Sophia Ren wins Wells Scholarship


Molly Wagschal, Staff Writer

Senior Sophia Ren found out that she had received the prestigious Wells Scholarship in a rather anticlimactic way: a quick phone call. The Wells Scholars Program Director had called her earlier than she expected, and she had missed the call. The two then proceeded to play phone tag until finally he had to tell Ren in a rushed manner over the phone that the Wells committee had awarded her the scholarship.

Still, Ren said, she was “in awe” of the news.

“I was definitely really happy because it’s a really good opportunity; it gives you the freedom to do whatever you want,” she said, referring to the lack of fees that Wells Scholars would have to pay, compared to the costs associated with other, more prestigious universities.

Freshman Wells Scholars are awarded free tuition for all four years of undergraduate study at Indiana University. In addition, the scholarship covers fees for textbooks and other course materials, as well as one full year of study abroad. Each scholar also receives a living stipend.

Wells Scholars will be invited to special seminars and extracurricular activities, such as events with distinguished guests visiting IU. They are also privy to one-on-one academic and career mentoring with faculty members. Former Wells Scholars have gone on to play for the Berlin Philharmonic and receive other honors such as the Rhodes and Goldwater scholarships.

The application process for high school students starts with students being nominated by their counselors based on test scores, academic records, teacher reviews, and extracurricular activities. Then, each applicant has to submit three essays and a resume, in addition to soliciting a teacher recommendation. Afterwards, the counseling office picks six to seven students to interview for 30 minutes. Although the prospect of having an interview with several faculty members is stressful for most, Ren says she lightened the mood by making jokes.

In AP Chemistry, Ren got a pass to go the office, where she was told that she had been chosen to advance as a finalist. She remembers feeling very relieved because “South is more competitive than other schools,” each of which can nominate only two students.

Afterwards, Ren attended a weekend event for the 50 finalists at IU, where she was observed by professors and had a group interview with four other finalists. This time, the interviewers asked questions about each student’s selected field of interest (which for Ren was biochemistry) and prompted the students to participate in a discussion about politics.

Ren said that there is a “99 percent” chance that she will go to IU, but she will not accept the Wells Scholarship until she receives the decisions from other universities. She is currently waiting to hear back about admission and scholarships at Duke and Harvard. If Ren is accepted to those places, she said she would have to “visit them and walk around campus” to compare and make the decision.

Ren feels “very honored” to have been chosen to represent IU as a Wells Scholar.