The Claremont Colleges have come out on top once again.
On Oct. 23, the Chronicle of Higher Education ranked Pitzer College as the top liberal arts institution for students winning Fulbright Scholarships for International Study, tied with Smith College in Massachusetts. Pomona College was ranked third.
Founded in 1946, the Fulbright Scholar Program is an initiative of the United States Department of State and is usually awarded to qualified applicants finishing their senior year of college. Scholarships are given to students to teach English abroad for a year or to conduct research in a foreign country.
Pitzer had 19 students win and accept Fulbright Scholarships out of the 71 students who applied, while Pomona had 15 winners out of 76 applications. The other Claremont Colleges also performed well, with eight students at Scripps College winning scholarships, three students at Claremont McKenna College (CMC), and one student at Harvey Mudd College (HMC).
“Every year for the last nine years, Pitzer College has had over 25 percent of the graduating seniors apply for Fulbrights, and every year, around 25 percent of applicants win,” Pitzer Professor of Political Studies and Fulbright Coordinator Nigel Boyle said. “This is the most awards per-capita at any undergraduate institution in the country, and why we’ve been on top for eight of those nine years.”
Pomona History Professor and Fulbright Coordinator Gary Kates commended the success of 5C students in earning Fulbright Scholarships, but he pointed out that the published data on the rankings, which is reported by the Fulbright Program to Newsweek and the Chronicle, has some inconsistencies.
“The data itself is correct. But one thing you don’t see in the data is the number of students that receive the award and then decline it for one reason or another,” Kates said. “If this data was included, Pitzer would not be tied with Smith, but would have one more, at twenty recipients. Also, Pomona, which had twenty winners [instead of the reported fifteen], would have been tied with Pitzer for first.”
“They should report these numbers, too,” he added.
Boyle pointed to the diversity of academic concentrations among the Pitzer students who apply for a Fulbright as a reason for his school’s high ranking.
“The point I want to stress the most is that students apply from every major, from English to biology to neuroscience, history, and linguistics,” Boyle said. “Students who stand out with quirky—but effective—ideas are more likely to win.”
“You also have to consider background,” he added. “Men applying for teaching awards, people of color, and immigrants to the United States are often considered above others.”
Kates credited Pomona’s top-notch advising system for the success of students at his school in winning Fulbrights. Pomona has been on the list of top ten schools receiving Fulbright Scholarships for the last seven years.
“Pomona has so many students applying and winning partially because of the advising system,” he said. “Most of the larger schools don’t have a place where students can speak one-on-one with an advisor and use the resource to improve their applications like they can here.”
Kates also praised the success of the 5Cs in earning scholarships despite the small size of the student body, relative to other universities.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, with over 40,000 students, received only 29 awards, and tops the list of research institutions—as opposed to liberal arts schools—with the most students receiving Fulbrights.”
“The Claremont Colleges have almost twice as many awards and seven times fewer students [than the University of Michigan],” Kates added. “Also, most awards [at Michigan] are awarded to graduate students. At the Claremont Colleges, it is almost exclusively undergraduates.”
“Claremont just beats the pants off everybody,” Boyle added.
While three CMC students won Fulbright Scholarships last year, CMC Fellowships Coordinator Matthew Beale said his school is exploring ways to expand the participation of CMC students in the Fulbright and other post-graduation abroad programs.
“With the Founding of the Center for Global Education at CMC and the hiring of myself in January of this year, we are seeing a definite push for all of our students toward globalization,” Beale said. “We hope to make more students here more aware of the opportunity to receive this award and increase our numbers to compete with the other colleges.” CMC had eight students earn Fulbright Scholarships in 2010.
Kates said the Fulbright Scholar Program provides graduating students with a unique and valuable experience.
“It’s a nice gap year for many students between college and graduate school or employment,” he said. “Over 95 percent of students that go abroad have great experiences.”
“Fulbright scholarships are something that opens certain doors for you in the future, and something that people will remember,” Boyle added.