National Merit Scholarship
National Merit Scholars Choose USF
What better way to learn what’s it’s like to be a National Merit Scholar at USF than to hear from our current students – in their own words! Hear from Zaydi and Shalini to find out what surprised them most about their experience at USF, how USF is helping them reach their goals, advice they have for other NMS students and more.
Major: Medical Sciences
Year: Second-Year Medical Student
A: I was looking for a university that would provide me the ability to go to medical school and had a campus that was growing. There are a lot of other colleges in Florida, but USF is one that's definitely been on the rise. Also, I heard about the new medical school that’s being built in downtown Tampa. That was a huge factor for me choosing USF, and the seven-year program they offer was the best way for me to get into the medical school.
A: Inspiring. I think that's the best word to describe what I've felt over the last three years and how it's changed my personality, my attitude and my future goals. The people I've met in this area are just amazing. They all inspired me, pushed me to be better, to take the next step and keep going on in my career.
A: I would tell them to choose USF over other schools because of the beauty of the campus, the beauty of the people here, the fact that USF is on the rise and the number of different things you can pursue. A lot of other schools have a strong focus in one area, but I’ve found that USF is pretty strong in several different areas from business to engineering to medicine.
A: I think the most surprising thing was the amount of the scholarship. I did not expect that at all. That was very helpful financially, and it increased my expectations of what a scholarship means and how much it can help you in college.
A: On top of a great financial contribution, USF provided these group meetings for National Merit Scholars across the years, and they would talk to us about what we wanted to do and how to help us get there. I found that really welcoming, especially during my first year, and the social benefits were probably more helpful than financial.
A: USF prepared me for the rigorous schedule of medical school through the seven-year program. I had a three-year undergraduate experience where the classes included heavy emphasis on science, biochemistry, organic chemistry and other things like that. So, I was prepared pretty intensely for the medical school curriculum as well as the workload that would be expected.
Major: Biomedical Science
Year: Third year
A: I was looking for a really supportive environment. I wanted to see kindness from the students. I wanted to see professors and advisers that really cared. I wanted to see academic excellence and community service-based schooling. I've seen all of that at USF. In addition, USF offered a lot of financial aid, and they really work hard to ensure that you're financially stable, so you can focus on your academic goals.
A: When I was looking at USF, I thought “wow this is such a big university.” But when I came here, I realized that it's really a home away from home. Everyone's really supportive of each other, and it's a great place to get to know one another. It's not very isolated or as big as it seems. You get used to the campus size, and you're able to really get to know many individuals, get to network and get to see a lot of opportunities that you would not otherwise see outside of this university.
A: .I think the thing that most surprised me was the amount of financial aid. It appeared in my account and it was a total shock. But it was a wonderful surprise, because the full scholarship – including housing, all my meals and textbooks – enables me to focus on my coursework instead of worrying about the finances.
A: I chose USF for several reasons. First of all, Tampa’s home for me. It’s a great location that’s growing and has a lot of opportunity. I also want to go into the medical field, and this university offers a lot of opportunity in terms of great medical advising and research. There also are a lot of locations like Shriners Hospital, Moffitt Cancer Center and the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge that help enhance experiences. I felt that I was at home as soon as I toured here, and I could see myself with the other students. I could see that this is a beautiful campus and I was excited to be involved.
A: I would tell them to really think about the opportunities that they'll have here. You'll have the opportunity to engage with students of diverse backgrounds who have different interests. You'll be able to enhance and shape your college experience because you're not worried about finances thanks to the scholarship that's provided. You can focus on extracurricular activities instead of working that extra job, or you can focus on going to extra socials to meet and network with more people. This university offers a multitude of ways to make sure that you're set and stable for your future, and whenever you have a concern or question, there's always someone that will open their door to you to help.
A: In addition to the full-ride scholarship, USF provides a study abroad experience for National Merit Scholars. Last December, I went to the Dominican Republic. There was no cost out of my pocket, and it was a great opportunity for me to learn about other cultures and gain global perspective.
Major: Biomedical Sciences (seven-year medical track)
A: I was searching for colleges with good undergraduate research programs and accelerated or combined med programs, but I didn’t hear about USF at first because I’m from California. One of my family friends who lives near here recommended USF and said they have a seven-year medical track. I looked into it, and I realized that they also have really good undergraduate research opportunities. It still wasn’t really high on my priority list at that time, because I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to the other side of the country. Then I came for the Scholars Experience and saw the campus and it’s beautiful. I fell in love with how much everyone here loves USF, too. And at the end, USF is really generous with the funding for National Merit Scholars. So, I thought, seven-year medical track, great research, great funding, I think I’ll choose USF.
