Develop Your Scholar Potential

How can you convert your strengths, passions, and desires into scholar potential? This page presents some general advice and resources to help get you started. To plan your scholar development trajectory, download our Scholar Development Tips and Timeline Checklist.

Build strong relationships with faculty.

Faculty relationships play an integral role in helping you discover and shape your trajectory from coursework to career. They can point you toward academic and professional pathways in keeping with your interests. Faculty who know you and your work well can write the strongest, most detailed letters of recommendation for you when you apply for internships, scholarships, and graduate school.

Start by going to your professor's office hours (they're not just for homework questions). Not sure how to get the conversation started? Try one of these:

  • Discuss a reading, lecture, or project from class that interested you
  • Talk to your professors about their current research and how they got started
  • Ask how to get more involved in your field of study or department
  • Express interest in pursuing research or an independent project under their guidance

Check the NISO Events Calendar for an upcoming Building Strong Academic Relationships workshop.

Watch our Letters of Recommendation Video Guide for tips on how to approach your professors or advisors for letters of recommendation.

Pursue research, independent projects, and/or internships.

Most scholarships and graduate school programs want candidates who have research experience. Pursuing research in your field is a great way to build on what you are learning in your coursework, to identify your own specific interests, and to discover firsthand how reseach ocntributes to the advancement of knowledge. Pursue research opportunities at Purdue, but branch out and explore research at national and international labs, organizations, and universities as well.

Discover research opportunities:

Gain leadership experience.

Scholarships are looking for future leaders - students who have made a positive impact on their campus and community. Leadership means more than becoming president of your student organization. Leaders are individuals who can see a need, develop a vision for how to meet that need, and inspire others to work together to implement a solution.

Get involved:

  • Visit BoilerLink to find a student organization that interests you
  • Talk with your academic advisor or professors to learn what opportunities are available in your department and community

Learn languages and study abroad.

In an increasingly globalized world, it's important to develop your ability to communicate and collaborate not only across disciplines, but across cultures as well.

Be able to clearly state your educational and professional goals.

You will need to explain how a particular scholarship, study abroad, or internship fits into your academic, personal, and professional plans. This is a crucial part of any persuasive argument for why someone should fund or hire you. Remember, if you are still deciding which path might be right for you, talk to your professor and your advisor(s) - they make great sounding boards.

Become an engaged reader and a more global citizen.

Most scholarships want candidates who have some knowledge of current events and global issues. In addition to being able to state your goals, you will also need to articulate why your work is important to you, and how the work you do contributes to the advancement of knowledge in your field and to the world. Many scholarship foundations want to know how your work will help to improve the lives of others or address global problems.

  • Seek out opportunities to strengthen your writing and speaking skills.
  • Submit your work to poster sessions and symposia, and attend conferences in your field. These are great opportunities to practice discussing your research with others.
  • Follow current events - locally, nationally, and globally - and form opinions about what's happening in the world. Read or watch the news regularly, and seek out multiple perspectives on issues and events.

Learn more about Purdue's annual Undergraduate Research and Poster Symposium.

Maintain a high GPA and take challenging coursework.

Most prestigious scholarships require an extremely high GPA. Challenging coursework will better prepare you for the rigors of graduate study, especially if you want to study in countries like the U.K. In addition, it can help you demonstrate "intellectual achievement" in scholarship applications.

Keep your resume up-to-date.

Many scholarships and internships require a resume or curriculum vitae (CV). You should also provide a copy of your resume to any faculty member whom you have asked to write you a letter of recommendation. Keeping your resume up-to-date will make the application process easier.

Need some tips on creating or polishing your resume?

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