Johnson Weekend brings in hundreds of finalists

Scholarship finalists visit campus for interviews, overnight stays


Abigail Summerville

Around 200 high school seniors from all over the country roamed the Washington and Lee campus early last week as participants in the annual “Johnson Weekend.” The visitors stayed with current W&L first-years from March 6-8 as they competed for the Johnson Scholarship.

The finalists were each vying for a spot in the roughly 10 percent of the incoming class that will receive the prestigious full-ride, according to the W&L admissions website. The Johnson Scholarship offers at least full tuition to recipients, as well as $7,000 to support their summer endeavors. In the past, the university has selected these 200 finalists based on their academic performance in high school, their personal accomplishments and their Johnson Scholarship application essay. Only around 40 of the 200 applicants will receive the award.

Johnson finalists said they appreciated the hospitable atmosphere that they felt on the W&L campus.

“The thing that stood out to me the most was how friendly everyone has been, and how much attention we’ve been given,” Sarishka Desai, from Connecticut, said.

Another finalist, Kate Ferencsik from Georgia, said the students, faculty and staff at W&L were hospitable.

“It was really inviting and welcoming,” she said. “I know that the motto of the campus is community, but for me that really resonated because I go to such a small school. It’s very similar to what I’m used to.”

Over the course of the three days, the prospective students toured campus, visited academic departments’ open houses, sat in on information sessions, were given an introduction to the honor system, participated in personal interviews, ate dinner with faculty members and attended classes with current students.

One prospect, Mary Beth Barksdale, said she appreciated the eye-opening class that she sat in on.

“I know zero Arabic, and that was one of the classes I went to and it was really amazing to watch these kids who had only been in it for two months speaking it,” Barksdale said. “They were halting, obviously, but they could communicate with the professor, and it’s really so different from English and I never thought of it as an option to take in college.”

A current Johnson Scholar at W&L, Jackson Roberts, ‘19, reflected on his experience last year at Johnson Weekend compared to his experience this year hosting two finalists.

“It was interesting being on the other side because the prospective Johnsons kind of looked to me for advice and insight, which I willingly gave,” Roberts said. “It was fun having the [Johnsons] around, though, and I enjoyed introducing them to the school.”