What are scholarships, fellowships, grants and prizes? Is there a difference between a fellowship, scholarship and a grant that I need to be concerned about?

We use the terms scholarships, fellowships, grants and prizes interchangeably throughout our website. They are generally merit-based awards to help fund study, research, internships or projects in the US or abroad.

Are all scholarship awards purely merit-based?

No. Most (such as the Rhodes, Fulbright, and Goldwater) are merit-based. Others (such as the Beinecke and Gilman) are both merit- and financial need-based awards.

Is there a GPA requirement?

Each scholarship will indicate if there is a minimum GPA requirement and what that GPA minimum is; others may not have a minimum GPA but expect applicants to have decent GPAs.

Always read the eligibility and selection criteria very carefully before applying for an award. These are available on their individual web sites.

What are the scholarship programs looking for?

The selection criteria will vary. For specific eligibility and selection requirements, you should read over the individual guidelines carefully. Some program websites provide detailed and extensive FAQs and other useful information for applicants to help you decide if you would be a viable candidate for that particular award.

Despite the fact that specific selection criteria may vary, we recommend that you read over the set of over-arching attributes that scholars seem to possess on the Preparing tab of our website.


How do I apply for any of these scholarships?

  • Applications requiring Lafayette endorsement have campus deadlines up to several months in advance of the foundation deadlines. You must go through the campus endorsement process. Failure to do so will automatically disqualify you from consideration by the scholarship foundation. Don’t run that risk!
  • For applications that do NOT require Lafayette endorsement, you are responsible for submitting all materials by the program’s stated deadline. If you begin the process early, you will have time to revise and maybe even get valuable feedback from your professors, mentors, and Dean Goldberg prior to official submission.

What do you mean by Lafayette endorsement?

Some scholarships require that you are selected by the College prior to submitting your application to the actual scholarship program. In other words, you must first receive permission from Lafayette College in order to be considered for the scholarship.

Is there a limit to the number of Lafayette endorsements for particular scholarships?

Some programs, like the Marshall Scholarship, do not place a hard and fast limit to the number of applicants that may be submitted; others, like the Truman Scholarship, restrict the number of applications the College is allowed to put forward (i.e., endorse) for consideration.

How do I secure Lafayette endorsement?

In order to secure Lafayette endorsement, you must first submit your application according to the campus application instructions for the scholarship in question. Those instructions are found on our website.

For most programs requiring endorsement, Lafayette sets a campus submission deadline about one month before the official deadline for that scholarship. (See program descriptions and scholarship deadlines for information about internal campus deadlines and submission instructions.)

How do I submit my fellowship/scholarship materials for Lafayette endorsement?

In order for you to submit your fellowship/scholarship materials, you will need to follow the instructions for individual scholarships and then go directly to the Submit Materials tab on our website.

How do I know that my campus application materials have been successfully received by you?

You will receive an automated email message indicating which items have been successfully submitted. Please keep a copy of this email for your records.

What do I do if my application materials have not been successfully uploaded?

Try again. If that doesn’t work, contact externalscholarships@lafayette.edu for assistance.

What happens after I submit an application for Lafayette endorsement?

Shortly after the campus deadline, your application will be read, evaluated, and discussed by a campus selection committee. In some cases, the committee may also interview applicants in an effort to make the best determination regarding endorsement.  Dean Goldberg will contact you regarding the outcome of the committee’s decision.

If I apply for a scholarship and am turned down, can I reapply?

Yes, of course, unless there are eligibility requirements that are tied to your age, year in college, or date of graduation.

If you don’t receive the scholarship, do what you can to learn from the application process. Ask for advice and feedback—could you improve your application in any way? Are there other avenues you could pursue?

Many Rhodes, Marshall, Fulbright and other scholars were successful on their subsequent application attempts. Don’t give up!

What happens after I’m endorsed?

Once endorsed, you will be asked to revise and refine your application prior to its official submission. At that point, you will work closely with Dean Goldberg and others to ensure that your application is strong and competitive.

Letters of Recommendation

Who would make the best recommenders for scholarship applications?

This differs from scholarship to scholarship. Generally speaking, you want faculty who can speak to your academic achievements; supervisors or employers who can speak to your professional qualities (including individuals who supervised internships and research); and long-time mentors who can talk about your personal development and growth.

For scholarships that fund graduate studies, it is advisable to select recommenders who can talk about your academic skills and your potential to succeed in graduate school.

If you are in doubt regarding your selection of recommenders, speak with Dean Goldberg before finalizing your selection. This is particularly true for those scholarships like the Rhodes, Marshall and Mitchell where you need anywhere from 4 to 8 letters of recommendation!

What about the strength of the recommendation?

Always ask if the individual will write you a strong letter of recommendation. Do not be shy about asking. Mediocre letters undermine your efforts.

Additionally, it always helps if you give your recommenders enough information and time to complete and submit their letters of recommendation.

More detailed information on obtaining strong letters of recommendation as well as advice for your recommenders is provided on our website under the Preparing and For Recommenders tabs.

Where do my recommenders send their letters?

For those programs requiring Lafayette endorsement, letters of recommendation must first be submitted to the Fellowships Office as per the campus application instructions for that particular scholarship.

For those programs that do not require Lafayette endorsement prior to submission, letters of recommendation will be submitted following the official application instructions.

Is it OK to ask my recommenders to write more than one letter on my behalf? Can I ask them to write letters for a variety of different scholarship programs as well as graduate school or jobs?

