When most Harvard students were waking up to submit their fall-semester study cards on Friday, a select few had not yet been to sleep.
As many as 171 Harvard students submitted applications for Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships, in many cases forgoing rest for days as they hastily completed forms and essays.
Harvard students are traditionally among the most competitive national applicants for the prestigious scholarships, which fund two or three years of graduate study in the United Kingdom.
Paul A. Bohlmann, fellowships director at the Office of Career Services (OCS), attributed the popularity of the scholarships to several factors.
Each of the scholarships "provide a lot of financial support which is important to young people at a critical juncture in their intellectual lives," said Bohlmann. He also cited the high-profile leadership roles that many former Rhodes scholars-for example, President Clinton-assume in later life.
Both scholarships pay for the scholar's travel expenses, health care, tuition, books, as well as grant a personal stipend. While Bohlmann said that both fellowships "are names that will open doors," he said that "everyone who has been offered two takes the Rhodes."
The Rhodes Scholarship was established from the estate of British imperialist Cecil Rhodes, while the Marshall scholarship was established by the British government as a gesture of gratitude to the United States for its Cold War-era Marshall Plan of assistance to stem the tide of communism.
Reflecting upon the atmosphere in OCS's basement, where applicants stood in line to hand in the 16 copies of each application, Robin S. Goldstein '98 said that "people are nervous." He added that "the nature of this entire [application] process is to make you nervous."
The pressure was not, however, without some levity. Just after having submitted his applications, Ron J. Avni '98 asked, "Where's my breakfast?" On a more serious note, Avni said that he "thought it was fun to concretize [finalize] on paper some of my thoughts about recent [college] experiences."
Avni was joined by fellow applicant Robert M. Hyman '98, former Undergraduate Council president. When asked what he planned to do if awarded one of the scholarships, Hyman said "I'm going to Disneyland."
Bohlmann said that OCS received a normal number of applications for the two scholarships this year, although the College will not endorse as many Marshal Scholarship nominations to the national competition as it has in the past.
Bohlmann attributed this change in policy to a memo sent to President Neil L. Rudenstine in the summer of 1995 by the British ambassador to the United States. The memo requested that Harvard make attempts to limit its number of Marshall scholarship nominees or face a restriction on the number of nominees the College can make.
According to Bohlmann, Harvard was singled out by the British embassy along with Stanford and Princeton, because they "tended to forward a much larger set of applicants than other schools and it was burdensome to selection committees." Nominees from the three schools are among the most successful in winning scholarships.
Despite the implied limit on nominees for the Marshall scholarship, which Bohlmann says is unofficially 30, and the approximately 10 percent drop in Harvard nominations since the 1995 memo, the eight Marshall scholarships won by Harvard students last year was an all-time national record. Seven Rhodes scholarships were awarded to Harvard seniors last year.
While only American citizens are eligible for Marshall Scholarships, Rhodes scholarship applicants from countries outside the United States are considered by selection committees from their own countries. Bruce F. McKinnon '97-'98 was one of four applicants for the Canadian Rhodes Scholarship.
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