In his opening remarks at New College of Florida’s 48th commencement, on May 23, President Donal O’Shea – a Harvard-trained mathematician – broke down the graduating class’s success in numbers.

That evening, he said, 144 students would walk the stage and collect their diplomas. “They comprise a tiny fraction of the 50,000 baccalaureate degree recipients in Florida this year, and an even tinier fraction of the 1.8 million bachelor degree recipients in the U.S.,” he said.

“The odds of winning a Fulbright scholarship are less than one in a thousand,” he said. “

There are five Fulbright winners in this class of 144.”

“The odds of winning a Goldwater Scholarship are one in 10,000. There were two in this class of 144."

“The odds of winning a Truman Scholarship are one in 30,000. There is one in this class of 144."

“The odds of winning a Frost Scholarship are one in 3,000. There are two in this class of 144."

“You can do the arithmetic,” O’Shea said. “What are the odds of this?”

To answer his question:

For Fulbright Scholarships, which allow students to teach or conduct research abroad, New College students were 35 times as likely to win as the typical college student.

For Goldwater Scholarships, which recognize the most promising students in math and science, New College students were 139 times as likely to win as the typical college student.

For Truman Scholarships, which recognize students with a dedication to and future in public service, New College students were 208 times as likely to win as the typical college student.

For Frost Scholarships, which provide Florida state university graduates with full scholarships to a master’s degree program at University of Oxford, New College students were 41 times as likely to win as the typical college student.

 

“New College is the alternative investment that will produce enormous, outsized returns,” O’Shea is fond of saying. “It may be the graduate that transforms an entire field, or it may be the success rates for highly prized educational outcomes averaged over time.”

 

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