University Becomes Popular Destination for National Merit Scholars

aerial view of Green Center

The National Merit Scholars Program, housed in the Cecil and Ida Green Center, is part of the Hobson Wildenthal Honors College.

The University of Texas at Dallas welcomed more than 170 new National Merit Scholars this fall, a record for the University. Last year, 160 freshman scholars chose to attend UT Dallas, the ninth-largest class among all U.S. universities and the third-largest among public universities.

National Merit Scholars at UT Dallas receive complete tuition coverage for up to eight semesters; per-semester stipends for housing, books, supplies and other costs; and a one-time study abroad opportunity.

“Awarding merit scholarships continues a long tradition of attracting some of the country’s brightest high school graduates to UT Dallas for their undergraduate education,” said Michael Seeligson BS’06, assistant provost and head of UT Dallas’ National Merit Scholars Program. “The University began awarding these scholarships in 1992 with growing interest each year.”

According to Seeligson, this year’s cohort represents approximately 2 percent of such students across the country and the top 0.5 percent of graduating high school seniors in each state based on their test scores and high school academic performance.

Seeligson said the scholars are drawn to UT Dallas because of its rigorous academics and beautiful, modern campus — not just the generous scholarship.

portrait of Seeligson

The growth of the National Merit Scholars Program tracks the growth of UT Dallas and its national reputation. Our students love UT Dallas for its academic strengths and campus life, but also look to give back and grow our community.

Michael Seeligson BS’06, assistant provost and head of the National Merit Scholars Program at UT Dallas

“The growth of the National Merit Scholars Program tracks the growth of UT Dallas and its national reputation. Our students love UT Dallas for its academic strengths and campus life, but also look to give back and grow our community,” Seeligson said.

One feature of the program is the Honors Roundtable Series. During the frequent lunchtime forums, presented by the Hobson Wildenthal Honors College, scholars and other honors students participate in conversations on focused topics led by faculty members or distinguished guests.

“The roundtable conversations have grown from a few sessions each year to more than 20 each semester,” said Valerie Brunell, assistant dean of the Honors College. “Our students seek out these opportunities to meet and interact with our world-class faculty. Often, that meeting is the start of a future research project or other academic experience.”

National Merit Scholars also participate in undergraduate research, academic competitions, and in Student Government and student organizations.

“Distributed across the country, there are high school seniors hungry for intellectual peers who will support their academic interests and professional goals and dreams. Our students grow toward their futures together,” said Wendi Kavanaugh MA’04, MFA’10, assistant director of the National Merit Scholars Program.

The scholars’ education extends beyond the classroom. Through the Carl J. Thomsen Fund for Student Enrichment, they attend a variety of performances and events by fine arts ensembles, including the Dallas Opera and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. They are involved in the local arts community and engaged in community service, and they work in the thriving Dallas business community through internships and co-ops.

“I particularly loved the cultural events,” literary studies alumnus Connor Spencer BA’15 said about the program. “Spending time at the Dallas Symphony or the opera house, and having dinner with the staff and your fellow program members made for some memorable evenings.”

Through study abroad, the scholars participate in global experiences at partner institutions or programs led by UT Dallas faculty. As a public affairs undergrad, Tiffany Nguyen BS’18 traveled to Oaxaca, Mexico, with Dr. Monica Rankin, the director of the Center for U.S.-Latin America Initiatives.

“I was able to fall in love with a place so distinct from where I grew up, and my experiences in Mexico have shaped my post-graduation plans such that I am considering moving to the country to work and live,” Nguyen said. “I feel I am a more compassionate and open person for what I was able to accomplish, thanks to the National Merit Scholarship.”

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].