How to Prepare to Apply


Graduation Cap with the text Fellowships and Scholarships next to it

It is important to begin planning and considering your path to a scholarship early. Identify the scholarships of interest – know the criteria and the deadlines.

Application Components

Letters Reference

Your letters of reference are critical components. Choose references according to the scholarship criteria. You should give your references at least a month (or two) to prepare the letter of recommendation. This will result in better letters and less panic. The letters should be from those who can discuss your academic background, your leadership qualities…the letters help provide the scholarship committee with a well-rounded portrait of you. Remember to ask your reference first and then supply them with the information specific to the scholarship.


Transcripts may be needed from all institutions you have attended. Not all can be received quickly, it is better to plan ahead.


Many scholarships now have an online process. Be certain to read all the directions – what they are asking for and when they are asking for it. Ask others to review. Make sure all information is accurate and entered correctly*

Personal Statements

A personal statement can be the story of your past, present and future or an examination of your life using ORID progression: Objective, Reflective, Interpretive, Decision. Some suggestions:

  • The opening narrative needs to engage, inform – “hook” the reader.
  • Discuss 1-3 important academic or co-curricular achievements and interests that define you.
  • Reflect on your activities.
  • Relay the importance of transitions not just a list of events.
  • Discuss where you want to go and why you are ready to go there.
  • Clearly articulate the “What”, “So what” and “Now what”
  • Do not make statements that anyone else could make in the same spot.
  • Do not duplicate your resume.
  • Start with an outline and build out your first draft.
  • Do not think you can do it overnight: do it in increments, revise, seek editors.
  • Objective: What did you do? What did you see?
  • Reflective: How did you feel?
  • Interpretive: What did you learn, change of thinking? Implications in broader context?
  • Decision: What will you do now? Why? Are you prepared?

Curriculum Vitae or Academic Resume

A CV highlights your academic achievements and contributions to the campus or larger community over work experience. It is about you and what you have been involved with as an undergraduate. It is important to include the following:

  1. Education
  2. Honors and Awards
  3. Research Experience
  4. Leadership/Campus and Community Involvement
  5. Internships
  6. Languages
  7. Paid employment

The Interview

The interview is a final step to escalating the applicant from finalist to scholar or fellow. Some thoughts:

  • Mock interviews are good but being over prepared or rehearsed can be as detrimental as being unprepared.
  • Be aware of outside national or international events.
  • Reread your application.
  • Be familiar with the scholarship or fellowship.
  • It is OK not to know answers, bluffing is not good idea.
  • Most interviews are conversational not a dissertation defense.
  • Think before you answer, brevity is better.
  • “Perfect is the enemy of interesting”: You do not have to build consensus on the interview panel, advocating is good, especially if you are discussing your work.
  • Etiquette matters: Wardrobe should be appropriate and professional but be yourself. Sometimes interviews include other activities like a dinner or reception.
  • Be excited, be passionate and have fun.