​USP Open Days: A step towards the next batch of scholarship recipients

Safa Jafari Safa, Office of Communications, ss152@aub.edu.lb


Five days wrapped up at AUB that will be life-changing for 82 of Lebanon’s youth. AUB’s Reynolds Hall buzzed with 319 shortlisted public high school students from all 26 districts of Lebanon who came in with their parents with the hope for fully-funded education at AUB through the University Scholarship Program (USP). 



“This is a very exciting time of the year when we invite a diverse body of eager and bright young students to AUB campus to give them hope for a future that they deserve,” said Dr. Samar Harkouss Director of USP VII. “The USAID scholarships open doors to high achieving low-income students to attain an American education that will pave the way to a bright career.”
Made possible by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), USP is a competitive program that provides undergraduate scholarships to financially disadvantaged public high school students who demonstrate academic excellence and leadership qualities, harnessed with the potential to give back to their communities. 

“AUB is one of the top universities in the Middle East, the region, and Lebanon and this program gives an opportunity to people like us—who can only afford university education if it is provided for free—to actually study here!” said Tonya Abou Malhab from Western Beqaa who is interested in studying chemistry at AUB. “Programs like this show the Lebanese youth that they have opportunities to live and flourish in Lebanon, particularly if they are talented and they work hard. Many of us have high potential but no awareness of the available opportunities out there. It is so important this potential is invested in.”

During the USP Open Days, every day, 65 shortlisted candidates were invited to take the English Entrance Exam (EEE) and undergo an interview assessing leadership and financial situation.  Parents also sit for financial interviews with financial aid officers. During their visit, the candidates are also taken on campus tours and are offered a career orientation session to guide them on the majors that are most needed by the market today and to answer their related queries.

“We want our daughter to be successful and to lead a good life,” Nabila Monzer from the Chouf district told us. “Many students are currently competing for this scholarship program, but we are full of hope that our daughter, Jana, will be selected to study at this university, known for its high caliber.”

Most applicants get to know about USP mainly through informational visits made by AUB Admissions Office staff members to all public high schools and technical schools in Lebanon. This was not the case, however, for Jennifer.

“This USP volunteer standing next to me is my friend Maher Salloum (now USP VII, cycle II) who created a buzz in our village when the word was out that someone was selected for a scholarship to study at AUB last year,” said Jennifer Sabra. “We did not know there was such a thing. Seeing this happen in reality gave me hope and encouraged me to apply, otherwise I would not have conceived it, as I live in a far village in the south. I had never thought of joining AUB as I was sure there was no way to afford it.”

Up to 50 volunteers, also USP students, accompanied the candidates and guided them during the day’s activities with helpful tips and coaching on the different aspects of the program, including civic engagement projects. Fadi Saade, from Marjayoun, who previously volunteered to help USP candidates go through the selection interviews, is now on his second year in the USP program (USP VII, cycle I), studying computer science at AUB.
“I am eager to inform the candidates here about the amazing and important civic engagement and internship opportunities offered in the program. We join NGOs and do 60-80 hours of volunteering work. Education through USP is not just within the classrooms. Through this program, we are becoming responsible citizens and helping our communities hands on.”

The USAID funding to AUB within the University Scholarship Program is now in its 7th year, totaling $66,003,399. AUB has cost shared the sum of $24,304,990. The program has to date supported 353 students through full scholarships. Currently, 242 USP students are enrolled at AUB and 159 others have graduated to have their go as leading engaged citizens. 

“We are a few days away from the AUB 2018 graduation ceremony,” said Dr. Malek Tabbal, provost designee on USP. “It is amazing to think that some of the applicants we are interviewing today will be walking at this same event few years down the line, on par with some of the most gifted students of the country and region.”