Once you've applied yourself, it's time to find the program that's right for you and take the necessary steps to apply.

Finding the Right Program

Finding the right program is no easy task. Most important, you should not apply for a scholarship solely because you want to be a Rhodes Scholar or a Truman Scholar. Research several programs and find the ones that are best for you.

Understand the strengths of the programs you are applying to as related to your goals. Learn about them beyond information provided on their website. Apply for several scholarships that fit your professional and personal objectives, but be sure to have a back-up plan if you are not awarded a scholarship. Selecting the appropriate programs will strengthen your application, as well as fit with your personal goals.

How to Proceed

Once you've determined the program or programs you're interested in, it's time for you to take the following steps:

  1. Gather information about the program or programs in which you're interested in studying. This may include directly contacting individuals with whom you'd like to work. This is especially crucial for students intending to enroll in research programs or graduate courses requiring the completion of a thesis or dissertation, as well as for students planning to work in a research lab.

  2. Write a draft program proposal describing what you hope to study or research with the award. This statement should also provide some indication of the relevance of the program, both for your own intellectual and professional development as well as for your academic discipline.

  3. Some scholarships, such as the Churchill and Fulbright, require applicants to also directly apply to the institution or program with which you wish to be affiliated. Evidence of supervision, affiliation, or acceptance may be required.

  4. Put together a résumé. This should include a list of academic and nonacademic activities, scholarships, honors, awards, interests, and the like.

  5. Obtain official transcripts from all universities and colleges attended. This includes study abroad institutions if the course names do not show up on your Illinois transcripts.

  6. Write a personal statement talking about yourself and your intellectual development. This statement is often even more important than the program proposal essay. Typically, it's limited to two pages of type. Be prepared—you will probably have to write and rewrite until you get it just right. This essay is difficult to write, but the hardest part is just sitting down to start it.

  7. Contact individuals for letters of recommendation. Depending on the scholarship or scholarships for which you're applying, you may need anywhere from three to eight letters. Advice on selecting and approaching potential letter-of-recommendation writers is available online. (If you are applying for a Marshall Scholarship and have been a student in the UK on a study abroad program, you should seriously consider obtaining one of your letters of recommendation from your senior tutor or from a professor who is familiar with your work. Contact your British referee immediately and often to assure the letter's timely posting).

  8. Prepare for selection interviews. This entails keeping abreast of current events (both domestic and international) as well as contemporary or controversial issues both in your general field of study and in the public domain. Read respected newspapers like the New York Times, London Times, Guardian, Sunday Observer, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, and Washington Post; news magazines like the Economist and U.S. News and World Report; and scientific magazines like Scientific American. Also listen to such television or radio news reports as found on NPR and PBS (including the BBC), C-Span, and CNN (beyond Headline News).

Former applicants Stephanie Maldonado, Matt Grobis, Josie Chambers, and Monique Richards share their memories and advice regarding the scholarship application process.