Resources for Applicants
Should I Apply? What are my chances?
It's true that competition is fierce for prestigious national scholarships like the Truman, Goldwater, Udall, Rhodes and Marshall. Thousands of qualified students from the top U.S. universities apply, and only a few receive a scholarship. The application process can be grueling; months of writing and revising essays, preparing for an interview. You might ask yourself, do I stand a chance?
As a student at UW–Madison you have access to the outstanding learning opportunities necessary to win a nationally competitive scholarship. But you will need to start exploring those opportunities early in your undergraduate career.
It is important to view the application process itself as a worthwhile and rewarding experience. You'll learn more about yourself as you draft a personal narrative and articulate your future educational and career goals. The preparation you put into scholarship applications will serve you well when applying to graduate or professional school, or entering the job market.
If you are curious about one of these awards, take a look at the eligibility requirements and selection criteria. Talk to your advisors, professors and a fellowships advisor at the Undergraduate Academic Awards Office. If you are eligible, interested and are prepared to put in the necessary work, go for it. In the words of one advisor, "there are no guarantees—except that if you do not apply, you are guaranteed not to receive an award."
Becoming a strong scholarship candidate
Most selection committees expect a candidate to have strong academic record, but the GPA (3.7 or higher) is just part of the story. They want a well-rounded applicant who has broad interests, likes challenges and seeks out opportunities. So it is important to explore the full range of learning opportunities on-campus and in the community. These opportunities build credentials for nationally competitive scholarships, but more importantly they help you make the most of your undergraduate experience. Research and service-learning opportunities, study abroad programs, student organizations and other extra-curricular activities enhance the knowledge you gain in the classroom, and help you decide on the educational and career path that is right for you. Below are suggestions to help you get started.
For more information on the outstanding learning opportunities available at UW-Madison visit http://learning.wisc.edu.
- Engage in undergraduate research in your field.
- Get work, volunteer, or internship experiences in your field.
- Take the time to get to know people like your advisors supervisors and professors-- that's why they have office hours! This gives you the opportunity to learn from their insights and experiences, and it also helps them write better letters of recommendation for you.
- Become part of a smaller learning community, whether it is in a residential college, honors program, or through small seminars and directed study with faculty.
- Volunteer or engage in public service in areas that are important to you. Be an active contributor, make a difference. You will find that the experience is more than a résumé builder—it's transformative.
- Seek out leadership positions in student or community organizations.
- Study abroad; take advantage of opportunities to learn about other cultures.
- Keep up with current events.
- Take interesting and challenging courses outside your major.
- Apply for smaller awards and scholarships. They can function as building blocks.