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FAQs from the Parents of Current or Prospective Mellon Scholars

Why did my daughter or son receive a nomination for this program?

Because she or he has demonstrated promise in academic research in the humanities or arts. Typically, the teacher of the First Year Seminar, who is also the student’s first academic advisor, makes the nomination. Nominated students have stood out for a variety of reasons: they have strong academic records, they are also known for being particularly smart and hard working, they are good at writing and research, and they are notably effective in class discussion. Students can also self-nominate because one semester is not always enough for all of those qualities to be recognized by students’ professors. The Mellon Scholars Committee tries to identity students who are not only gifted but are good matches for the goals of the Program.

Why should my son or daughter apply to the program?

Students should apply if they going to major in the humanities or arts and they are interested in scholarly research. The Mellon Scholars Program seeks to create scholars who are well-grounded in traditional liberal arts (reading, writing, presentation) but who are effective at using the tools of the 21st century. Ideally, applicants should also have an interest in combining new, Internet-based technology with the traditional liberal arts. Typically, Mellon Scholars are planning to apply for major awards, such as the Rhodes, Marshall, and Fulbright, and they are planning to go to graduate school or law school.

Increasingly, as traditional paths in higher education have been redefined, Mellon Scholars are translating their interest in scholarly research, critical thinking, and technology into the marketplace as “intellectual entrepreneurs,” sometimes with the aim of earning an MBA after a period of career exploration. The Mellon Scholars Program supports all of those career paths, among others; it encourages students to shape their undergraduate programs with both intellectual exploration and practical opportunity in mind. Double majors that include fields outside the arts or humanities are common in the Mellon Scholars Program; more than that, they are preferred as means of stimulating innovation and cultivating future opportunities for students in a period of rapid change.

What does the Mellon Scholars Program cost? How hard is it to get in?

The Mellon Scholars Program does not cost the student anything, except hard work and creativity. The program is entirely funded by a major grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The program is designed to funnel additional financial and institutional resources to a small cohort of carefully selected students. Historically, only one application out of three is successful, and the applicants are already an exceptionally talented group of students.

What are the benefits of being in the program?

Essentially, the Mellon Scholars Program is a major investment in a small group of talented students, and it adds considerable value to the undergraduate experience in the following ways: a small, team-taught seminar limited to other Mellon Scholars; exclusive membership in a cohort of many of the most talented and ambitious students at Hope College; two years of guaranteed access to one-on-one mentoring relationships with Hope College Professors; substantial financial support for students engaged in summer research on their own projects (not someone else’s); travel funding for conferences; privileged access to technological support and resources, including a dedicated New Media Studio; privileged access to visiting scholars and distinguished speakers; and required participation in scholarly conferences such as the Celebration for Undergraduate Research.

There are other, long-term benefits. The early training of the Mellon Sophomore Seminar in research, writing, technology, and presentation is designed to enhance the skills of Mellon Scholars so that their performance throughout their undergraduate program is significantly elevated. In other words, Mellon Scholars should graduate with a much higher GPA in addition to enhanced skills. Also, on the basis of their academic training, Mellon Scholars have a considerable competitive advantage in applications for fellowships and to graduate programs; that could mean considerably higher placement with more substantial funding, which, in turn, has long-term career consequences. Completion of the program is recognized at graduation ceremonies and on the academic transcript. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is known internationally for projects of academic and cultural distinction; the program itself is modeled on the History and Literature Honors Concentration at Harvard University, and completion of the Mellon Scholars Program—and the many research experiences that requires—is an accomplishment with lifelong benefits.

I have a few other questions that are not answered here or on the Mellon Scholars Program ’s Website.

You are welcome to contact the Director, William Pannapacker, by e-mail at, to arrange at appointment.