But those financial worries disappeared once Gamboa learned she’d been awarded a UC Merced Regents’ Scholarship. The scholarship bridges any gap between financial aid and parental contributions — assuring each recipient that they can afford an education at UC Merced.
“I was really concerned about going to college,” said Gamboa, an undeclared freshman from Oxnard. “My mom is going to National University and has taken out loans. So I was very excited to get the scholarship.”
This year, 28 incoming UC Merced students received that good news — joining 31 continuing students. The university will disburse about $500,000 this year in Regents’ Scholarships, which are one of the highest honors awarded to undergraduate students.
“The Regents’ Scholarship is designed to recruit the best and brightest students to our campus,” said Diana Ralls, director of Financial Aid and Scholarships at UC Merced.
While the criteria can vary slightly from year-to-year, officials consider factors such as academic performance, leadership and extra-curricular activities in choosing scholarship recipients.
All entering UC Merced students are considered for the awards, which range from $7,000 to more than $30,000 annually. Recipients must maintain fulltime status and a 3.25 GPA to retain the scholarship for four years, or two years for transfer students.
It’s easy to see how Gamboa made the cut. Aside from her 4.2 GPA (including honors classes) in high school, she also was active in water polo, prepared speaking and a variety of clubs.
Every Saturday, the Spanish-speaking Gamboa spent five hours helping other high school students with the English language, homework and social skills. Today, she’s happy to be enrolled at UC Merced.
“I like it because a lot of people are friendly,” she said. “My classes are engaging and I find them interesting and enjoyable. My professors are really good at teaching the material.”
Other recipients of Regents’ Scholarships are just as impressive. Eduardo Hernandez, a freshman from Bakersfield, posted a 4.38 GPA (including honors and AP classes) in high school and was active in clubs and sports.
He also was a devoted community volunteer who helped make food baskets for the needy, read to children and staff fundraising events such as school carnivals.
Hernandez said he was pleasantly surprised to receive the UC Merced Regents’ Scholarship.
“I ended up not having to pay anything,” he said. “And I’m getting a world-class education.”
Hernandez is thinking about majoring in computer science. He’s currently looking on campus for research opportunities in computer science and mechanical engineering. He said he’s is happy with his college choice.
“There’s a lot of technology here — probably more than at some other prestigious colleges,” he said. “UC Merced also is very ‘green,’ and that is important to me.”
Transfer student Jenna Lunge is similarly excited about her college choice and the Regents’ Scholarship. Lunge, of San Ramon, is a psychology major at UC Merced.
“The scholarship will help in paying my bills, paying my rent and helping with food, so I don’t have to eat Top Ramen every night,” she said.
Prior to community college, Lunge was a competitive cheerleader for many years and also worked as a camp counselor. Since high school, she has carried a near-perfect GPA.
Lunge said she began looking at UC Merced after visiting her best friend on campus. The small student population, research opportunities and reasonable cost-of-living factored in her decision to attend the University of California’s 10th and newest campus.
“I love the small-town feel,” she said. “I even got stuck behind a tractor going to school the other day.”