Tips for Applicants

General Information

Start early. You almost can't begin too early. It always takes longer than you think it will, so don't put yourself in a rush situation

Thoroughly read the information and requirements of the scholarship. Make sure that you are eligible and that you understand the parameters of the award.

Try to identify a faculty or staff member to work with. Many scholarships have a faculty representative that can assist you, but if not, ask someone for help.

Immediately gather the peripheral materials required. Most scholarships ask for transcripts, letters of recommendation, tax or financial records, etc. Put those materials together as soon as you can. There's no harm in having them sit. You don't want to miss an opportunity because the transcript office closed early or your professor was sick.

Talk to everyone that you can. You may have a professor or TA who has applied for or was awarded the scholarship that you are applying for. This is an invaluable resource, so take advantage of it if you can.

Personal Statement

Pay serious attention to your personal statement. Everyone applying has good grades and meaningful activities. Your personal statement can be what distinguishes you from the other smart, well rounded, motivated students applying.

Write several drafts. You should not be writing the personal statement the night before it is due.

Make sure that it is technically perfect. The most brilliant essay can be ruined by sloppy editing and proofreading. Proofread it several times, then ask someone else to look at it.


Provide the recommender everything they need. Give them written information on where to send the recommendation, exact due date, etc. You can even give them a pre-addressed envelope.

If the scholarship requires the recommender to send the recommendation directly to the scholarship committee, think about providing a self addressed postcard that your recommender can drop in the mail when they send the recommendation. This allows you to know that they've sent the recommendation without calling them. One week before the recommendation is due, call or visit your recommender to remind them.

Give your recommenders plenty of time. You cannot expect a comprehensive, well written recommendation on a few days' notice.

When your recommender agrees to work with you, give your recommender information about the scholarship and the type of recommendation that they are writing. It does no good for your recommender to talk about your amazing lab technique if the recommendation is supposed to speak to your writing skills.

Make sure that your recommenders really know you. You may have received an A in the class, but if the professor can't speak directly to your attributes beyond the work that you turned in, they are not a good recommender.

Helpful Websites

WPI- Personal Statements and Essays

UMN - Writing Personal Statements

Truman Scholar Personal Statement Advice