thirteenth or fourteenth person on the list; it took BYU forever to notify me and I just want to publicly thank that brilliant kid with the shaggy hair for deciding to go to Brown instead.

    During my entire time at BYU I was a closet Benson scholar. My freshman year I was constantly hearing people say things like, “I knew a Benson scholar, but he wasn’t really that smart,” or “This Benson scholar I know is such a stuck-up know-it-all.” To admit to being a Benson scholar seemed like a classic lose-lose situation, it seemed like people were bound to think you were too dumb or too smart and I was pretty sure the first category was where I’d end up.

    I already felt like I’d snuck away with the thing and I didn’t want people to check the records and realize a clerical error had been made. I had heard that keeping a Benson scholarship was harder than getting one and I figured that if a lot of people knew I had it then I’d really look stupid if I lost it—and I came closer than I’d like to admit.

    Plus, to be honest, I felt guilty about having it. Part of the reason I wanted it was because I felt the only way my friends in high school would understand me choosing to go to BYU over one of the other colleges I’d been accepted to would be if I had this really impressive scholarship to point to, which was a pretty poor motivation, I know, hence, the guilt.

    Even after traveling to Provo I wasn’t convinced that it was where I wanted to go and by the time I found out I got the scholarship I had to decide right there on the phone whether I wanted to accept it or not. I accepted it, but in retrospect, as with any big decision, it would have been nice to have some more time to think things through. I felt like I was taking the spot of one of those great guys I had met and unlike me they were really gung-ho about BYU and a lot of them didn’t want to go anywhere else and quite a few hadn’t even applied to other schools.

    My guilt grew over the course of my freshman year because nearly every devotional or orientation activity was about how lucky and blessed I was to be at the Y, and how hard it was to get in, and how there were so many good LDS kids that wanted to go there, but couldn’t. All those speeches just made me feel like I’d weaseled my way into a better, more grateful person’s spot, and I might as well try to transfer. In fact, by the end of the year I figured that’s exactly what I’d do after I got back from my mission, but by the time I got back I had gotten over myself finally and stopped worrying about things so much.

    In the end I became deeply grateful for the scholarship and in all honesty it was a significant turning point in my life in spite of all the mixed emotions it produced. For a long time I figured God had a hand in me getting the scholarship and that if I hadn’t won it I probably wouldn’t have gone to BYU, and may not have gone on a mission, or stayed active in the church, or met my wonderful wife, but I now recognize that as a really arrogant idea. God was surely watching out for those other boys that didn’t get the scholarship as much as he was me. Now that I’m older I figure it wasn’t so much God as thinking fast on my feet that helped me finish in thirteenth or fourteenth place. It’s hard to be proud of yourself when you chalk up an accomplishment to divine intervention. So although I’ve lost my belief that God dictated the course of my young life, I’ve gained a sense of accomplishment as a result of my own effort and talent and I can finally step out of the closet and join Jonathan and the others on this thread and proudly say I was a Benson Scholar too.

  133. Brian G
    July 26, 2005 at 4:22 pm

    I know that last comment was way too long, but…

    For what it’s worth, I think the new application is poorly done, but if they eventually improve it and keep giving out 50 scholarships the new process will be better for all involved. The smart kids can bond in a lot of healthier ways besides cutthroat competition. The 10 to 5 percent of kids who are seriously considering other schools can have time to do so and not feel guilty about it if they make another choice, or suffer from any second thoughts or misgivings if they ultimately choose BYU.

    I remember the evaluation process vividly and my impression was any kid that was shy, soft-spoken, or modest was at a distinct disadvantage. It was definitely a time to step up and grab some limelight without being obnoxious. For me the most nerve-wracking thing was eating dinner with professors, probably because I have bad table manners and a propensity to spill things. Anyhow, I feel like shy kids will definitely fare better on paper. To the organizers credit I do remember them making an effort to get feedback from the finalists on how the process could be improved.

    I also felt like there was a definite effort to suss out the spirituality of candidates, and I don’t know that this is either appropriate or can even be done. I know one finalist who along with her mother believed very strongly that she didn’t get the scholarship because she frankly and honestly shared her concerns over polygamy. She eventually went inactive. A lot of these kinds of problems can be avoided with the new system. No one will end up kicking themselves for years over having said the wrong thing.

    Even though I can get behind the new system I’ll remain nostalgic about the old. I remember one professor asking me to explain the difference between the nature of man and the natural man in a one-on-one interview, that was a tough question for my 18-year old pea brain. I also remember going in alone to face a giant semi-circle of professors; it was like a firing squad. They just peppered me with questions until I finally admitted ignorance and I guess that was the point. Now over four times as many kids will get scholarships, ultimately,that’s nothing to sneeze at.

