Sam Sands ’18 possesses the type of credentials – straight-A student, large AP course load, award-winning artist, cellist, pianist, swim team captain, National Honor Society president, exceptional standardized test scores – that colleges covet.
So it’s no surprise that Sands has gained acceptance to many of the nation’s finest universities. However, since the fall, Sands has been focused on an extremely rare prize: the Morehead-Cain Scholarship to the University of North Carolina.
Awarded to just 3% of those who apply, the highly selective Morehead-Cain provides a full four-year scholarship, soup-to-nuts, including strategic summer enrichment programs.
UNC-Chapel Hill is the nation’s oldest public university (the first students enrolled in 1795), and Morehead-Cain is the nation’s oldest merit scholarship (1951).
And Sands is one of its newest recipients.
Only 70 students (less than half from out-of-state) from among more than 2,100 Morehead-Cain applicants, received the honor – the elite of the elite.
“It is an incredible opportunity and I am truly honored to become a Morehead-Cain Scholar,” Sands said. “I am amazed that this is happening and feel very blessed.
“I am looking forward to the next four years at UNC and all that it has in store.”
Entering his senior year, North Carolina wasn’t even on Sands’ radar screen. Jesuit college counselor Peter Baxter, after reviewing Sands’ credentials, made the suggestion to check out UNC, which is ranked in the top 5 nationally among public universities and top 30 among all U.S. universities by U.S. News & World Report.
“Sam is the kind of student who highlights his duty to his family as his first priority and proudest achievement – you don’t hear that very often," Baxter said. "He is a truly remarkable combination of discipline, intellect, integrity, follow-through, and humility – everything society needs in its future leaders.”
So Sands visited campus, evaluated the school, and decided Chapel Hill could very well be his home for the next four years. But earning the comprehensive, all-inclusive Morehead-Cain scholarship was a big step beyond the standard application-and-acceptance.
The four basic criteria on which candidates are evaluated for Morehead-Cain are leadership, character, scholarship, and physical vigor. Also, candidates must be nominated by their school, and only select schools – Jesuit among them – can nominate students. Sands was chosen as a Morehead-Cain nominee by Jesuit after a highly competitive, intra-school process, which included an application and a panel interview.
Next came the Morehead-Cain application procedure. The rigorous, tiered process included semifinal interviews followed by an all-weekend evaluation experience in Chapel Hill during the finalist phase.
Meanwhile, this fall at Jesuit, Sands once again earned straight-As while leading the swimming team to the State Championship, the first by a Hillsborough County school in 71 years. In his last race for Jesuit, Sands, swimming the final relay leg of the final event, pulled the Tigers up from 7th place to 2nd, clinching the State Championship.
Sands, an AP Art student who has earned awards at Jesuit’s annual Celebration of the Arts, recently teamed with classmate Trevor Perez ’18 to make one of the extraordinary murals for Jesuit’s annual fundraising gala, Gaudiosa, which was Feb. 24. And as president of Jesuit’s chapter of NHS, Sands led the NHS induction ceremonies in October and February.
All of which helped lead to Sands’ selection for the scholarship.
“The Morehead-Cain Scholarship is among the most prestigious merit scholarships in the country, whose alumni are leaders in every field of society,” Baxter said. “Sam is a standout servant leader among a very distinguished group of peers here at Jesuit. He exemplifies the qualities that the Morehead-Cain seeks to evaluate in its selection process.”
For more information about Morehead-Cain, go to http://www.moreheadcain.org/