So I’ll say this.
- Mercer took a lot of care of the students, providing support through guides (the Mercer Students), as well as investing money into the competition (the leather folders students receive).
- It is a good experience for future interviews at more selective or smaller competitions
- The main problem is that the Presidential Scholarship is fundamentally flawed (I would argue). Other threads seem to show that the Mercer Presidential Competition used to only invite 100-200 students. This seems to be a fair number for such a competition. When I received the invitation to interview at the Presidential Scholarship challenge at Mercer, I was very honoured and proud (to say the least). There's a lot of hype by the admissions staff about being selected to interview at such a competitive competition, throughout the program. Unfortunately, this is simply not true. There were something like 400-500 students, and the parking at Mercer was full, as well as the auditorium halls. Now obviously, 10% of 5000 is 500 (keep in mind that the top 10% of Mercer's applicants are invited - apparently). But the program just has too many people.
- The opening reception the night before (Friday night), was unnecessary in every way. I would not advise booking a hotel unless you are coming from a 3+ hour drive.
- I will say that I had amazing interviewers, and felt that my interview was amazing as well. I did very well, and seemed to impress my interviewers. Unfortunately, it did not seem that these interviews came into play too much. I understand this as there were something like 400-500 students, and the interviews were conducted in a period of 3-4 hours if I'm not mistaken. (Of course, there were also multiple interviewees, but still seemed to be some strain on the interviewees, as my interviewees were something like 10 minutes (or perhaps more) late to receive me from the waiting room.
- There is just far too many people. It seems like students loose the value of their invitation as soon as they see how many students were invited.
- Mercer's admissions in general is based upon statistics rather than extracurriculars, essays, etc. I had wonderful recommendations sent, as well as stellar essays (I'm talking about general admissions essays, not Presidential essays - see below). These did not make a difference. Additionally, due to the high volume of attendees at the competitions, I did not feel that my interviewers read my essay nor resume well. (When students are invited to Presidential, they get an email to submit an essay (with certain prompts) and a resume, for consideration of higher scholarship awards). I wrote one of the best essays in my life (not bragging, but I am a great essay writer), and did not feel that my interviewers read it well due to the high volume of attendees (not their fault in any way, as they had no input in this, and they were just employees with a job to do)
I would have to argue that this invitation really isn’t a honour to receive. For those who are making a decision whether to attend or not, I would say this. How high is Mercer on your list? This competition is likely based on HS statistics, so if you are a student with a high GPA (4.0+) (ask your Mercer University admissions counsellor about your Mercer calculated GPA) and an SAT score of 2100+ or ACT of 32+, then it may be worth a try. Obviously, the higher, the better. The interview will not really mean much other than a cherry on top, for the top candidates. It is my strong opinion that based on what I saw, this was the case.
Also, How much are you willing to pay? I really liked the people of Mercer University, but do not feel that is worth as much as it is in tuition. I started off with an 18K merit scholarship, and was awarded the Jesse Mercer Scholarship of 24K. The scholarships were not stackable, so I only ended up with 24K. This would leave approx. 10K in tuition plus another 13K or so for housing (required for students) and meal plans. Thus, I would be paying something like 23K, and probably even more (transportation, other needs).
Now let me make this clear, I don’t mean to come off as condescending in any way in my post, and if I did, I apologize. The Mercer University Admissions staff are dedicated individuals, and they really took care of me. My 24K merit award was sent in a beautiful box (its a nice big Mercer box) with a Mercer Cup and High quality long sleeve T-Shirt which said Mercer Presidential Scholarship 2015. This was probably sent to all attendees, which says a lot about Mercer’s investment in this program. Nevertheless, it should be realized that lots of revenue may come to Mercer through tuition, and thus, the Presidential Scholarship is a lot about recruitment. 500 students who may never have visited (like myself) were brought to Mercer’s campus. Only a handful (and very likely pre-selected or given special consideration) were given full-tuition, and so the others came for recruitment.
I have decided to write this post to give an insight into the competition. It is my hope that future parents/students will find this useful. If you are a student that received full-tuition (or something to make it affordable without student loans), many congrats! I hope that Mercer will be a place you will thrive, if you so choose to attend.
To those who are iffy or are unsure about attending, I would say this, contact your admissions counsellor, and ask them clearly regarding how many students are attending. If there are over 400, and your stats are good but not stellar, then I would say it would be a waste of time (unless you really want to go).
Also, many students are there for just one reason, the Mercer Guaranteed Admissions Program (GAP),specifically in Medicine. While at this point, interviews are not announced, people still want to get their scholarships so that the GAP can be affordable, if they do get in to the program. I’ll also add something about this program. It’s a great opportunity to get guaranteed admissions into a top Medical school in Georgia. But I was told by a BME Professor that it is not as easy to hold onto the program once students are in. Essentially, the GAP is just a guarantee, but nothing a Mercer student can’t work for (as the final program requirements would essentially make the student an already competitive applicant for medical schools). If you get it, that awesome, and I hope that you become a successful physician! If not, don’t let this deter you, keep working, and your bound to succeed.
I wish all of you the best, and I hope that I have been a help to you guys in the future. I may be able to reply to any questions, but I feel like people will be reading this next year (12/5/2016), when I’m in college.