  134. Travis Anderson
    July 26, 2005 at 6:35 pm

    I suspect that part of the reason why so many intellectually gifted students at BYU were (and still are) reluctant to disclose that fact, in any number of ways, is because they perceive, quite rightly, that ironic as it may be given what we claim to believe about the relationship between godliness and intelligence, Mormons today (in an intriguing reversal of what used to be the case in the early church) are culturally suspicious of intellectual achievement. My colleagues and I have often observed that had we received a buck for every time we’ve heard cliched concerns about the “philosophies of men” delivered with earnest gravity whenever members found out we were professional philosophers, we’d all be rich men. And since Elder Packard’s comments years ago about the 3 great enemies of the Church, one of which was intellectualism, I’ve had numerous students openly worry about whether to pursue higher education in any academic discipline as obviously intellectual as philosophy. And then there are the more tacit signals, like the fact that at BYU the monetary value of football “scholarships” and related perks far outweigh those attached to any academic awards, or that sports stars, entertainers and beauty queens are those who commonly figure into sacrament meeting talks and general conference addresses, and who make public appearances beside the prophet, not people with academic accomplishments under their belt. At an Ivy League school intellectual achievement is a badge of honor; among many Mormons it’s an oddity at best and a cause for outright concern at worst. Admittedly, things are much better in this regard than they were when I was an undergrad, but the stigma still persists and is reinforced in countless ways within Mormon sub-culture–Blake’s comments (above) being a case in point.

  135. Jim F.
    July 26, 2005 at 6:43 pm

    Travis (#134): Just one quibble. You say “At BYU the monetary value of football “scholarships” and related perks far outweigh those attached to any academic awards.

    I’m all but certain that it ain’t so. As I understand it, the “special talent” awards (theater, visual arts, etc.) are roughly equal to the athletic awards. If you add in the other academic scholarships, the academic ones outweigh the athletic ones. Indeed, though I don’t have the figures to back up the claim, I would be willing to bet that the academic scholarship are equal to or greater than the athletic ones without taking into account the talent scholarships.

  136. Aaron Brown
    July 26, 2005 at 6:45 pm

    Brian G said:
    “During my entire time at BYU I was a closet Benson scholar.”

    Well you weren’t as deep in the closet as you think, Brian, because I distinctly remember knowing you were a Benson scholar during our Freshman year. I can’t remember who told me, but somebody did.

    Aaron B

  137. Travis Anderson
    July 26, 2005 at 6:56 pm

    Jim, not so. Not even close. At least it wasn’t last time I was in the loop. It is true that football scholarships were lumped in with other talent awards, but the general consensus was that such category divisions were made mostly to hide the amount going to football. No talent awards in any area outside of football even came close to having equal monetary value. And you can argue parity only if you add up the total amount devoted to academic awards (which is distributed among huge numbers of students) vs. the total amount dedicated to sports (which is distributed among relatively few individuals); if you parse it out as average amount per individiual recipient, the sports awards are many times greater in value

  138. Mark B.
    July 26, 2005 at 6:58 pm

    Well, if you throw in the hotel room on the night before home games, I guess that the football awards are worth more. Unless, of course, the music scholars get a similar perk on the night before a performance, or a Smith/Lee/Kimball/Benson/Hunter/Hinckley scholar gets a free hotel room before the big exam.

  139. Jim F.
    July 26, 2005 at 7:08 pm

    Travis, since the top 5% of BYU’s entering first-year students receive presidential scholarships and approximately 9,000-10,000 students receive academic scholarships of some kind (including the presidential scholarships) while only about 500 students receive athletic scholarships, it is almost certain that the total for the 10,000 is significantly greater than that for the 500. Average amount per student? That’s much harder to say, but you’re probably right. It is probably true that the average for academic scholarships is less than that for athletics. But that is partly the effect of having so many more academic scholarships than athletic ones.

  140. Travis Anderson
    July 26, 2005 at 7:11 pm

    We have many more English professors at BYU than Philosophy professors. I’ve noticed that’s not a compelling excuse to pay us more.

  141. Brian G
    July 26, 2005 at 7:22 pm

    I’d be interesting in seeing some hard numbers in relation to what Jim and Travis are discussing.

    Although the sum of all academic scholarships may be greater than the sum of all athletic scholarships (especially now if they’re giving out 50 presidential scholarships a year) this doesn’t mean the top academic scholarship which is what the Presidential scholarship is, is greater than the top athletic scholarship, or even a run-of-the-mill athletic scholarship. My understanding when I was at the Y was that there were many athletic scholarships that included much more than what the Benson scholarship did. In fact, I recall that the Presidential Scholarship was always referred to as the top “academic” scholarship BYU offered, and I figured it was because it wasn’t just the plain ole top scholarship they offered–meaning athletes and others had larger scholarships available.

    Of course, I could have been misinformed, and I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but it is an interesting issue and if there’s a true discrepancy it strikes me as odd. If an academic institution is willing to reward its top athletes more than its top scholars that says something. I am comfortable if the rationale is that athletes bring more attention and glory to the school than the scholars do. I’m sure they do bring that attention to the school in a shorter time frame, i.e. they represent a quicker return on the investment. However, what I really feel explains the discrepancy, if in fact there is one, is that BYU can simply attract top scholars for less money than is necessary to attract top athletes, after all 95% of Presidential Finalists attend BYU whether they win a scholarship or not, largely I suspect out of spiritual motivation. This leads me to one aspect of BYU’s scholarship policy that I find disturbing: in effect students willingness to attend the school for spiritual reasons translates into smaller monetary awards for talented students of all varieties.

  142. Jim F.
    July 26, 2005 at 7:25 pm

    Travis: Huh? The point is not that one group is given more because it is smaller, but that the variation in the academic scholarships accounts for the difference in the average more than does unequal treatment.

    Consider an example. Suppose that you have 100 people, each of whom is given $100, and another group of 1,000 people who are given various amounts: 100 are given $100, 100 are given $75 100 are given $50, and 700 are given $25. The average gift to the first group will be $100 and the average gift to the second group will be considerably less, but it doesn’t follow that the first group is being treated better than the second. (And I’ll bet that the average salary in the Philosophy Department is considerably higher than that in English–because the average time at BYU of philosophy profs is much higher than that of English profs.)

