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McDaniel College Summer Science Academy offers campers a scholarship

By Blair Ames, bames@tribune.com

12:18 PM EDT, June 19, 2013

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Students who attended McDaniel College's Summer Science Academy in the past had the opportunity to earn college credit.

This year, completing a one-week course could land them a $40,000 scholarship.

The college's Summer Science Academy for high school students and recent graduates started in 2005 as an opportunity to engage students through a forensic science course and attract them to the college, according to academy co-founder and McDaniel chemistry professor Brian Wladkowski.

The forensic science course drew about 15 students per year in its first four years before growing to include about 30 students over the last four years, according to academy co-founder Jeff Marx.

This year, Wladkowski said he and Marx, a physics professor at the college, wanted to take the "next big step" by offering a scholarship along with additional courses.

"It really fit with the college's history of giving a significant amount of financial aid," Marx said of offering the scholarship.

Students who complete any of the six one-week courses by being well engaged and well behaved with a good attendance record will receive a $40,000 scholarship, $10,000 a year, if they choose to attend McDaniel College.

Students still earn one credit by completing a session through the academy.

The only criteria for admission to the camp is to be enrolled in high school or be a recent graduate.

McDaniel's undergraduate tuition, not including room, board, and other fees, for the 2013-14 school year is $36,960.

The scholarship is contingent upon the student applying, and being admitted, to the college.

Funds for the scholarship come from the college's financial aid budget, according to Marx.

"We wanted to try to attract more qualified (students) and interest physical science, math and computer science kids to the campus," he said.

The size of the Summer Science Academy essentially quadrupled this year with the addition of three new courses that discuss astronomy, robotics, and physical science.

Marx and Wladkowski handle the majority of the instruction at the camp, though other McDaniel professors are active with lectures and lessons throughout the camp.

Wladkowski said classes center around hands on activities for students.

"We try to keep it as realistic as possible," he said.

The camp begins at 9 a.m. and runs into the evening with activities. The cost is $825 for a student living in the dorms for the five days and $425 for a student who commutes to the Westminster campus every day.

The number of commuters and residents at this year's camp is split pretty evenly, Marx said.

Enrollment has spiked from 30 students last year to 85 this year.

"It's pretty clear that the motivation to possibly get a scholarship and come to a school like McDaniel is pretty attractive," Wladkowski said.

The academy's $40,000 scholarship represents the minimum scholarship offered by the college. Students may also be eligible for additional scholarships and financial support, based on their academic credentials.

Only about 10 percent of previous academy students ended up attending McDaniel, but Wladkowski said more than half of the students this year have expressed in interest in attending the Westminster college.

John Fry, a rising senior at Harford Technical High School in Bel Air, said he chose to attend the camp this year because he has always been interested in science.

Fry is deciding between six colleges, but said the scholarship from McDaniel and his experiences at the academy will definitely play a role in his decision.

"Now that I've got to meet the teachers, it seems like a good environment," he said.

Marx said they are "very curious" to find out how many students decided to attend McDaniel with the scholarship now offered at the academy.

"If the ratios hold, we could have as many as 10 or 20 that end up coming here," he said.

Although enrollment has nearly tripled from last year, Wladkowski and Marx said they're not sure where it will go from here.

In the past, students have attended the camp from as far as Oklahoma, Vermont and New York. Marx said this year's class is more concentration in the Baltimore metro region, with most hailing from Anne Arundel, Carroll, Howard and Montgomery counties.