In order to become competitive for most scholarships, you will need to put together a compelling application.

This is an ongoing process and one that you should begin as a first year student and continue to develop throughout your undergraduate career.

Take charge of your education

  • Take advantage of your professors’ office hours—strong letters of recommendation come from professors who know you well.
  • Develop mentoring relationships with faculty, staff, and others.
  • Don’t wait for others to ask if you’d like to engage in opportunities like EXCEL Research, the McKelvy Scholars Program or other opportunities; it is up to you to make sure that you are not just another student face in the crowd.
  • Network—you’ll never know where those connections will lead.
  • Carve a unique niche for yourself.

Become well-rounded & informed

  • Consider making Arts and Letters Daily your homepage.
  • Stretch yourself; explore & develop new interests and talents; don’t be shy and don’t pass up unique or interesting opportunities.
  • Regularly read a reputable newspaper and one or two news weeklies (e.g., Newsweek, The Economist, Time, etc.).
  • Listen to NPR, BBC News, etc.
  • Watch PBS, C-Span’s Book TV, etc.
  • Attend brown bag seminars; attend departmental and public lectures.

Become involved

  • Join groups (on- and off- campus) that represent issues you care about. Get involved in significant extra-curricular and service activities.
  • Don’t just join organizations for a “line item on your resume”—get involved!
  • Find your niche within these organizations/groups, and discover ways in which you can make unique contributions which will help lead their efforts.
  • Find ways to present your own research or significant public service or internship experiences to others; submit research for conferences (many professional conferences are accepting submissions from undergraduates); give your own brown bag presentation!
  • Keep a personal record or “working” résumé of your activities, research/course papers, etc. Make each entry detailed (e.g., number of hours participated; nature of activity; what thought about the activity; etc.). This document will later become important for writing your personal statement and scholarship résumé/Curriculum Vitae. It is easy to forget what you do; by keeping an informal but detailed record you will be able to assess your strengths, weaknesses, and areas where you may need to get more involved.

Be forward-thinking

  • It’s hard to know now what you will be doing with the rest of your life, but start thinking about it! Where do you see yourself five years after college? Ten years after college? Imagine that someone is introducing you at an alumni event in the year 2022 – what are they saying about you?
  • Developing goals for yourself based on what your potential future career might be.
  • Use your summers wisely: partake in research, internships, and service projects in the US or abroad. Consider applying for an REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) or other internship opportunity.

Become an excellent writer & be able to write about yourself

  • The personal statement is one of the most important components of most applications. The personal statement provides the reader with insight into your background, life experiences, interests and aspirations.
  • Keep a journal to help you remember highlights from your life experiences, and to strengthen your writing skills.
  • Learn how to write academically and critically.

Be a strong student

  • Take courses that will enrich your academic career as well as satisfy your intellectual curiosity and development. Scholarship selection committees look at your transcripts for breadth and depth—lots of lower level courses as a junior or senior can work against you.
  • Keep up your GPA. Most competitive awards require a minimum GPA of 3.2 or above; some, like the Marshall, require a 3.7 or above.

Be a planner; Think ahead

  • Make an appointment ( now to talk about scholarships that might interest you later. It’s never too early to plan!
  • Finding the right scholarship opportunity is not easy–it can be time consuming. Prepare to spend hours searching the web and various databases for appropriate programs; keep a note of their deadlines.
  • Look for programs that are the best fit for you. Read their guidelines carefully and make sure you meet their minimum requirements. If you don’t fit their criteria, focus your energies elsewhere.
  • Don’t limit your search to scholarships for which you are eligible now (as a first-, second, or third-year student); instead, identify those programs for which you will be eligible down the road (e.g., as a junior or senior).
  • Organize your applications by deadline and requirements; a spreadsheet might be helpful here.
  • Be realistic about your time.  Completing strong, polished applications can take up nearly as much time as a class.
  • Communicate with your potential recommenders early in the application process. Provide them with relevant information, materials and the deadlines, etc. Let your recommenders know that our office will be happy to address their particular questions or concerns.

When you engage in Study Abroad or Off-Campus Study

  • Don’t fall victim to the “out of sight, out of mind” syndrome; stay in touch with your professors, mentors, and others.
  • Use your time off campus to develop your intellectual, civic, and/or career interests.
  • Get involved with your host community through organizations, internships, independent study/research, English language tutoring, and community service/volunteer projects.