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Advice for Juniors

As a Junior you are delving more deeply into your major studies, exploring complementary courses or minors in other departments, beginning or planning study abroad, and starting to think more often about what steps you might take after graduating from Maryland. This is the ideal time to think about National Scholarships.

If you are considering graduate studies, if you are thinking about pursuing studies or research abroad, if the idea of public service in the US or abroad interests you, then learning about relevant national scholarships may help you to think through and realize some of your options. Here are just a few of the wide range of national scholarship offered in these areas:

Fulbright US Student Program: The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the nation's largest study abroad fellowship program, and is designed to give recent B.S./B.A. graduates opportunities for international experience, personal enrichment and an open exchange of ideas with citizens of other nations. There are two types of Fulbright grants: Fulbright Study Grants enable awardees to conduct an academic year of intensive study and/or independent research abroad. Fulbright also offers opportunities to teach English language and conversation classes in a wide range of countries.

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship: The purpose of the Graduate Research Fellowship Program is to ensure the vitality of the scientific and technological workforce in the United States and to reinforce its diversity. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in the relevant science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees. NSF Fellows are expected to become knowledge experts who can contribute significantly to research, teaching, and innovations in science and engineering.

Carnegie Endowment Junior Fellows Program: Each year the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace offers 8-10 one-year fellowships to uniquely qualified graduating seniors. Carnegie Junior Fellows work in Washington, DC as research assistants to the Endowment's senior associates, providing research assistance on projects such as non-proliferation, democracy building, trade, China-related issues, South Asian issues and Russian/Eurasian studies.

Spanish Government English Teaching Assistant Program: The Language and Culture Assistants program is coordinated by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science in collaboration with the Spanish Comunidades Autónomas (regions) and the educational authorities of the participating countries. It gives recent graduates an opportunity to visit Spain and become acquainted with the Spanish education system, teachers and students, while sharing with them aspects of your own language and culture.

Barbara Jordan Health Policy Scholars Program: The Barbara Jordan Health Policy Scholars Program brings talented college seniors and recent graduates to Washington, D.C., where they are placed in congressional offices and learn about health policy issues, with a focus on issues affecting racial and ethnic minority and underserved communities.

These scholarships have deadlines during my Senior year. Why should I think about them now?

It’s important to understand that competing for national scholarships is never just a matter of filling out forms by the deadline – even for top students. A good deal of planning, thought, effort, research and writing goes into the best scholarship applications. Similarly, the best scholarship applicants are those who take charge of their educational opportunities – both in the classroom and beyond – well in advance. As a junior you still have lots of time left to pursue challenges inside the classroom and beyond that will make you more competitive. Learning about national scholarship now will help you take those steps.

What qualifications do I need to have to be a competitive candidate for a National Scholarship?

Each national scholarship program is looking for a distinctive type of applicant. In general, national scholarships look for students with strong academic records (minimum GPA requirements vary from 3.2 to 3.8), clear and focused academic/intellectual/professional interests (often shown through involvement in research or in strongly related internships), and quality community service and/or leadership experiences.

The particular strengths and qualifications scholarship programs seek reflect the nature of the opportunities they offer, and the degree of competiveness involved. The Fulbright fellowship looks for applicants with strongly focused ideas and projects for study/research abroad. The Goldwater andHollings scholarships look for students with strong interests in scientific research. Trumanscholarships are for students with stellar public service achievements. Teaching scholarships often look for prior experience in related activities, like tutoring, camp counseling, coaching and classroom experience. The Carnegie and Pickering awards look for very strong interests in international affairs. The National Scholarships Office can help you decide if there are national scholarships that are a good fit for your particular strengths and interests.

What steps can I take during my Junior year to be as competitive as possible for these awards?

Here’s a tip: Strong scholarship applications start with YOUR strong interests and YOUR goals. Start thinking serious about your main academic/intellectual/professional interests, and ask yourself where these might lead you. Start thinking about the goals that motivate you – graduate study, public service, study or research or teaching abroad. Then take some time to review the Junior and Senior opportunities pages on the National Scholarships Office website. Learn what opportunities are available and consider whether these might be a good fit for you.

When you’ve identified one or more opportunities of interest to you, please contact the National Scholarships Office using the “Request an Appointment” button located on our website's homepage or write us at scholarships@umd.edu. One of our staff members will then make an appointment to discuss these opportunities with you.

What else should I know about preparing to compete for national scholarship opportunities?

First, knowing your talents, interests and goals is the key to finding opportunities that are right for you. Take time to reflect on the things you do that most engage your mind and your passion.

Second, challenge yourself. Take ‘honors’ options in your major, search out ways to do research with your professors or through independent study or internships, take on leadership roles or show significant initiative in your community service activities, continue to take language classes at higher and higher levels – all these things can make a real difference in your qualifications.

Third, all scholarships require strong letters of recommendation – usually three, sometimes more. Be sure to get to know your instructors and key internship supervisors, and help them get to know you. Talk to them about your thoughts and plans and questions about life after college. Ask them about the choices they made, and the paths they took to get where they are.

Finally, be a citizen of your worlds. Read the New York Times, the Economist, and the Washington Post. Keeping up with the world around you is something that will be useful to you in many areas of life, and will help you think about the role(s) you want to play in the future. Remember that national scholarships are looking for people who want to be actively involved in making the world a better place, and who are well-informed about the issues and challenges we all face. Also, make time to read journals and other publications in your particular field of interest – whether it’s international affairs, physics, education or literature. Learn about the important issues, problems and trends in your area of interest and future activity.


National Scholarships Office
2403 Marie Mount Hall, University of Maryland
College Park, MD
email: scholarships@umd.edu | phone: 301-314-1289 | fax: 301.314.0085
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