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Auburn University producing top national scholars


National Prestigious Scholars

Paul Harris, Auburnís associate director for national prestigious scholarships in the Honors College, congratulates Jordan Anderson for earning a Rhodes Scholarship.

Auburn University is earning a national reputation for its growing number of national prestigious scholars as students consistently earn top postgraduate scholarships, bearing names such as Rhodes, Fulbright, Gates-Cambridge and Goldwater.

"Our students are wonderful," said Paul Harris, Auburn's associate director for national prestigious scholarships in the Honors College. "They do the hard work and earn the top grades needed for the scholarships. I just get them to believe in themselves as I mentor them throughout the process."

Harris joined the Auburn faculty in 2008 to help students earn national awards and to recruit high school students who have the potential to excel at Auburn. He also serves as a professor of political science in the College of Liberal Arts.

Since 2009, Auburn students have been selected for several of the nation's top scholarships:

"The best preparation is to work hard and study hard," said Harris, who is available to work with all undergraduates and graduate students, in addition to Honors College students. "I encourage our applicants to think about the Auburn Creed and to exemplify those characteristics.

"I am honest with all the students and let them know that each scholarship is very competitive and that the odds of winning are very low. Even if our applicants are not selected, the experience of applying will help guide them as they apply for other scholarships, graduate school, law or medical school or other educational endeavors."

"They do the hard work and earn the top grades needed for the scholarships. I just get them to believe in themselves..."

— Paul Harris

Each scholarship is very selective. For example, the Gates-Cambridge Scholarship had approximately 1,000 applicants this year, of which only 90 were invited to interview and only 40 were selected. Auburn had one winner and another finalist. The Rhodes Scholarship also had approximately 1,000 applicants, but a little more than 200 were selected for an interview and only 32 winners were named. In the past four years, Auburn has had a winner and four finalists.

"All of our scholarship recipients and applicants are to be commended for their success in the classroom and for participating in worthwhile service projects and outside endeavors," said Timothy Boosinger, Auburn provost and vice president for academic affairs.

"National selection committees are well aware of Auburn students. These students exemplify the qualities we encourage all Auburn students to strive for: leadership, scholarship and service."

Keys to earning a scholarship

Harris says the keys to earning a national prestigious scholarship are:

  1. Superior grades. Most applicants need at least a 3.8 grade point average.
  2. Experience. Students must have a minimum of one semester, ideally one year, of undergraduate research experience or creative scholarship involvement, ranging from scientific research to in-depth study of literature or the arts.
  3. Commitment to the betterment of the world. Students are encouraged to participate in service projects either abroad or in local communities.
  4. All-around character. Students need to be well-read, have intellectual interests and, in the case of the Fulbright Scholarship, have studied a foreign language.

In addition, Harris says all applications require an essay and that the best essays are usually from students who have experience and a compelling story. "I am grateful to have the assistance of Michelle Cook, a doctoral student in the Department of English, who provides valuable feedback on early drafts of student essays," Harris said.

Identifying top students

National Prestigious Scholars

Auburn student Marian Royston received a Mitchell Scholarship to study in Northern Ireland.

Auburn faculty, as well as members of the Athletics Department and campus units, refer outstanding students to Harris as possible applicants. Some students directly contact Harris as well to discuss possible scholarship opportunities. All applicants must be endorsed by the university's national prestigious scholarships committee chaired by Paula Bobrowski, associate dean for research and faculty development in the College of Liberal Arts.

"I identify applicants at least one year in advance of their application and I meet with them once or twice a semester, most often when they are juniors," said Harris, who teaches an invitation-only course in leadership and scholarship each fall designed specifically for scholarship applicants.

In addition to working with current Auburn students, Harris recruits high school students to Auburn.

"We look for their potential," he said. "They still have to do the work and earn stellar grades. I want the students to say, 'I can get a top undergraduate education at Auburn, but someone can help me realize the dream of competing for these top awards.'"

More information about the National Prestigious Scholarship Program is available by contacting Harris at or by visiting

By†Charles Martin, Office of Communications & Marketing

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Last Updated: Aug. 5, 2013

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