Columbus East grad Kaitlynn Milvert never thought she’d win the Indiana University Wells Scholarship, even after being nominated by her high school guidance office.

The scholarship covers the cost of tuition, room and board and other course-related fees for four years at IU. This year, that’s a little more than $21,000.

“There are two nominees from each school in Indiana,” Milvert said. “It’s really competitive.”

As she was writing her three application essays — one about her extracurricular involvement, one about her academic interests and one about an issue that’s important to her — Milvert’s confidence continued to wane.

Story continues below gallery

“As I was sitting there writing them, I just thought, ‘Well, OK, this is bad,’” she said.

But in November, Milvert was selected as a finalist who would go through the interview round in December, where she answered questions about national issues, sometimes in Spanish.

And when the names of the 18 scholarship winners were announced, Milvert was on the list.

“I was really surprised, but I was also really glad,” she said.

This year, she is one of 17 incoming freshmen and one senior selected for the award.

“I’m actually very familiar with the Wells scholar program, and I’ve been fortunate to teach a few Wells scholars over the years,” said Greg Lewis, the Columbus East social studies department chair and one of the teachers who wrote a recommendation for Milvert. “I have every confidence that Kaitlynn will excel in that program.”

Milvert has always excelled academically, Lewis said, which earned her the number three spot out of the 338 students who graduated from Columbus East in June.

“She tried to wring all of the learning out of any assignment she was given, and she valued learning for its own sake,” Lewis said.

Now that she’s in college, Milvert doesn’t plan on slowing down.

When she moves to Bloomington this month, Milvert will begin pursuing degrees in English, Spanish and linguistics in the hopes of one day becoming a speech pathology researcher.

“My sister has Down syndrome, and I’ve always been interested in language, so this tied those two things together,” Milvert said.

Aside from financial benefits, the Wells scholarship also provides a myriad of academic perks that will help Milvert reach her career goals.

“It’s sort of continuing to build on that lifelong learning process that we try to teach at East,” Lewis said.

Milvert will have the opportunity to meet with special campus guests and participate in various community service projects, but what interests her the most is the year-long study abroad stipend.

“That’s a huge plus for a Spanish major,” she said.

Right now, Milvert is interested in studying in Argentina, where she said the native Spanish language and its Italian influences fascinate her.

Before she ever earned the scholarship, Milvert said she was already interested in IU because of the school’s wide-ranging academic options.

“I was looking at a few different colleges, but IU appealed to me because it has a huge foreign language program,” she said.

Lewis said he has no doubt Milvert will use her talents to make a positive impact on the community.

“She’s gonna be kind of a world-shaker,” he said. “She’s going to make more than your average impact on life.”

And even though she’ll be studying topics that are already familiar to her, Milvert said she’s excited about the opportunity to expand her world view through education.

“College to me is about opening yourself up to new perspectives, whether that be through different cultures or academic interests,” she said.

Classes begin for IU students Aug. 24.

About the Wells Scholarship

Each year, 18 to 22 Indiana University  students receive the Wells Scholarship based solely on merit. The award usually goes to incoming freshman, but occasionally an upperclassman is chosen, as well. In addition to financial benefits, the Wells Scholarship provides:

  • Close interaction with faculty
  • Academic and career mentoring
  • Interdisciplinary Wells freshman seminars that address fundamental world issues
  • International experience
  • Extracurricular activities with distinguished campus guests
  • Support for a summer educational experience
  • Community service opportunities
Author photo
Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.