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Ernest Xi was in his car in the Columbus North High School parking lot, about to go in for weight training class in April, when he received a call on his cellphone that drastically affected his college choice.
The 2013 North graduate learned that he’d been selected for a full-ride Wells Scholarship to Indiana University, valued at $120,000 over four years.
Xi said he couldn’t believe it, for good reason. The competition is staggering.
High schools across Indiana and others from out of state are allowed to nominate only two seniors in any year. From that pool of as many as 700 nominees in Indiana alone, only about 20 students receive Wells Scholarships.
Wells Scholars do more for academically outstanding students than letting them attend Indiana University for free, which is a four-year value of $120,000. They also afford:
Frequent extracurricular activities, often with distinguished visitors.
Summer internships, research or volunteer projects, creative activities or other enriching experiences.
Opportunities for involvement in service with fellow Wells scholars.
Chances to study abroad.
Wells Scholarship nominations
The Wells Scholar selection committee follows this calendar from year to year in choosing its scholarship winners:
Early August: Nomination packets mailed to all high schools eligible to nominate a student for a scholarship.
Early October: Deadline to submit nominations. Schools nominate no more than two students.
First weekend of December: Selection committee interviews the top 50 finalists at Indiana University.
Late December: Notification of status mailed to each finalist.
April: Finalists are notified whether they are among the 18 to 22 winners of a Wells Scholarship. A news release was issued Aug. 22.
However, Xi’s selection marked the second year in a row that a Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. student earned the prized scholarship.
Adam Kruchten, a Columbus East graduate, was a 2012 recipient.
In that time, only the Penn-Harris-Madison School Corp. — including Penn High School in Mishawaka — duplicated the feat, according to the Indiana University website.
Select few chosen
Named in honor of Herman B Wells, the 11th president of Indiana University, the Wells Scholarship provides full tuition, mandatory and course-related fees and a living stipend for four years of undergraduate study.
The scholarship also provides perks, including the right to network with other Wells scholars who excelled in high school.
Only the state’s brightest high school seniors are considered, according to Indiana University’s website. Indiana has 348 public high schools, according to the Indiana Department of Education. The Bartholomew Consolidated school district alone has nearly 900 seniors.
Nominees must have character and leadership qualities, be significantly involved in extracurricular activities, show concern for their communities, and excel in class rank, grade-point average and performance on standardized tests such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test.
Kruchten had a 4.2 GPA on a 4.0 scale and scored 2,200 on the SAT, according to Kurchten’s mother, Stacy.
Xi said his GPA was “well over 4.0” and his SAT score was in the 99th percentile. He said he was not comfortable sharing the exact numbers.
Sharing the news
While still in his car after receiving the phone call, Xi sent a text message to his mother, Angela, and called his father, Clyde, to share his good news.
“I was very surprised and happy,” Angela Xi said. “I kept asking if he was sure. And he said, ‘Yeah,’ he was sure.”
Ernest Xi said the money connected to the scholarship was less important than the perks that come with it. He had obtained several other scholarships by that time that totaled about $19,000.
The full-ride scholarship from IU replaced the other scholarships and gave him more by promising him an exceptional college experience, he said.
He networks with former Wells Scholars who have accomplished a lot in their careers and hangs out with other Wells Scholars who are the best and brightest.
Ernest Xi, who is taking 16 credit hours this semester, is majoring in finance, accounting and business.
His mother said he wanted to challenge himself with a triple major and thinks it will help him eventually start his own business.
“He’s very entrepreneurial,” Angela Xi said.
Ernest Xi said he doesn’t know yet where his bachelor’s degree might lead him. He said he might work for a Fortune 500 company, if one is interested, before going into business for himself.
“It’s pretty exciting to have him as a Wells winner,” said Carmen Riley, the North counselor who nominated him. “I think he’ll represent Columbus North very well.”
‘Came at a great time’
Kruchten said he, too, was surprised by the phone call telling him that he had been chosen for a Wells Scholarship.
He was home at the time. Kruchten knew to expect a call of some sort, because the IU selection committee calls every contender as a courtesy.
Kruchten couldn’t remember how he reacted when told the news more than a year ago, he said. The reality of what his scholarship meant — going to college for free — didn’t hit him until several days later, he said.
Kruchten would not have to borrow money, work a part-time job or burden his parents to attend college.
He could concentrate strictly on his studies at Indiana University, which, because of the Wells Scholarship, stood alone as the only logical place to attend.
Previously, he had considered the University of Chicago.
“The scholarship came at a great time,” Kruchten said. “There had been some medical issues in my home, and we had some other unplanned expenses besides that.”
His sophomore year is shaping up as a busy one, with a schedule of 17 credit hours this semester.
Kruchten is majoring in applied mathematics and wants to use the bachelor’s degree he earns as a stepping-stone toward a graduate degree in applied mathematics or economics.
Applied mathematics tries to model, predict and explain things in the real world. For example, one area of applied mathematics is fluid mechanics, which analyses how fluids are affected by forces. Other examples of applied maths are statistics or probability theory.
Kruchten applied for and received from Indiana University a separate research grant that has led him to trying to develop a mathematical model to explain and predict the behavior of proteins in the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease. He said his discovery would be a step toward finding a cure.
Kruchten said he hopes to have his findings published in a trade journal.
“We’re so proud of this kid,” Stacey Kruchten said. “This has already given him so many opportunities.”
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