    I don’t know how many full scholarships are available for academics or how many are available for athletics. There may well be more of the latter than the former, though the 100 or so Hinckley Presidential scholarships of 150% tuition surely does a lot to equal out the numbers. But it is a lot harder to be sure of the inequity in scholarships you claim than your observations assume.

  143. Brian G
    July 26, 2005 at 7:30 pm

    In response to your comment, Aaron.

    As you know, it’s difficult to keep a secret in Chipman Hall. Keep in mind I kept your secrets all these years, so just keep keeping mine.

    No, seriously, I just hope whoever outed me said, “…not only that, but he’s down-to-earth, funny, spiritual, and a fine-looking man. No wonder, the ladies can’t get enough.”

  144. Jim F.
    July 26, 2005 at 7:33 pm

    Brian G: I don’t think either Travis or I is going to be able to get the hard numbers that would resolve this. Like any other Church institution, the general attitude when it comes to money is “Mostly none of your business.”

    As for whether academic scholarships should be higher: the Church has consistently urged BYU to use the money it has available for academic scholarships to provide opportunities to more students rather than to provide more money for a few. Since the funds are finite, giving more money to talented students would mean giving fewer students scholarships of any kind. Besides, though it has become almost a mantra in these kinds of discussions, it remains true that the Church underwrites students’ attendance at BYU by 2/3. That’s a pretty hefty scholarship for every student who attends.

    Note: The money for athletic scholarships and that for academic scholarships don’t come from the same pot. The former comes from BYU’s general funds. The latter comes from gate receipts, television income, etc. brought in by the athletic programs. No one’s tithing money goes to support athletic scholarships, but it does support academic ones.

  145. Brian G
    July 26, 2005 at 8:01 pm

    Those are great points, Jim. You make some great distinctions.

    For better or worse, money is a measure of how much talent is valued. So in my mind saying top scholars should get more money is equivalent to saying they should be valued more. It is not an expression of ingratitude for the subsidy of 2/3 every student gets, or is it indifference to other students that might not have an opportunity, or is it disrespect for the fact the money comes from sacred tithing funds. For me, it’s an issue of valuing the top minds of our faith and culture when they’re young, and futhermore, making a statement that intellectuals are of value to us. It is my experience that people go where they’re valued most. Elsewhere you’ve pointed out that statistically people who attend BYU are much more likely to stay active in the church, so my position is simply that it might just be money well spent and advantageous to building up the kingdom in the long run to keep those great minds around and make them feel valued.

  146. Travis Anderson
    July 26, 2005 at 8:02 pm

    We’ve drifted a bit downstream from the point I was trying to make about Mormon attitudes toward intellectual achievement–and I’m not seeing how which pot the money comes from addresses that issue at all (though I remain skeptical that the pots can be so neatly distinguished, given that tithing funds ultimately underwrite everything here, including the activities and infrastructure that generate the sports dollars and contributions that are so often subsequently cited, without any hard evidence, as completely independent funds that would be totally lost to the university without football–which I still suspect eats up more money than it exclusively generates).

  147. Nathan Oman
    July 26, 2005 at 8:19 pm

    No doubt this is just another evidence of my social obtuseness, but I question the whole premise on which this discussion is based. I got a Benson scholarship, and I don’t recall telling a lot of people about the fact. However, this was not because I felt some secret shame or worried about the sort of anti-intellectual social derision that seems to torture Travis’s soul. I just assumed that generally speaking it is in bad taste to give people your resume in a social setting, that by and large nobody was all that interested, and regularlly bragging about getting some scholarship made you a prick. On the other hand, I felt no particular shame when people found out and I didn’t regard it as a scarlet letter of some sort. Travis points out that other institutions such as Harvard intellectual distinction is a badge of honor. There is probably some truth to it. But it is also worth remembering that many of the people who go to Harvard are terrifically insecure, and their greater enthusiasm about sharing their resumes may well be a mark of pyschological problems as much as anything.

  148. gst
    July 26, 2005 at 8:27 pm

    Nate: For the record, I resent your achievement.

  149. Nathan Oman
    July 26, 2005 at 8:35 pm

    gst: But I already knew that you didn’t like me ;->…

  150. Brian G
    July 26, 2005 at 11:28 pm

    I think you’re right, Nate. I didn’t talk about being a Benson scholar for many of the same reasons you cite. I was 18 and insecure and in a new social environment. I guess insecurity makes some people clam up about their achievements and it makes others, people with psychological problems at Harvard, for example, blab on about them.

    For the record, I don’t think reluctance to admit to being a Benson scholar proves there’s a strain of anti-intellectualism at BYU. Fortunately, or rather unfortunately, if we wanted to build that case we’d have other examples to choose from.

    Although the shyness on the part of Benson scholars to talk about their scholarships is only tangentially related to this recent discussion, I think it’s hard to argue that how an educational institution distributes its scholarship funds doesn’t speak directly to what they value and want to encourage in a student body.