A: I want to go into neuroscience as either a neurologist or neurosurgeon – I’m still not sure about the surgery part. I also want to go into undergraduate research. USF makes it easy for you to get to those research opportunities and it shows you the path. No one walks you through the door, but they show you the door to whatever goal you have, and I feel like it’s that way with my career goal, too. The research here as well as the location of the campus near Florida Hospital, Moffitt Cancer Center and Shriners Children’s Hospital make it a great environment to network and make connections. Even after I get my bachelor’s and start med school, I feel like I won’t be lost when I’m here.
A: The Honors College is what surprised me the most, because USF is a public university. I got into the Honors College as part of being a National Merit Scholar, and I would say it doesn’t feel like I’m missing out by not going to a private university. The Honors College has so many unique opportunities, including classes like Aesthetics of Fractal Geometry. You wouldn’t expect that to be a typical class at a public university – you would expect it to be a high-level class at a private university. So that really did surprise me.
A: Initially, I didn’t really have any expectations, because I didn’t know about USF – it’s a public university on the other side of the country. I was in California under the UC system and the rankings are so much higher. But at the same time, for such a new school, USF has so many options available already and I know that it’s rising in rankings and the university is already making a name for itself. I feel like my perception of USF has changed from “Oh, what can the university do for me?” to “Wow, that’s what this university is going to do for me!” I feel like this is a university you have to visit to fully understand what they can offer you.
A: I wanted a school that had a focus on undergraduate research since that pertains to my career goals as well as good opportunities to connect with other people in my field. Also, though not as high of a priority, I also really wanted a school that was willing to give scholarships since California doesn’t award many merit-based scholarships.
As far as campus, I didn’t want it to be antique or historical – I really wanted a campus that’s on the cutting edge of technology with the latest opportunities. USF is a young campus, so everything is really new, all of the buildings, the technology and the services offered are really up to date. Plus, there are ample amounts of research opportunities and connections. USF is in such a convenient location for connecting, especially in the medical field since there are three different hospitals right here.
A: The first thing I would tell them is to visit the campus and go on a campus tour. Don’t just look at the website. The website is great and all, but it doesn’t really give you the experience of what it feels like to truly be here and be in the middle of not only all of the opportunities but also the spirit. Because the spirit at USF is something that contributed to me making the decision to go here.
Major: Anthropology and Economics
Year: Fourth year
A: I chose USF because I felt like it offered the widest range of options for me. Coming into college, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do, but I knew all of the fields I was interested in were fields where USF had strong faculty and lots of opportunities. I also chose USF because they have a lot of support for National Merit Scholars. The scholarship office reached out and made it clear that I was going to have a lot of options if I came here.
A: One of my goals for college, although it’s not super academic, was to continue participating in marching band which was something that didn’t seem like an option at a lot of the schools I was looking at. I could either do marching band or do academics, I couldn’t do both. Academically, USF has had a lot of professors who have connections in areas I am interested in. I was able to study abroad. Right now, I am doing my thesis, and I am working with a local refugee resettlement agency and talking to a lawyer on their staff. I want to go to law school, so working with them on my thesis project will be helpful when I’m looking at law school.
A: Definitely the opportunities that were open to me. I’ve been able to do so many things here in so many different areas on campus. I received financial support to study abroad which is the only way I was able to do that. Plus, there are a lot of opportunities like the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement and I work in student government.
A: I had heard of USF, but I’m from Jacksonville, FL, so I wasn’t super familiar with it. When I started looking at colleges, I was really surprised by the academic opportunities here. Once I got here, I was really surprised by the sense of community, by how big the campus is, by the prestige of some of the professors here, especially in the Honors College. My perception has changed dramatically.
A: I was looking for a school that would allow me to explore a broad range of interests and opportunities. I really wanted the opportunity to study abroad which is something I got to do here. I got to go to Croatia last summer. I really wanted to be able to participate in marching band, as nerdy as that might sound, and to be a part of an Honors College with a large community. Those were all things I got at USF. I was also looking for a school where I wouldn’t be stressed financially, and as a National Merit Scholar, that’s definitely something that hasn’t been an issue at USF.
A: I would definitely tell them to seriously consider USF. There are so many opportunities here in such a broad range of fields. I would definitely let them know that the faculty here is amazing. The professors have such a wide range of experiences and connections and the classes are so engaging. I would highly recommend it.