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Two sophomores named Jack Kent Cooke scholarship semifinalists

February 23, 2020

When Carlie Anderson enrolled at the University of North Georgia (UNG), she knew she made the right decision to attend a smaller school. During her freshman year, though, she felt like she was missing out.

"All of my friends went to bigger schools and lived on campus," Anderson said. "I was upset and asked myself if I made the wrong choice to stay and save money."

In her sophomore year, Anderson realized the impact UNG had on her. She said she grew as a student and in her faith. She also solidified her career choice after she switched her major from accounting to information systems.

Now, Anderson feels ready to attend a larger university. The 20-year-old from Pendergrass, Georgia, is one step closer with help from UNG's Nationally Competitive Scholarships office.

Anderson is one of two UNG students who qualified as a semifinalist for the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. Johan Rodriguez-Soto, a sophomore pursuing a degree in nursing, is also a semifinalist.

"I didn't expect to apply for the scholarship, because I didn't think I could compete with the students from bigger universities," Rodriguez-Soto said.

The highly selective scholarship provides students in their second year with up to $40,000 per year toward the completion of their bachelor's degree in some of the nation's most elite four-year universities. Dr. Kathryn Quinto, nationally competitive scholarships adviser for research and engagement at UNG, encouraged Rodriguez-Soto to apply. Of the nearly 1,500 applicants, 456 were named semifinalists including Anderson and Rodriguez-Soto.

"The Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship encourages students to dream big, and we are excited for this recognition of Johan's and Carlie's outstanding work," Quinto said.

Dr. Anastasia Lin, assistant vice president of research and engagement, said UNG's associate students are well positioned for the Jack Kent Cooke award, thanks to UNG's focus on leadership, service, and stellar academics.

"We are thrilled to have two more students selected as semifinalists this year for this incredibly competitive scholarship, which historically has awarded less than 5% of applicants," Lin said.

Selection criteria include academic achievement, persistence, leadership, and service to others. Anderson believes her 4.0 GPA along with her past and present struggles made her stand out. She said she had to cope with her parents' divorce in the seventh grade, which shook her to the core. And her more recent struggle was during her first year at college.

"I was bitter because I wasn't doing everything all of my friends were," Anderson said. Then she realized she couldn't compare herself to others and started making new friends. "The first year of going to a university is setting those foundations and believing what's meant for you will come to you."

She hopes the transfer scholarship will come to her as does Rodriguez-Soto. As a first-generation student born in Mexico, Rodriguez-Soto said the funds will provide him the opportunity to attend out-of-state or Ivy League schools.

"I have endless possibilities," said the 20-year-old from Gainesville, Georgia. "I could focus on getting the best education I can without the worry of putting my family in debt."

Anderson, who receives the HOPE scholarship and other financial aid, agreed. She said if she doesn't win the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship, it will not diminish her semifinalist status.

"I feel accomplished, because filling out the application was difficult," she said. "It was complicated when you have so much to say."

Rodriguez-Soto said he and every student has a story to tell and no one should feel limited. Therefore, he advised all students to try for scholarships like the Jack Kent Cooke.

Three UNG students were previously named Jack Kent Cooke semifinalists, including John Blessing and Jennifer Conley in 2016 and Allison Rogers in 2019. Teri Jones, a non-traditional sophomore majoring in visual arts on UNG's Oconee Campus, won in 2015.

Students interested in learning more about nationally competitive scholarships should contact for more information.

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