  151. Jonathan Green
    July 27, 2005 at 3:11 am

    Nate, I think your reaction to being a Benson scholar may have been different because your trajectory towards academic accomplishment was probably much different than many others. You’ve written before about the reasons you misspell words, so you likely missed out on the experience of being the only one in elementary school to get called up in front of the class to the teacher’s desk, week after week, to pick out your sticker. The caterpillar with your name on it on the classroom wall, with body segments representing each book you’d read, probably didn’t double the length of the next longest. Maybe you were a standout in math, I don’t remember the whole story, so maybe your teacher handed you your own textbook and sent you to the back of the class for a year while he covered the grade-level work with the rest of the class. Or maybe not. Repeating that experience or something like it every year in grade school affects you. You both desire and dread it. You want to be recognized for your accomplishment, but you don’t want anyone else to find out–anti-intellectual social derision is much worse in fourth grade than in high school, and mostly gone by college (but I bet you actually could find a few examples there, if you dug a little). I never mentioned my scholarship for the same reasons you mention, but keeping that aspect of my life out of plain sight was also deeply ingrained long before I got to BYU. Competing for an honor that you prefer to keep hidden starts in first grade, plus or minus a year or two. I’d guess I wasn’t the only one who had similar experiences. If you didn’t, great; in the long run, you didn’t miss all that much.

  152. Travis Anderson
    July 27, 2005 at 3:28 pm

    Nathan. While your reasons for keeping mum about your achievements are probably shared by many, my comments about why others might have kept mum were prompted by their own confessions in this post, not groundless speculation or a tortured soul. The only thing that regularly tortures my soul is inept reasoning.

  153. Nate Oman
    July 27, 2005 at 4:10 pm

    “The only thing that regularly tortures my soul is inept reasoning.”

    I am glad to hear it…

  154. Travis Anderson
    July 27, 2005 at 5:35 pm

    I’m more than willing to admit it works either way you read it

  155. July 29, 2005 at 10:16 am

    No wonder I don’t fit in around here! This thread is making me even happier I never attended BYU.

    I was a National Merit Scholar based on my PSAT scores–I never took the SAT, because I went to a hippy college that didn’t require it. It also didn’t have grades, just “evaulations.” I never graduated, I got married and dropped out of school. But at least I can say I saw Nirvana play at a dorm party.

  156. christian bell
    July 29, 2005 at 4:04 pm

    I discovered this thread by reading my brother Davis’ humorous, but super-cynical “awesome” post on Millenial star. I have to break family ranks here, and agree with you, Jonathan. As a Hinckley Scholar, I have often thought about the reticence that we “BYU Delta Force” (silly appellation, i know, but that’s what my dad calls me and my fellow Hinckley Scholar/best friend, Matt Jones) share in being open about what we have achieved; who we truly are. I adamantly feel the clandestine restrictions forced on us by our own inhibitions and/or cultural pressures are nothing short of tragic, not so much for us scholars, but for the average person. History is replete with example after example of societies that thrived when its unenlightened citizen had truly inspiring sets of role models, and societies that were reduced to moral/economic/social oblivion when it’s role models were of the more base occupations and habits. It’s says something very cynical about our society, even our own mormon society, that children and adults of all ages and social rank spend an inordinate amount of time admiring, even worshipping, exceptional physical athletes, while being completely oblivious to the intellectual giants they interact with all the time. Think about it: I bet that there is at least one presidential scholar in almost every Utah ward. But do you or anyone else in the ward know who that person is? If my experience is representative, you have no idea. Yet think of what we could share with the ward? Everyone has gifts, and if my gift is brilliance, i should want to share, rather than be ashamed of that. It is so backward. Even in my family, I am almost stigmatized because of my academic status. I am socially punished for being the only presidential scholar. I have no illusions that my superior intelligence, knowledge, and sophistication have any bearing on my righteousness or worth, compared to their’s. I often think of what the church could accomplish if it would establish a policy of having all priesthood and relief society members aware of who the presidential scholars (or trustee scholar if there are no presidential scholars, and on down the line) in the ward/stake are. And while I know i’ll be decried as heretic heretical by some, I think a prescribed level of education/academic award should be requisite for certain priesthood callings. But given the current state of affairs, I’m well aware how far off that ideal is. The church isn’t ready for it. Rather, the members aren’t ready for it. Right now we simply need to take responsibility for changing our culture from one in which it is “arrogant” to speak of one’s knowledge and acheivement, into one in which we presidential scholars are publicly known and sought out for wisdom and counsel.

  157. a random John
    July 29, 2005 at 4:09 pm


    I hope your post is some sort of extended joke. Are you bitter about high school or something? Should you have gone somewhere else for college where you didn’t feel compelled to hid your talents?

    As for the rest, it is hard to believe that the Lord could call an uneducated boy to be prophet or that your Saviour doesn’t have a Harvard Phd., isn’t it?

  158. jimbob
    July 29, 2005 at 4:37 pm

    RE 156: How very Ayn Rand of you. Or was that The Incredibles? (I forget where I get my philosophical bases from.) Anyway, don’t let a little thing like modesty hold you down any longer.

  159. christian bell
    July 29, 2005 at 4:51 pm

    okay, okay, I was being satirical. i was going to leave it be, smiling sinisterly while slowly spinning the right end of my handle bar mustache between my fingers, enjoying the physical anonymity offered by the ‘naccle, until the thought struck me “but what if you want to run for public office one day, or interview for a job with someone who has read this, or simply, gulp, meet someone who has read this and taken you seriously. The sad, hard truth is I graduated high school with a 2.9 GPA. But my excuse is that I took all the hard woodshop and carpentry classes. If I would have taken AP physics and calculus like everyone else, i’m sure I would have excelled too. Anyway, it’s annoying when someone gets on and tries to ruin your sincere thread by being insincere, isn’t it. I always regret being sardonic about 5 minutes after I come down from the top of the “i’m so funny” tree. Sorry. Carry on.

