The University Office of Admission and Aid announced a series of changes to the Freeman Asian Scholarship Program, on Friday, Oct. 16. These changes will be implemented in starting with the 2020–21 admissions cycle. The changes, which have been in the works for several years, were developed by the Office of Admissions and Aid following consultation with the Office of Advancement, the Fries Center for Global Studies, and several other faculty members, according to Associate Dean of Admissions Tara Lindros.
The scholarship, which provides an estimated $80,000 per student, per year in full tuition, room and board, and other fees, was previously awarded to 11 students, one from each of 11 different Asian countries: the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. The changes to the program mean that future scholars will be chosen from these 11 countries without the previous requirement of one scholar per country.
“The nature of the Freeman applicant pool has changed significantly in 25+ years, where, as opposed to when the program was founded, many students are living in multiple countries, holding multiple passports/residencies, and blurring national boundaries,” Lindros wrote in an email to The Argus. “These changes allow us to think more broadly about students from the region instead of strictly by individual country and to uphold Wesleyan’s values of awarding financial aid only to students with demonstrated financial need.”
There are also several other changes to the scholarship program, including that the additional application essay will no longer be required.
“There are elements of the Freeman selection process that we have eliminated—the application addendum, the intensive, in-person interview process—in order to streamline the process and make it more accessible to students,” Lindros wrote. “We do plan to continue engaging Freeman alumni in virtual interviews for potential scholarship awardees. This does mean that we may be making decisions on applicants with less information than we previously had, but with the same information we typically have for other applicants in our pool.”
Freeman Asian Scholar Haley Qin ’21, who is from the People’s Republic of China, believes the elimination of the addendum and other former application requirements will help reduce student stress while applying for the scholarship.
“Reducing some application requirements…always releases some pressure from the applicants,” Qin wrote in an email to The Argus. “From the school’s perspective, I think it shows its openness and inclusiveness to students with different backgrounds and abilities.”
Lindros also emphasized the goal of making the scholarship more accessible for students with demonstrated financial need.
“We also wanted to make sure that each scholarship was awarded to a student with demonstrated financial need, which has not always been the case in past years,” Lindros wrote.
For Qin, the new financial aid consideration will better help identify candidates for the scholarship.
“As I remember, the number of applicants to the Freeman Scholarship was small compared with the number of international applicants to Wesleyan in the past,” Qin wrote. “So now since each applicant with financial need will be taken into consideration, there will be fewer chances that those talented students who [deserve] the scholarship will be missed by our school.”
However, Freeman Asian Association Executive Committee Chair Sandy Kanjanakuha ’21, who is from Thailand, worries that the new changes might make the scholarship more competitive for some students than others as some countries have higher populations of applicants than others, so different countries will have different levels of competitiveness for the scholarship.
“I do think that the current scholarship right now gives opportunities to a lot of people who might not have necessarily been selected otherwise,” Kanjanakuha said. “So by having this quota removed…would maybe put the smaller countries at a disadvantage.”
Kanjanakuha also expressed concerned about how the changes will affect the diversity of the chosen scholars, given that there could now be two scholars selected from one country and none from another.
“What I’m scared for, moving forward, is the distribution of it and the diversity that it brings,” Kanjanakuha said. “I personally feel like that Freeman scholarship itself brings a great deal of value in terms of diversity, diversity cultural-wise and intellectually-wise.”
Some of this diversity is manifests in the types of schools from which applicants are chosen. Kanjanakuha worries that the larger applicant pool, without the requirement of one scholar per country, risks increasing competition between students from international and local schools.
“What could happen is that people from international schools [could be] pitted against people from local schools,” Kanjanakuha added. “Will it still be a fair playing ground? With the one quota per country, there’s still some sort of chance [for an applicant at] a local school to be picked. But now if you’re pitted against the rest of the eleven countries, does the same chance still prevail?”
Freeman Asian Scholar Andy Tan ’21 from Malaysia expressed concerned about the effects of the changes specifically in Malaysia. There is a new addition to the “Am I Eligible” section of the Freeman Asian Scholarship Program page, which says that Malaysian applicants cannot apply based on forecasted results of the Malaysia National Secondary Examination (SPM). Instead, they must be enrolled in their second year of the Malaysia National Higher Education Examination (STPM).
“Not accepting students graduating with actual SPM results will limit the applicants from Malaysia,” Tan wrote in an email to The Argus. “Many students will then choose a more directed, more focused education post-STPM rather than a liberal arts education from Wesleyan, which is equivalent of ‘wasting’ two years of their life doing ‘fun’ classes, and a boring revision of what they already know.”
Lindros acknowledges that these changes are significantly different from how the program has operated for over the past 25 years but believes the goals of the program remain consistent.
“We believe these changes align with Wesleyan’s long-standing commitment to access while maintaining the spirit of the Freeman Scholarship Program,” Lindros wrote.
Even though the application process has changed, Lindros told The Argus that the University remains dedicated to supporting the Freeman Asian Scholarship Program.
“These changes will not alter that commitment or access to a Wesleyan education for students with demonstrated need from East and Southeast Asia,” Lindros wrote.
Rachel Hess Wachman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.