Advice for Seniors
As a Senior you are eligible for a wide range of national fellowships supporting graduate study in the U.S. or abroad. 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 the areas just mentioned (these are merely examples, there are many more listed on our website):
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.
When should I start seriously investigating scholarship opportunities, and when should I start working on my application(s)?
It’s important to remember that national scholarships are highly competitive, and often require numerous letters of recommendation, transcripts and application essays. The more time you give yourself to plan and prepare your application, the better your chances of success are likely to be. For many of the most competitive scholarships (like Fulbright, Rhodes it is really necessary to begin work on your applications in the Spring or early Summer before your Senior year begins.
Many national scholarships have Autumn deadlines, some as early as the first week of October, so it’s important to begin investigating scholarships that interest you as soon as possible.
What qualifications do I need 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 or professional interests (often shown through involvement in public service, research or in 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 and Rotary scholarships look for applicants with strongly focused ideas and projects for study/research abroad. The National Science Foundation and Churchill scholarships look for students with strong interests in scientific research. Scholarships to teach English abroad 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.
Ok, I’ve found one (or maybe more) scholarships that look like a great fit for my interests, goals and abilities. What next?
Your first step should be to determine exactly the requirements of the fellowships that interest you. For example, some graduate study fellowships require that you submit the GRE with you application, often as early as October, so plan accordingly. For fellowships requiring GWU endorsement, be sure to review GWU endorsement requirements and timetables.
Since you will be requesting numerous letters of recommendation from your teachers and other mentors, let them know as early as possible which fellowships you may be applying for, and try to give them at least one month to prepare their final letter. Ideally, your recommenders will already have written earlier letters which they can then tailor for particular fellowships.
Can I still apply for national scholarships after I graduate from Maryland? Will the National Scholarships Office be available to assist me then?
Yes to both questions. Virtually all national scholarships for graduating seniors also permit recent graduates to apply. A few have age limits, or require that you apply within 2 or 4 years of graduation. Others, like the Fulbright US Student Programs, have no age limit at all. The National Scholarships Office will gladly support your interest in learning about or applying for national scholarships after you graduate from Maryland. Be sure to meet with us before you graduate, if you think you might apply for a national scholarship in the next few years. We can help you think of ways to continue strengthening your competitiveness for those awards.