  160. lyle stamps
    July 29, 2005 at 5:29 pm

    I want to post just so my name is next to the statement “I was a Benson Scholar”.

    Yeah right…

  161. JKS
    July 29, 2005 at 6:33 pm

    I think you have to realize that winning a scholarship means……..you are good at winning that scholarship. It doesn’t mean all that much more.
    I am perfectly aware that my ACT/SAT scores mean……..I am good at taking ACTs and SATs.
    It cannot accurately tell much else.
    Getting good grades means you can get good grades.
    Translating your Benson Scholarship award into “I am brilliant” and then “I am brilliant in all areas” is immature. It is easy to become arrogant and think your type of intelligence is the most important.
    I have learned to appreciate the “brilliance” of others in other categories, not just the ones I am good at.

    One of the exciting things about being a parent is watching your children’s development. They have talents that emerge. I am currently trying to take pictures of all the spaceships and airplanes that my son designs and builds out of legos. His creations are absolutely amazing, and he isn’t even in kindergarten yet. He will probably never be a Benson scholar, but no one could convince me my child isn’t a genius! Mozart had nothing on this kid.

  162. Brian G
    July 29, 2005 at 6:42 pm

    Am I crazy or did Millennial Star just take down their I WAS AWESOME post? Too bad because it was a briliant parody. Maybe in a perfect case of irony they’re ashamed of being so brilliant. I was really disappointed because I had just finished a comment and when I clicked submit…POOF! Gone!

    Oh, well. I for one didn’t find it mean-spirited.

  163. Aaron Brown
    July 29, 2005 at 7:07 pm

    Yeah, I noticed the same thing, Brian. I got to use the word “rad” as the first commenter, and now my witty banter is consigned to oblivion, never to be read by random denizens of the Bloggernacle ever again.

    To make matters worse, though, as of this afternoon I also can’t leave comments on any of the threads there! I wonder if it has anything to do with my shamelessly impersonating Steve Evans in the comments of the most recent thread. Does this mean I’ve been banned? Is this what it feels like?

    I’ve got warm fuzzies.

    Aaron B

  164. Aaron Brown
    July 29, 2005 at 7:18 pm

    Wow. Now they’ve taken down Steve’s (my) comment in the “Bloggersnacker” thread, as well as all those that followed it. So much for punishing people “for their own sins, and not for Aaron’s trangressions.” I guess BCC remains one of the few, proud bastions of Free Speech in the Bloggernacle. :)

    Aaron B

  165. Ben S.
    July 29, 2005 at 7:49 pm

    Your comments are still there “Steve”… I don’t think they ever got taken down.

  166. A. Greenwood
    July 29, 2005 at 8:23 pm

    I was not a Benson scholar. But I am brilliant! in all areas!

  167. JKS
    July 29, 2005 at 8:47 pm

    Aw, I’m sorry I missed the I WAS AWESOME thread. Sounds like it would have been fun.

  168. July 30, 2005 at 2:37 pm

    I love how no matter what your achievement, some people just can’t be happy for you. Suddenly if you achieve anything, you’re a snot. Suddenly if you’re successful in business and you make money, you’re prideful. Suddenly if, after years of study and hard work, you’re recognized with an award, that just makes you an elitist snob. Wouldn’t the Christlike thing to do here be to congratulate those who have excelled, and then use their success as a source of inspiration? Just because someone else won a Benson Scholarship or a football scholarship doesn’t mean that we can’t do something just as great. However, if we expend our energy just insulting and mocking those who have achieved something, we’re only weakening ourselves and proving Jonathan’s point. Pride goes both ways – you can be stuck up when you’re rich/smart/successful, but you can be just as stuck up when you’re not. Trying to celebrate your achievements doesn’t automatically make you prideful, but mocking someone only proves your lack of humility.

  169. Shannon K
    July 31, 2005 at 12:29 am

    My only experience with a Benson scholar was the one I got to know quite well while working at Chuck-a-Rama in Provo. He was on scholarship and so technically didn’t need to be working, I guess. However, he was from a large family and he figured any extra money he made could be put to good use. He said it would be a waste of time to not be making some money since he had the time and BYU wasn’t really very hard after all. I worked with him for 4 years. He went on to get a PhD at Harvard and is now doing quite well for himself.

    I have seldom come across a more impressive person. He was humble and smart and funny and he worked his rear end off at Chuck-a-Rama. He made it a delightful place to work for everybody lucky enough to be employed with him at the tastiest buffet in town.

    If I hadn’t read this post I would have thought so highly of every Benson scholar.

  170. July 31, 2005 at 11:15 pm

    I didn’t even go to BYU. My Wide did, but got a full ride scholarship fro Vocal Performance.I wasn’t even Mormon when I started college. But I couldn’t let there only be 169 comments here, that’s just sick.

  171. J
    August 2, 2005 at 2:00 am

    I’m sorry to see this post was diverted from the productive direction it was heading in, thanks to Nate and others. I met you Nate, when you were a student. Even then you were a little too clever and full of yourself. Scholarship policy at BYU affects so many students, for better or for worse, that the more public discussion we have on it, the better, I think. I don’t see why that discussion has to be read as people whining about their past or as criticism of the church or as some other way which makes it easy to dismiss or deride. Is it too much to think that policy makers who read this might learn something from the discussion? Can’t the thousands who read Times and Seasons have a few good ideas between them that BYU could benefit from?

