Before Beginning the Application Process
Decide which scholarships of the many on offer are best suited to your academic interests, career goals, geographical preferences, and financial circumstances. Forget about the others.
If your chosen scholarships have application deadlines within two weeks of each other, pare down your choices to no more than three. You may not be able to prepare, with the required care, more than three application packets simultaneously.
Check your eligibility. Be absolutely certain that you meet all the requirements. Each scholarship website provides a section on this issue, but if there is any question about your eligibility — with respect to, say, minority status — ask OHS. Nothing is more disheartening than spending hours on an application only to discover that you fail the eligibility test.
Complete the Registration Form. Unfortunately, OHS cannot assume responsibility for helping you apply unless it received your Registration Forms, Parts 1 and 2, before the beginning of fall classes.
Highlight all application deadlines on all your calendars. Enter alerts in your calendar on the days one week and two weeks prior to the final deadline.
Notice whether the final deadline is for postmark on or receipt of the application package, and adjust your calendars accordingly.
Check to see whether your scholarship requires GRE scores of its applicants, and if so whether on the “Subject” as well as on the “General” test. You may register and take the General test on line, for a fee; Subject tests are given only in paper format on specified dates. See www.gre.org.
Develop a checklist of requirements for each scholarship and a timeline for satisfying them: i.e., by what date you will have completed the first draft of your essay; by what date you will have photographs in hand; by what date you will have contacted faculty in your universities of choice; by what date you will have formulated a program of study, and so on. Honor your timeline!
Identify and contact your referees — i.e., persons who will write reference letters for you. In addition to these instructions, OHS has developed a set of guidelines for you and for your referees, available from the Director. Be sure that your referees are current on you and your plans. Supply them with a copy of your resume. Let them know where you can be reached for answers to their questions. Direct them to websites with information on the scholarships for which you are applying. If these scholarships provide forms for referees, be sure that your referees have copies or know how to access them on the web. Know, and inform your referees, in writing, whether the completed reference letters are to be sent to you, to the scholarship foundation, or to OHS. Be sure that they understand whether the letter must be sent with a signature across the envelope seal. Invite your referees to contact OHS for guidelines on writing for a specific scholarship. Above all, let them know the deadlines for submission and/or receipt of the reference forms by the scholarship foundations (these deadlines may or may not be identical with those for your own application packet). When requesting a recommendation, supply your referee with a stamped, self-addressed envelope if the letter is to be mailed. If it is not, supply a plain white, business-sized envelope of good quality paper. Remember to fill in those parts of the reference form that ask for your input; do not expect your referee to fill in this information about the candidate.
Prepare a resume. This necessary task can be harder than it appears. The purpose of the curriculum vitae or resume is to provide an appealing, easily readable snapshot of your life to date. It must be neat, clear, inviting, and just long enough to cover the essentials in an economical, streamlined, and efficient manner. If you’re disorderly, cryptic, ambiguous, repetitious, or long-winded, you’re lost. Crisp, brisk, sharp, and lucid is the effect you’re after.
Set margins for one inch at the top, left and right; 1.5 inches at the bottom. Use a conservative, straightforward, readable font (preferably, Times New Roman), either 10 or 12 point (preferably 12). Do not embellish with high-tech artwork or typography, or over-use bold or italics. Section headings may be in bold. Never combine bold, italics, and underlinings.
Title this document a “Curriculum Vitae” (italicized as a foreign language phrase) or a “Resume for [Your Name].” No other title is acceptable.
Your school postal address should appear in the upper left hand corner of page 1, your permanent home address opposite in the upper right corner; include telephone numbers with area codes in both entries. Add your e-mail address following your school address.
Arrange your curriculum vitae by categories, in descending order of importance to your audience. The order may vary between scholarship screening committees and prospective employers, or even among scholarship committees, depending upon what particular forms of experience and expertise are valued by your readers. Here is a possible cv order for a scholarship competition:
- Academic Honors
- Research and Publications (if any)
- Professional Experience (including internships)
- Extra-curricular Activities
- Community and Volunteer Service
- Language Skills
- Special Technical Skills
- Athletic Achievements
- Personal Interests
Indicate any leadership roles, as appropriate, under these categories: evaluators are more interested in evidence of leadership than in memberships.
In early drafts of the cv, err on the side of inclusiveness; OHS will assist you in cutting back. The cv is not the place to feature your modesty, but screening committees recognize padding when they see it: straightforward description without self-promotion or false humility is the ideal here. The objective of the cv is to showcase you as a distinctive personality, not necessarily “bigger” — more accomplished — than everybody else but interestingly, compellingly different from them. Keep the cv to no more than two pages, if possible.
Avoid abbreviations unfamiliar to the general reader. Annotate parenthetically entries requiring explanations (names of awards, organizations, etc.). Provide dates (of graduation, employment, internships, etc.).
Some applications require photographs of scholarship candidates. These should be wallet-sized head and shoulders shots of professional quality, not candids from Destin Beach. Ball gowns and tuxedos are not necessary; a dress-up look is. The guidelines below for appropriate interview attire are applicable here.
Change your answering machine tape if it does anything other than politely and briefly ask callers to leave a message. Delete musical accompaniments, wisecracks, slogans, promotions, political statements, and sexy come-ons! Scholarship officials may telephone you: let them meet you in your most civilized mode.