Advice for Students
Applying for scholarships isn't about only winning.
The process helps you think deeply about your own interests, goals, and vocation. There is no recipe for winning a prestigious fellowship, but there are some common patterns among successful students. We are here to discuss with you about your interests, goals, and how to write a strong application.
- What Successful Applicants Have in Common
You don't need to have all of these, but successful candidates have many of them.
- GPA above 3.7 (except in a few cases)
- Internships both in Texas and nationally
- Experience living or studying abroad
- Second language proficiency
- Independent research (thesis work, independent study, lab work, and/or publication)
- Social service linked to academic major
- Strong application essays
Funders support students who have an ambitious vision for their future and for the future of society; those who have already begun to execute that vision on and off campus; and those who have a realistic plan for how to get from their junior year of college to ten years hence. Note that your plan does not need to be written in stone-you're allowed to change your mind-but ideally you should demonstrate that you have the drive and imagination to succeed.
- What should I be doing, and when?
- Study: Establish a solid GPA
- Get involved: organizations and activities that reflect your values and interests
- Show curiosity: take a variety of courses and extracurricular activities
- Stay informed: read and listen to a variety of news sources
- Find a mentor: help your professor with their research
- Stay involved: explore leadership roles in your organizations
- Stay curious: keep taking chances with courses, extracurriculars
- Plan ahead: find opportunities for internships, research, and study-abroad
- Start a project: pursue an undergraduate research project
- Present: show your work at a conference, for a community group, on campus
- Write: journal about yourself and your passions
- Prepare for awards: meet with the Office of International Programs, research requirements
- Study for national exams: such as the GRE and MCAT
- Pay attention to your grades. All fellowships look for high GPAs.
- Do stuff. Get involved. On campus and off. You may not know how you are going to change the world, but get active in academic and community life as soon as possible.
- Use your summers to expand or explore your academic and professional interests. Start thinking about the summer in November.
- Build relationships with professors. Go to office hours. Speak up in class. All fellowships require recommendation letters and you'll need at least three mentors who know you well by the time you graduate.
- Start thinking about what you hope to do with your academic and professional future. You know more than you think you do!
- Better to change directions as your interests shift than to stand still awaiting perfect clarity about the future.
- Check out our partial list of fellowships, and make an appointment to meet with us.
- Before applying
Which scholarships best suit your academic interests and career goals? Be absolutely certain that you meet all eligibility requirements.
Visit the Office of International Programs for advice.
Highlight all application deadlines on your calendars. Enter alerts in your calendar, one week and two weeks prior to the deadline.
Develop a checklist of requirements for each scholarship and a timeline for completing each. Honor your timeline!
Identify and contact those who will write references for you. Make sure they know your plans and aspirations. Provide them as much information about the scholarship as you can. Provide them as much TIME as possible!
Fine-tune your resume or CV.
If a photograph is required, use a wallet-sized head and shoulder shot of professional quality and in interview attire.
If required, order your transcript. You can find information how to order your SHSU’s transcript at www.shsu.edu/dept/registrar/transcripts-and-student-records/transcripts.html
- Write a Strong Personal Statement
Most fellowship applications require a personal statement or autobiographical essay. This is a critical component of your application, and it can be the most difficult part.
When you write an essay for class, you sift through scholarly publications, journal articles and statistics; you arrange, collate, and analyze. You construct an argument with objective, verifiable data. By contrast, your personal statement comes from inside you, passionate and gutsy. Its composition is organic, a natural growth dictated by an obscure, internal logic. You don't "make it up"; instead, you listen. It requires that you think deeply about your life to date, your academic accomplishments and interests, and what you hope to achieve and contribute in the future. Think of it as a professional or intellectual autobiography.
Here are some dos and don'ts (some borrowed from the wonderful Truman Foundation):
- Have a consistent story line that focuses on your special aspects and interests. You have to tell them who you are, specifically (don't assume they've gleaned it from your resume in the application).
- Articulate an ambitious professional dream for graduate school and beyond. Tell them how you are going to change the world. They are investing in you and want to know what they get in return for that investment.
- Tell them what skills you have honed in college and want to use in the future.
- Articulate what skills and experiences you still need to gain that will help you connect today to ten years from now.