    Professor Faulconer is right that the number of scholarships BYU offers is impressive. But Professor Anderson is also right that numbers alone don’t tell the whole story. BYU does dedicate a very large amount of money to scholarships, but most of it is targeted at freshmen and is spent to entice them to come to BYU, not to reward their achievements. So a relatively low percent of what students consider to be four year renewable scholarships can actually be renewed since most of the money is redistributed each year to entice more incoming freshmen to BYU. Freshmen come thinking they can renew those scholarships each year by maintaining the same level of achievement it took to get them, but few actually are able to renew them even with excellent grades because most of that money is retargeted at new freshmen for recruitment purposes. So most students inevitably lose their scholarships and are left with no choice but working part time at campus jobs. This is the policy I have heard Professor Anderson argue against in our meetings. One solution I remember he suggested was to maintain high levels of awards for recognition sake, but to determine amounts of money based on real financial need, since tuition at BYU is relatively low and many students who come to BYU are relatively well to do. In this way scholarship recipients who really need the money could actually rely on four full years of support if they maintain their grades, rather than losing their scholarships after a year and then having to work twenty hours a week or more from then on, lengthening their time to graduation. I can’t remember why the suggestion was rejected. It seemed to me like a good idea. I think money is more effectively spent in big amounts to fewer people who really need it than in small amounts to many people, when some of those people don’t need it. And that would be more in keeping with gospel principles of consecration and disribution according to need.

    I also agree that sports and other talent awards at BYU do not compare at all. Talent awards for things like art and music are mostly only half tuition renewable scholarships that are lost after the first year like the academic scholarships. But top football talent scholarships include 4 years of full tuition, books, a living stipend, a room and board allowance, gifts, entertainment packages and many other things. Even the presidential scholarships don’t compare to that. But once again, this money is spent to entice football players to come to BYU so we can use them to make money for the university, not to reward their achievements or their worthiness. What in principle deserves rewarding and how to do it fairly is never really discussed. I think it’s too philosophical a question for our policy makers. I think we send mixed signals with our awards because we have a mixed up policy due to too many competing political interests being served. How Mormons feel about higher learning and intellectual achievement is an interesting question and should probably have its own post.

  172. danithew
    August 2, 2005 at 8:17 am

    I just want to point out the “my Wide” misspelling in #170. That has to be one of the funniest accidental spellings. I should keep a list as I’ve seen some other good ones in the past, but now I forget most of them.

    The whole “I Was Awesome” thread is still there as far as I can tell. I don’t know if it was taken down and then brought back … but you can still read it if you want to.

  173. Jesse
    August 16, 2005 at 12:02 pm

    I can relate to Rosalynde’s comment about insecurity and academic excellence. I remember having physiological reactions to poor grades (i.e., anything other than an A or a 94%) in high school, and that carried over into the first year or so of college. A lot of that really stemmed from the fact that I was trying to make up for certain instabilities in my family life through creating solidity in what I did at school.

    It would have been nice to have a scholarship that wouldn’t have evaporated if I got a few B’s and maybe a C or two. It perhaps would have allowed me the lattitude to do something different than I did. I was so stuck in an academic track that I was using to address background insecurities, that I never really took time to figure out what I liked to do, what could keep me working for 10 hours a day without thinking it a drudgery. After attending three universities, collecting a couple of MAs and most of a Ph.D. (I finally busted loose and left my program when I could see that being an academic was just going to crush my soul) I can say that I know exactly what I would love to do and it has almost nothing to do with academics.

    One day, when I have fulfilled my responsibility to be a good provider, I’ll even go and do it. :-)

  174. DG
    November 23, 2005 at 3:51 pm

    I am currently applying for the presidential/Hinckely scholarship. I know I probally won’t get it, but my question is why would they require you to have at least a 33 on the ACT when realistically it should probally be a 35. Judging from the statistics even if a person had a 35 there would still be a good chance that he/she might not get the scholarship.


  175. Jonathan Green
    November 23, 2005 at 9:01 pm

    DG, be sure to look at the scholarship matrix on the BYU website, which illustrates the relationship between minimum GPA and test scores. Using two numbers gives an admissions or scholarship committee more flexibility and lets them reach some students they might miss otherwise, like good students at extremely competitive prep schools (with a slightly lower GPA than other applicants) or great students at really crummy schools (who have great GPA’s but aren’t as well prepared for the ACT/SAT). Both types of students can be a real asset to a freshman class, so you don’t want to screen them out too early.

    Good luck writing those essays. Keep in mind that you’re not trying to show that you’re merely one of many who are good enough (as in the BYU application essay, more or less), but instead that you are the single best candidate of all. Anyone can do it, but you may have to adjust your mindset when you’re writing.

  176. DG
    November 29, 2005 at 9:08 pm

    thanks for the advice, but seeing as you are one who has gone through the process, could you tell me how you and the students you competed against generally fared on your test scores? I’m sure you were all elite students, but I guess what I’m trying to ask is how elite. thanks

  177. Jonathan Green
    November 30, 2005 at 12:42 am

    DG, when I was evaluating applications a decade ago, the grades and test scores and essay ratings all got compiled into a big spreadsheet and mathematically ranked from 1 to 400 or so. There were always a few with stellar GPA’s and test scores that didn’t make the first cut because their application essays were mediocre, and plenty of people with just-barely-good-enough grades and SAT/ACT’s who wrote a couple of fabulous essays and got the invite to the final round. Once in Provo, test scores and GPA did not figure into the final decision at all. My impression was that the finalists were more or less evenly distributed among all of the qualifying ACT scores, although my memory is a bit hazy on this point.

