Tips on Creating Competitive Applications

How do I start?

Reflect deeply on:
  • Who am I?
  • What do I care about?
  • What contribution do I want to make?
  • How do I get there?

What do applications measure?

Applications try to measure the uniqueness and potential of the individual. 

  • Selection committees want to know who you are.
  • They want to see a strong blend of the personal and the professional.
  • They want to see an application that shimmers and captures a vivid sense of the person on the page.
  • They want to read an application that builds an outstanding case, proving how you meet the award criteria and why you are right for this place, this program, this project, this award.
  • They want to read an application and say, “I would like to meet this person.”

Common elements of an application include:

  • Personal Statement Essay (who you are, what you care about)
  • Statement of Purpose Essay (the contribution you want to make and its significance)
  • Statement of Work Essay (specifics and value of the research, project, or degree program you wish to fund)
  • Proposal (for some, a formal research proposal or policy proposal is required)
  • Resume Section (academic record, peer-reviewed publications, conference presentations, leadership, employment, internships, study abroad, volunteer activities, awards, etc.)
  • Transcript(s)
  • Letters of Reference (from professionals who know you and your work well)

How long do most applications take?

For national or international opportunities, with students nationwide competing for funding, applications must be your very best work. If you want to be competitive, we recommend that you work with an application over a three-month period minimum; requesting feedback from advisors, mentors, and the scholarship coordinator; then revising, revising, revising!  For the most prestigious awards, beginning to think about and work with an application a year ahead is not too early.

Scholarships: The Basics of Applying
(workshop recording)

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See the menu at left for tips on preparing a competitive application.