Applying for Scholarships
Pre-application and deadlines
All of the scholarships and awards we oversee have application deadlines. Many also have earlier campus deadlines to allow time for faculty committee review and for editing and revision of the materials. Some scholarships have UIS pre-application forms which can be downloaded, completed and submitted electronically. If you are interested in a scholarship for which a campus pre-application is available, please contact our office. A faculty committee reviews all pre-applications to determine whether they meet the criteria for submission to the respective scholarship foundations. All stated deadlines (campus or foundation) must be strictly observed.
Writing personal statements
An important part of most major scholarship applications is the personal statement or autobiographical essay. These can be difficult to write for a number of reasons. We typically don’t like to examine ourselves critically nor do we find easy to explain our subjective thoughts and feelings to others. Your personal statement can describe your aspirations and passions but these must be organized into an objective framework that others can understand. It’s not unusual for a scholarship applicant to write a dozen or more drafts before feeling comfortable with the result. A great deal of useful advice has been written on the subject of composing personal statements. You may find this information helpful.
Most scholarships require a résumé that briefly identifies your accomplishments and activities and chronicles your personal and scholarly development. It’s a good idea to begin creating a résumé in your first year and to update it as you engage in new endeavors and complete others. A résumé is typically one or two pages long so updating may involve shortening or restructuring of previously listed items.
Soliciting letters of recommendation
Selection committees require (usually multiple) letters of endorsement from people who know you well and have worked with you in various contexts. These letters are key components of your application. You should carefully consider the people you ask to write these letters. Writers should know you well preferably over a significant period of time; they should have had ample opportunity to observe your work, and should be willing to take the time and effort to write a detailed, supportive letter. You should begin finding people to write recommendations for you early enough in the application process to allow time to find substitutes for people who cannot write a letter, for whatever reason, and to allow those who will write ample time to do a good job and meet deadlines.
When you approach people to request that they write letters, you should provide details about yourself and the scholarship for which you are applying, answer any questions the person may ask and ask openly whether the person feels comfortable about writing a recommendation for you. It’s also helpful to point out that our website contains helpful information for letter writers and that writers may contact our office with questions or for details about specific scholarships.
Ultimately the best way to get good recommendations is to get to know professors and other people by talking and working with them over time and demonstrating your abilities through you work and behavior.
If you make it through the application review stage of the selection process you will probably be scheduled for an interview. The interview process involves being asked questions regarding your background and fitness for the scholarship as represented in your application, your knowledge of and views on various world issues, your career plans and life goals, any even seemingly irrelevant. The intent is to find out not only how well you match the picture created by your application but also to see how well you think under pressure and how you deal with stressful situations. Interviews may be formal or informal or the tone may change during the interview. The Prestigious Scholarship Office will conduct mock interviews and coach applicants who reach this stage. The following web site may also prove helpful.