    I don’t know how it works now. I rather suspect that they take everything–GPA, test scores, recommendations, essay evaluations–and create an overall ranking. With a one-step selection process, you can’t escape your test scores altogether, although I don’t know how each factor is weighted. But don’t get discouraged. If you’ve got the grades and scores to apply, then fill out the application, write a couple of astonishing essays, and force the selection committee to say no. Don’t do their job for them by not applying. If done right, even the application process by itself can be useful for you.

    Also: I hereby appoint you to the secret underground order of the intellectual elite. (Shh! Don’t tell anybody, ever. Just remember that you are now entitled to read difficult books that no one has assigned to you, pursue oddball research projects out of nothing more than personal curiosity, disagree with teachers and professors [in polite, well-reasoned arguments, of course], initiate discussions with those teachers and professors about topics in their fields that aren’t covered in class, and immerse yourself in subjects that your roommates can’t pronounce correctly.) You’ve taken the ACT already, right? If you scored well enough to apply for the scholarship in question, you are now elite. If you’re worried about competing in terms of test score but you’re still qualified to apply, that implies that you have a top-notch GPA, which makes you even more elite. And trying to research the application process–I think it’s compelling evidence of meritocratic anxiety of the same kind I had when applying, which clearly makes you an elite among elites. Apply, and if they mistakenly neglect your application, it’s their loss. They’ve been wrong before.

  178. S.
    November 30, 2005 at 12:58 am

    I was offered the Benson but ended up going elsewhere.

    Still, I was amused at how many people had offers to Harvard, Stanford, etc. and ended up choosing BYU, saying that the scholarship was the primary factor in their decision.

    I fully understand choosing BYU, but why should the scholarship be the primary factor? The extra money that the Benson paid beyond the next scholarship down was a drop in the bucket compared to the price of an elite private school. And the value of the scholarship as a credential is (outside of some fairly narrow Utah Mormon circles) not especially high.

    Perhaps the credential has some value on the dating market?… Perhaps people worry about seeming ungrateful? I never could get a straight answer on this. (And of course, maybe they only think the scholarship was the primary factor—and in actuality they would have gone to BYU anyway…)

    Incidentally, BYU doesn’t (to my knowledge) release the names of people who were offered the scholarship and turned it down. So you have only my word on all of this.

  179. DG
    November 30, 2005 at 6:14 pm

    thank you Jonathan Green, truly you flatter me. It’s nice to know that there are people out there who have been or are going through the same motions that I am. I live in a pretty non-mormon community so I’m not familiar with alot of BYU’s policies.

  180. C.A.Rytting
    December 2, 2005 at 2:39 am

    Just a few points on a thread long past:

    Concerning the relative value of the “Best and Brightest” LDS students going to BYU or elsewhere to school (cf. Claudia Bushman’s proposal, #88, #98, etc.) — false dichotomy. We can have both. I think we do get both, and I hope so. Remember that many if not most of those who obtain a Presidential Scholarship go on for more school after BYU.

    I went to BYU for my B.A. for a variety of reasons: faith, family tradition, finances, football (well, maybe not football ;), … and have never regretted it. But I always knew I would go elsewhere, outside Utah, for my doctorate, and that I would probably teach outside Utah for at least some point in my career (see point #105). For me, my for years at BYU allowed me to see how the church worked in a very particular set of circumstances (where non-LDS are almost non-existent). I learned at the feet of some wonderful men and women (Professors, Bishops, fellow students) who are still examples in my memory of how the church should and can work. My mission allowed me to see how the church worked in nearly the opposite circumstance–probably fewer LDS in the entire country of Greece than non-LDS at BYU (I don’t have exact figures here).

    Having obtained through those experiences at BYU (could I have also obtained them elsewhere? Perhaps; I can’t run that experiment–but I would submit that a lone LDS student at a university in India could not have obtained them in that circumstance), I can now take and use them to serve more faithfully and more intelligently in my current church callings and in my academic work. I have a picture from BYU of how the church can work. I don’t try to impose that in my current place, but I can draw from it when it’s helpful. Isn’t this the whole point of the motto: “Enter to learn; go forth to serve”?

    This being said, I know it’s not and shouldn’t be the only path. Of my fellow LDS graduate students at my current institution, several are BYU alumni, and several came from elsewhere. I’m glad they’re all here to represent the church on campus and to serve in our student wards. If all had come from BYU, that would be boring, but if none had come from BYU, that would also be a loss. If I personally had not had the experiences I had in the BYU honors program, I think I would be a poorer person for it, and a poorer professor later in life. So bringing some of the best and the brightest, or allowing those who so choose to go to BYU, still allows them later to shine a light, and in some cases a more mature and well-formed light, on other campuses.

    Now, a few random points:

    * What regrets do I have about my time at BYU? Not doing more “non-academic things” — more dance classes, more road trips, more hiking/skiing/camping…
    so post #117 has some valid points.

