May 27, 2004
Vol. 23 No. 17

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    Collegiate Scholars Program attracts top public schools’ talent

    By Josh Schonwald
    News Office

    In only its second year, the University’s Collegiate Scholars Program is succeeding in its goal of attracting Chicago’s most talented public school students.

    The Collegiate Scholars Program, a partnership between the Chicago Public Schools and the University, received more than 600 applications for 58 spots. The program, which was created last year with a grant from the Crown family, has since received additional funding from CPS and Exelon Corp.

    Earlier this month, the program mailed out acceptance letters to the lucky students who will enter a three-year college preparatory program aimed at preparing them for study at the nation’s top colleges and universities.

    Kim Ransom, Director of the Collegiate Scholars Program, who spent January and February visiting nearly 50 Chicago public schools to promote the program with College Admissions and CPS staff, was thrilled with the applicant pool.

    “We’re definitely getting the best and brightest,” she said. What’s even more encouraging, Ransom said, was the diversity of the applicants. While nearly half of the schools’ applicants came from college preparatory and magnet schools, such as Whitney Young, Walter Payton and Lane Tech, another half came from neighborhood high schools—ranging from nearby Kenwood Academy and Chicago Vocational to schools on the far North Side, such as Senn.

    All told, Ransom said, applicants came from more than 40 high schools. “That was our goal,” said Ransom. “We wanted the whole city to be represented.”

    The application process for the Collegiate Scholars Program was rigorous. “It’s quite similar to applying to college,” said Ransom. In addition to their academic records, ninth-graders submitted teacher and personal recommendations and completed one of three essay questions, which were adapted from the College’s application questions. Staff in the College Admissions office and from the CPS Post-Secondary Education Office then interviewed the finalists in April.

    Admitted students will begin the program on Friday, June 25, with an orientation week. During the summer, they will choose from more than a dozen course offerings, ranging from Economics Today and Advanced Calculus to Critical Thinking and Entrepreneurship.

    Some of the University’s most distinguished faculty, including Herman Sinaiko, Professor in the Humanities and the College, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Assistant Professor in Political Science and the College, Allen Sanderson, Senior Lecturer in Economics, Paul Sally, Professor in Mathematics and the College, and Robert Fefferman, Dean of the Physical Sciences Division and the Louis Block Professor in Mathematics, will teach the Collegiate Scholars. A group of 10 faculty members of the Graduate School of Business will team-teach the course Entrepreneurship.

    Ransom said adding a second class of Collegiate Scholars is an important step toward achieving one of the program’s chief goals.

    “We want to create a community of Collegiate Scholars,” she said. Already, last year’s scholars are excited about the incoming first-years.

    “They’re volunteering for orientation week, talking about activities we can put together. We’re all expecting great things.”