- Be positive. Be upbeat.
- Be a geek about the topics you love. Show off your knowledge and have an opinion.
- Be honest and clear about your ambitions, accomplishments and plans.
- Write simply. Rely on nouns and active verbs, not adjectives and adverbs, to carry your story.
- Make it interesting. Make it easy to read — both in terms of writing style and appearance.
- Write with voice. They don't know you yet, and your personality should come through in your writing.
- Make the opening engaging.
- Have perfect spelling, punctuation and grammar.
- Talk in platitudes and generalizations.
- Fail to mention any course work or academic lessons of your college career.
- Try to impress readers by using words which are not a part of your normal vocabulary or writing.
- Overstate accomplishments.
- Make a plea for financial assistance (unless it's asked for).
- Use statistics without giving the primary source.
- Use famous quotations (too much like name-dropping).
- Be cute, flippant, profane or glib.
- Employ jargon, slang or unusual abbreviations. (DO spell out any acronyms).
- Use flowery language or cluttered imagery.
- If you must write about them, use the following cautiously: how much your family means to you; how difficult or unjust your life has been; how smart, capable or compassionate you are; how much you got out of a short trip abroad; how much you learned about government from an internship.
- The Application
Carefully read all information on how to apply. Follow instructions to the letter.
Answer every question, complete every blank, that is relevant to you on the application form.
- Fine Print
Read all the fine print. Some instructions appear in tiny print but they are no less important.
Use academic titles in listing academic referees: “Professor” not “Dr.” for senior faculty, “Dean”, “Provost,” etc. Do not write, “Professor John Smith, Ph.D.” (doctorate is assumed). If uncertain, check the SHSU directory. If asked for referee e-mail contacts, be sure to supply them.
Order any lists (employment, publications, travel, activities, etc.) from most recent to least recent.
- Sign & Date
Sign and date the form after carefully reading over the application. Be sure you understand what your signature commits you to.
- Writing tips
Thoroughly read the website for your desired fellowship. Make notes—what is unique about the current fellows, what are some of the provided prompts?
Make a lot of lists! Think about everything in your background. Some essays require you to self-disclose your background, ethnicity, gender, etc. Jot down everyone who has made an impact on you, every organization you’ve been involved in, all of your interests.
Look at the essay prompts and your lists. Then just start writing. Right now, don’t second guess if something is relevant or not. If it popped into your head, it might be relevant!
Revising can be the toughest and most fun part of writing. It’s good to wait a few days between revisions. Some people like to print out their draft and write notes long-hand. The first step of revising is to identify salient points. What is the “hook” or “lede” that draws in the reader? The next step is to move these points around in an order that flows. Once you have your draft in pretty good shape, ask a friend or mentor to read it and give you feedback. That’s also where the Office of International Programs can help you!
This is the final stage. Take into account the feedback you have received—what is unclear? Simplify and clarify sentences. Check spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Make sure you have someone do a final proofread of your essay! It is always good to have “another set of eyes” to catch typos.
Fodder for your brainstorms
- Your family and hometown
- Your proudest accomplishments
- What first interested you in your major
- Your mentors
- Organizations you’re involved in
- Your favorite classes
- Your favorite projects (in and out of class)
- Your other interests and hobbies
- Your work experience
- Where you have traveled
- Current events—what issues and stories do you follow?
- Your career goals
- Your strengths and weaknesses
- Interview Tips
Before the Interview
- Schedule a mock interview with us.
- Carefully go over travel and housing arrangements. Are you responsible for these costs, or will you be reimbursed?
- Whether flying or driving, always allow yourself plenty of time!
- Go over the itinerary for the day. Sometimes there is a social gathering or lunch along with the interview.
- Pick out clothes that look professional and give you confidence.
- Get plenty of rest in the days before the interview.
During the Interview
- Be your “best self”—you were invited to interview, so you are qualified. Have confidence, and have fun getting to know the interviewers.
- It’s ok to pause and think before giving an answer.
- Keep your answers concise. Leave them with a chance for follow-up questions; that makes it more of a conversation.
- It’s ok to admit that you hadn’t considered something, or don’t know about it.
After the Interview
- Tell us how it went! And let us know if we can call on you to help future interviewees.