    * What regrets do I have since? Not keeping in contact with friends, fellow scholars, fellow FLSR denizens, etc. And I wish there was more of an organization helping Presidential Scholars keep in touch; perhaps many of them feel the same. I can’t help wondering sometimes, “where are they now?” I’d love to have a little Alma 17 experience–maybe I need to wait 8 more years.

    * What program do I think is perhaps even more important than the Presidential Scholarships? The ORCA grants, and other support of undergraduate research. I think the combination of those grants–for which I shamelessly applied multiple times–and caring professors in my department who encouraged me to present my research in academic conferences, sometimes personally driving me there (I loved those road trips in those big BYU vans!) made a huge contribution to my acceptance into and success in grad school. Kudos to BYU (at least BYU Linguistics) for that! I am as grateful for that attention and kindness as for any scholarship.

  181. John Williams
    December 2, 2005 at 7:54 am


    I think the ACT score cutoff just to apply for the Hinckley Scholarhip gets higher and higher as time goes on. In 1996 I belive applicants had to have at least a 31. So maybe in the future the cut-off will be 35.

    I knew one Hinckley Scholar who told me he took the ACT a lot (maybe four times). His high score was a 34, I believe. I wonder if I could have scored that high if I had taken it as many times as him. I took it once in 1995 and got a 32. And I did not get a Hinckley Scholarhip even though I applied (I think my application was probably a piece of crap). I wasn’t a finalist either. And no Trustees Scholarship. In fact all I got was a one-year half-tuition. I was really let down and called BYU to talk to them about it and they changed it to a one-year full-tuition (I recall it was because they hadn’t realized that some of my high school classes were honors classes).

    I think kids today really prep themselves for standardized tests with Kaplan courses, etc. I imagine the test-prep market for the ACT and the SAT are bigger now. So I would imagine that high school kids today generally score higher on the ACT and SAT because they bone up for them more. I would also imagine that people who got the Benson / Hinckley scholarships in the 1980s or 1990s might not even be eligible to apply for a Hinckley scholarship today because they got 31s or 32s (or maybe even lower if the cutoff was lower back in the day).

  182. Jonathan Green
    December 2, 2005 at 10:41 am

    Anton: But…but…aren’t you supposed to say that College Bowl was the true secret of your sucess?

    John, Anton, S., I actually wanted to offer a more serious response, but it will have to wait until this afternoon. I’ve got to get a couple classes put together right now.

  183. Adam Greenwood
    December 2, 2005 at 11:06 am

    Jonathan Green,
    We’re trying to keep College Bowl a secret for the cognoscenti. The First Rule of College Bowl is . . . and etc. Shall I delete your comment now or leave it up for a little while to shame you?

  184. Jonathan Green
    December 2, 2005 at 5:31 pm

    No, Adam, I’m an out College Bowler. I told my family about it while I was still in college, and my wife knows the whole story (and married me anyway). Now, on to those responses:

    S.: No, like I wrote at the beginning, it’s not about the money. Also, it’s not about dating opportunities, either, unfortunately. Not too many people are attracted to people who talk about their scholarships. These days, I’m not quite sure how the scholarship works as a recruitment tool, but the scholarship office probably doesn’t know for sure yet, either. I think Bryce expressed it best: if you can pick any university in the US to attend, but you see that BYU is perfectly acceptable academically, and also meet some people that you want to see again, then the scholarship can make a big difference. (By the way, it’s not just narrow Utah Mormon circles that are easily impressed by BYU; for my family and ward in Southern California, getting a scholarship to BYU was a big deal.)

    John Williams: I’d guess that the cutoff for applications will not rise or fall much. If you raise it much further, then you risk eliminating a set of eminently qualified students. If you restrict applicants to those with 35-36 ACT scores, you risk narrowing your candidate pool so that you can’t find the type of applicant you’re looking for, which for the scholarship in question has never been purely about perfect test scores. If the applicant pool gets too unwieldy, there are other ways to restrict it (by insisting on seminary graduation, or raising in the GPA requirement, or eliminating anyone who lives in Arizona, or whatever idea seems most defensible). It’s all about what kind of applicant the committee decides it’s looking for, which is the ultimate question.

    Anton: Sometime, T&S needs a thread about linguistics. I’m glad you came out of BYU prepared for grad school. You and Bryce should really compare notes some time; it sounds like your research might have some simlarities. In my humble opinion, the point of the Benson scholarship was to support students who did exactly what you’ve done–get the most possible out of BYU, contribute as much as they could while there, and then go elsewhere for bigger and better things.

  185. December 3, 2005 at 8:31 pm

    Thanks, Jonathan. I appreciate the complement (though you outed me when I was so careful to write my post ambiguously. ;) Didn’t mean to diss College Bowl; clearly it _was_ the secret to Ken Jenning’s success. Maybe Dan Eastmond’s, too. We all have different success secrets at BYU, I guess; I’m just sharing mine, since it’s been on my mind as soon-to-graduate zoobies write me for advice. But I was never serious enough about College Bowl, and you get what you put in. Though every now and then I still get the urge to turn some obscure fact into a C.B. question…

    So, a thread about linguistics… what specifically? Too huge of a topic for me to know what to write w/o some more guidance. (Though for those who want to meet the larger LDS NLP community, there’s a secret society you can join. NLP–that’s “Natural Language Processing”, *NOT* “Neuro-Linguistic Programming” by the way. ;) And yes, several of my colleagues in computer science & linguistics actually do work on dialog systems like Bryce.

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