This weekend, about 60 newly admitted students will gather at the University of Minnesota's Rochester campus to compete in person for $200,000 in merit scholarships.

It's the first time that the school will be awarding scholarships this way, says Chancellor Stephen Lehmkuhle. He's hoping it will help boost recruiting efforts on the six-year-old campus, which is geared heavily toward students interested in the health professions.

Up to now, the Rochester campus, like most colleges, has meted out scholarships the old-fashioned way: by inviting students to apply for them in writing. These scholarships, which range from $1,000 to $8,000 apiece, are designed to help entice top candidates to pick this particular school as their first choice.

But this year, officials decided they would get a better sense of those students, and their chances of sticking with the program, if they met in person. So the campus created "Health Care Scholars Day," which takes place Saturday.

"The students who are successful at UMR, they have this grit [and] resilience to persevere in a very rigorous curriculum," said Lehmkuhle. Typically, he said, they come with a passion for the health sciences because of some personal experience — their own illness, perhaps, or that of a friend or relative.

At scholar's day, the prospective students, who have all been accepted to the university, will be invited to share those stories in person.

About 80 students, out of hundreds of potential candidates, were invited to participate after making the first cut, based on their written applications, said Lori Carrell, the vice chancellor for academic affairs. About 60 ultimately signed up. "It was incredibly competitive," she said.

On Saturday, they'll divide into four groups, competing for nearly 50 individual scholarships. Most are aimed at high school seniors who will be starting as freshmen this fall.

In one group, students will have three minutes each to tell judges what motivated them, while still teenagers, to choose health care careers. The winners will compete for 12 "Health Care Passion Scholarships," up to $4,000 apiece.

A second group will compete for 10 "Difference Maker Scholarships," designed for students who have volunteered their time on a health-related project. They've been asked to produce posters or videos "showcasing their civic engagement," said Carrell, and show that "connects to their future goals."

A third group will compete for approximately 20 Health CORE (Community of Respect and Empowerment) scholarships, aimed at students from underrepresented groups who live in one of the campus's "learning communities." The candidates will be interviewed in person for scholarships of up to $8,000, to help cover the added costs of living on campus.

The final category, known as Mosaic Scholarships, was created for continuing students taking part in a special certification program at the Mayo Clinic.

The winners will be notified in early March, says Carrell. Every competitor will receive at least $250 to help cover textbook costs at the Rochester campus.