General Tips for National Scholarship Applicants
- Begin Early! This goes for individual scholarship applications, as well as the process of becoming a good applicant for national awards. Putting together a strong application requires a lot of preparation. Be aware of deadlines, especially for awards with on-campus nomination procedures. Remember to factor in time for things like getting transcripts. For the most competitive awards, selection committees expect to see years of great experiences in your application. The things you do as a freshman and sophomore continue to be important for you as a junior, senior, and beyond your undergraduate years!
- Be bold! Don’t suffer from Midwestern modesty. Share your accomplishments and ambitions.
- Be specific! When scholarship committees read through a hundred applications at a go, the students they remember are the ones with rich, specific details in their essays. Spell out acronyms and explain what each group you mentions does – we may know what “CCO” means at KU, but a national selection committee does not.
- Be authentic! Don’t guess about what the scholarship committee “wants” -- this is the sure way to come across as a cookie-cutter applicant. The foundations and scholarship committees are putting a lot of time and money into the students who win this award, and they want to make sure that each recipient is someone who will contribute to the program -- not just someone who wants a prize. You have to trust that you are unique and demonstrate what personal qualities you will bring to the program.
- Get feedback! Ask trusted professors and advisors for constructive criticism. Dr. Anne Wallen in the University Honors Program specializes in helping students with scholarship and fellowship applications. Fill out this form to get in contact with her, and schedule a one-on-one appointment with her to review your application.
- Follow up! Send a polite reminder email a week before the deadline. Even more importantly, write again to thank the recommender and let him or her know the outcome.
The classic: show, don’t tell!
Don’t waste words on “givens”
Focus on the positive
Be clear and straight-forward in style
Expect to write multiple drafts
Letters of Recommendation
- Ask early -- one month is best, never less than two weeks unless it’s absolutely unavoidable
- Ask in person -- this gives the recommender a chance to chat with you about your interests and why you’re pursuing the award. Ask “Could you write me a strong letter of recommendation?”
- Provide specific information about the scholarship program, any forms required, and a copy of your advising report. You may also want to provide a copy of your resume or cv.
- Provide waiver information. You should generally not expect to read letters of recommendation written on your behalf, and we usually advise that students waive their access to these letters. Confidential letters carry more weight with selection committees – so much so that some scholarship applications only accept confidential letters of recommendation. If your letter writer gives you a copy of a letter, that’s fine, but it’s better not to request it.
- Follow up. Send a polite reminder email a week before the deadline. Even more importantly, write again to thank the recommender and let him or her know the outcome.