Often students feel that they shouldn’t overburden their recommenders by asking them to write letters for more than one scholarship or graduate school or internship opportunity. Don’t feel that way!

Once the first letter is written, that letter is there for tweaking and future use. Just let your recommenders know how much you appreciate their willingness to write on your behalf and tell them that you may be asking them to write in support of your other efforts. They expect that you will!


Do I have to order official transcripts for each scholarship?


What about transcripts from other colleges/universities attended, including study abroad/off campus?

You are responsible for ordering official transcripts. If you have studied abroad or off-campus, be sure to ask the Lafayette Registrar’s Office to include “certified copies” of transcripts from your studies off-campus/abroad. If they will not provide you with a “certified copy” of the transcript, you must request the official transcript directly from the university/college in question.

Personal Statements/Essays

What is a Personal Statement?

Most scholarship applications require a personal statement or autobiographical essay. This is a critical component of your application. It is also a very difficult essay to write. Faced with a “blank screen” and little in the way of guidelines, you may feel stumped. What are you expected to say? How serious are you supposed to sound?

  • Whatever you do, don’t transform the personal statement into a narrative rendition of your résumé!
  • Your personal statement complements the other parts of the application—your résumé, transcript/s, other essays (research proposal, graduate/professional school plans, etc.), letters of recommendation, etc.
  • More detailed information about the personal statement and other components of the application can be found on the Preparing tab of this website.

What do scholarship committees want to see in the personal statement? Where do I begin?

It might help if you initially think about the personal statement in the same way that you think about writing essays for your courses, but in this case the topic is YOU.

  • Construct an argument that fits the goals of the scholarship program and your personal aspirations and reasons for applying.
  • Think of the personal statement as your intellectual journey. It is about you not about your parents or friends or your religious convictions. It is your “interview”–providing readers insight into your personality, your dreams, aspirations and motivations, obstacles you may have faced, etc.
  • The essay has to be sincere and has to be in your voice.
  • When writing your essay, make every word count! Make sure the words you use say exactly what you want them to say.
  • Don’t repeat what can be found elsewhere on your application.
  • For additional information, please see the Preparing tab on this website.

How will I know if I have written a good personal statement?

When you are done, your essay should “sing.” Read it out loud. Hear the music, the pacing and the poetry behind the words. Is there sincerity? Is it truthful? Does it capture your personality? Would someone who has never met you want to do so after reading your statement? Or do you sound like everyone else?

  • Aim for economy, enthusiasm, and directness; eloquence is welcome, but not at the expense of substance or honesty.
  • At the end of the day, if you don’t come alive for the reader, if you don’t capture the reader’s attention, you’d better start again.

Does the Fellowships Office have sample personal statements and other application essays for me to read?

Our office has some sample personal statements and application essays on file for you to view in conference with Dean Goldberg. You may also view winning applications for some awards at Live to Learn.

Should I Apply?

What are the odds of receiving one of these scholarships?

While the odds are against you, Lafayette students have an impressive record of winning many of these highly competitive scholarships. There is no reason why you shouldn’t add yourself to the list.

In spite of the fact that there are only 32 Rhodes, approximately 65 Truman, and fewer than 300 Goldwater scholarships awarded each year, hundreds, even thousands, of qualified candidates apply for these and other prestigious scholarships. However, because the chances are so slim, a large percentage of potential applicants self-select out of the competition. If you are one of those who opt out before even submitting an application, you will never know—you may have missed a chance of a lifetime. After all, someone will win, and perhaps that someone is you! More importantly, the fact that you even put yourself through the application process alone makes you a “winner”.

Given the odds, why should I apply?

Good question. Why should you put yourself through a process that will take precious time from your studies, personal and social life?

If you receive the scholarship, you reap the benefits of that award.

More importantly, success tends to breed success; applying for awards in the future will be that much easier for at least 2 reasons:

(1) You will bring a proven track record to your future applications; and

(2) You will already have many of the components in place for those future applications.

Always remember, scholarships are a means to an end, not the end itself. As such, it is important that you never pin all of your hopes on a particular application.

You will find that there is a considerable degree of overlap between and across applications. That being the case, make use of your efforts. Find ways to tweak your essays and application materials for other similar scholarship and fellowship applications as well as graduate/professional school essays, internships, jobs, etc.

A terrific application essay, résumé, and set of letters of recommendation can go a long way.

Are there other reasons why I should apply?

Whatever the outcome, you will reap important benefits from the application process alone.

  • You will have spent considerable time in self-reflection thinking about what really matters to you—not what’s important to your parents, professors or friends.
  • Having clarified your interests, goals and values, you will have greater confidence in pursuing possible avenues for your future pursuits.
  • You will develop stronger written and oral communication skills.

The work you put in now will make it that much easier to apply for other scholarships, graduate/ professional school, and/or your first job after graduation!

Should I apply? How do I know if I am “scholarship material”?

Of course you should apply if you meet the minimum requirements for a particular award/scholarship. If you meet those requirements, you will never know if you are “scholarship material” unless you apply.

Many successful candidates tend to think that they are not scholarship material; they devalue their exceptional intellect, superior research, and outstanding community involvement.

By going through the process and speaking with Dean Goldberg, faculty and others, you will discover that you do a lot more than you think. To aid you in the process, get in the habit of updating your résumé on a weekly basis.