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In the second sample essays, discussions of previous and proposed research resemble formal literature reviews, each one citing numerous references from refereed journals and presenting figures generated by the author. The applications of the research, which has implications for rebuilding cartilage tissue and relieving musculoskeletal pain, are straightforward and beneficial to society. Meanwhile, we also get a sense of this writer’s personal character, as she cites examples of tutoring other students and her role as captain of a women’s soccer team sponsored by the Biomedical Engineering Society. In short, we meet both the scientist and the humanist—equal concerns for the NSF selectors.
The second writer addresses the narrative questions by outlining her participation in programs related to women in science and her personal aspirations, ranging from serving as part of a NASA research team to working as a glass blower at a Renaissance Faire. Her diversity background is grounded in her hailing from a highly rural area (even her influential father is a “senior bank auditor but country man at heart”). Finally, her nominee’s essay, addressing the goal to improve the durability of window glass, offers precisely detailed information even to the extent of giving exact nanometer depths that yielded different data points. Such an approach closely resembles a technical abstract that would appear in a journal. Significantly, this student did receive a Goldwater Scholarship.
When you apply for the Goldwater Scholarship program, the process begins at the Goldwater website, which includes a transcript request form for your secondary school, a supporting documents checklist, and candidacy information and instructions.
The last few questions of the Goldwater application invite narrative responses, with approximate length dictated by the size of the space available to answer the questions. These three questions involve the applicant’s professional aspirations, personal motivations, and diversity (broadly defined). Clearly, a lot of flexibility is built into answering such questions, and students tend to approach these questions accordingly, narrating personal anecdotes and information about their families to let the selectors know what kind of people they are. While still emphasizing science and research, past applicants have shared information about a childhood or other formative experience, the desire to become a professor or write a textbook, their ethnic background, and even information about hardships of their parents. In answering these questions—especially the question inviting comments on diversity—it is important to be genuine and sound natural in your examples. Readers tend to sniff out and suspect aspirations that reach too high, or motivations that are insincere, or diversity that is forced.
The Marshall Scholarship process begins online, where you can set up an account for your application as well as read about profiles of past Marshall winners.
Nowhere does a student’s ability to communicate well about personal attitudes and accomplishments become more important than in applications for national scholarships. With a mostly even playing field among scholars when it comes to GPA, personal statements and answers to application questions truly do help selectors winnow out the best choices, seeking a tidy match between individual candidates and available opportunities. A Marshall Scholar might not be right for an NSF Fellowship, and vice versa; a student activist might be a poor fit for many scholarships but perfect for the Truman Scholarship.
This chapter summarizes nine of the nation’s most coveted scholarships, with samples of personal statements and essays following each scholarship description. All of the samples here are strong, and about half of them come from scholarship winners and finalists, culled from about 100 students representing about 20 states.
A detailed effort by you on the BioGraph™ will ensure that the model application essay will truly help convey all of the thoughts you are hoping to share with the scholarship organization.
Using the material in this chapter, educate yourself on your target scholarship and study its samples thoroughly, recognizing the rhetorical strategies employed as well as how carefully writers match their backgrounds to the scholarship criteria. Visit the scholarship websites and read the profiles of past winners when available, envisioning yourself as a featured student on the website in the following year. Most importantly, be prepared to spend 50+ hours studying, reflecting, and writing as part of the scholarship application process, as winners typically report they do. Whether you win or not, the time will be well spent.
The Udall Scholarship honors Morris K. Udall, an Arizona Congressman who authored legislation to protect wilderness areas and demonstrated commitment to the Native American and Alaska Native populations. Sophomores and juniors are eligible for the scholarship, which covers educational expenses for one year up to a maximum of $5,000. Udall Scholars come from various fields, ranging from environmental science to engineering to political science, and share in common a commitment to preserving or improving the environment. Udall Scholarships also include special categories for nominees who are Native American or Alaska Native with a commitment to the areas of tribal policy and health care.
Udall Scholarship applications are reviewed by at least two readers, ranging from professors of environmental science to scholarship directors to representatives from the EPA. Four principal categories are used to rank each applicant:
The Udall application is extensive, including short essays written in response to a series of questions. These questions invite detail in such areas as your professional aspirations, career goals, research experience, leadership, personal motivation, and service, and there’s even an open-ended question asking what additional information you wish to share. In answering these questions, former Udall applicants have described active membership in professional service organizations, a spring break Habitat for Humanity project, a life-changing semester of study in Ecuador, and a project using bird counts as a marker to assess the biological integrity of a local landscape. To answer the open-ended question, which the selection committee uses to sometimes award discretionary points, former applicants have emphasized an interest in environmental education outreach, discussed their role as the first member of their family to attend college, or noted their struggles as a single parent on financial aid.