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Advice & Preparation

Application Materials

Required application materials will vary slightly depending on the scholarship or fellowship; however, typically an application will consist of the following pieces.

Personal Statement

The personal statement is an opportunity to present a full picture of yourself to the scholarship selection committee. Create a narrative in which you discuss your motivations for graduate study, your educational and professional goals, and your academic and personal qualifications for the scholarship. Include a discussion of significant experiences in your development as a scholar such as research, internships, course work, study abroad, and leadership or service experiences.

Be certain to avoid spelling errors or grammatical mistakes. Ask professors in your area to read your drafts. Consult with the Director of the National & International Scholarships Office who is also available to read and comment on drafts. Dont merely repeat a laundry list of activities, honors and awards from your resume. Instead, pull out the relevant events and discuss their significance to your development as a scholar and person. Finally, be aware of your tone -- dont over-inflate or boast about your experiences.

Purdue's Online Writing Lab (OWL) is a resource to use when writing your application essays.

"Writing the Personal Statement" article from OWL.

There are also numerous essay writing guides available in libraries, bookstores, and online. One such resource is Joe Schall's Writing Personal Statements Online: A Handbook for Students Applying for Scholarships and Graduate Study.

Project Proposal

The project proposal is an opportunity to discuss your plan of study. How does the degree you seek fit into your future goals? How will your graduate research add to the body of work in your field? What will be the impact of your work? Explain your rationale for selecting the degree program and university you've chosen. The scholarship application may ask for this information to be included in the personal statement rather than in a separate essay.

Letters of Recommendation

Though the number of letters of recommendation you need will vary from scholarship to scholarship, it is important that you solicit letters from people who know you and your work extremely well. The letter writer must be in a position to discuss in detail your academic strength, your ability to take on graduate level work, your leadership skills, and your character.

Approach potential letter writers professionally and respectfully. Provide them with information about the scholarship for which you are applying, as well as copies of your personal statement, project proposal, resume, or transcript. Give them plenty of time to write the letter -- ask weeks, if not months, in advance of campus deadlines. Most importantly, ask potential letter writers if they feel comfortable writing the detailed reference that scholarship application requires. If they don't know you or your work well enough to write a detailed letter, or if they are unable to devote the time to writing a letter, then you need to approach someone else. A hurried letter, one that is short on significant detail, or one that is late or missing can severely impact an applicant's candidacy.


Though not all applications require a separate resume, all will ask for resume information on an application blank. All students should have a resume -- even first-year students. Continually review and update your resume as you gain new skills and experiences. Consult with staff in the Writing Lab and Center for Career Opportunities for help writing your resume.


Interviews sometimes play a part in the scholarship selection process. Though each scholarship interview will be slightly different, there are common steps you can take to prepare. It's important to be yourself. Dress appropriately, pay attention to your body language, and bring a positive attitude to the experience. Be familiar with your application and prepared to discuss your work, significant experiences that have shaped you, your proposed plan of study, and how your research fits into the body of work in your field. Be aware of current events, particularly those relevant to your field of study.

If you are selected to interview for a scholarship or fellowship, the Director will work with you to prepare for the interview.