Getting Started

Starting the search: 

NEVER pay for a scholarship search.  As a student or alumni of the College, you have access to the CCSA database of opportunities, as well as to a number of reputable, free on-line resources. 

Remember to keep your search broad as you begin: there are opportunities as varied as there are disciplines, projects, and individuals pursuing them.  There are scholarships and fellowships targeting academic interests, research, gender, cultural heritage, future goals, leadership activities, language abilities, travel experiences, and many other personal aspects related to who you are, where you have been and who you are becoming.

FACT: Planning for and applying to nationally competitive scholarships happens over an extended period of time, especially if you are applying for both short-term and long-term opportunities.  Find a way of organizing all of the information you are likely to accrue over that time period and document your search to make the best use of your time as you return to online applications, websites, programs, etc

Debunking Common Myths:

  • National scholarships are too competitive for someone like me and, therefore, it is not worth applying. Scholarships and fellowships are competitive and there are no guarantees as to the outcome.  However, if you do not apply you will miss out on the possibility of winning.  More importantly, you will not have the chance to benefit from the process of thinking through your hopes, dreams, and plans to achieve those in a meaningful way. Engaging in the application process is, in our opinion, invaluable and will be helpful for you as you plan to make the most of your experience at UChicago and prepare for other opportunities including graduate schools, internships, other scholarships and jobs.  Taking full advantage of the guidance provided by the staff of the CCSA will also help you refine your application materials and plans for further engagement.  So, competitive? Of course.  Worth the effort? Absolutely.  Engaging in the application process allows you to begin to refine and clarify your future plans and the outcome of that process, regardless of whether or not you actually win the scholarship, is worthy of recognition.  It is an opportunity to share with your peers, faculty, university staff, and to affirm to yourself, that you have tremendous potential, motivation, commitment and a purposeful direction.
  • Scholarships are only for students with a perfect or near-perfect GPA. Many opportunities do not advertise a specific GPA and often use it simply as one of many indications as to the quality of the applicant.  The ‘whole package’ is far more interesting and compelling, as is a transcript that indicates a rigorous course-load.  That said, a strong GPA is expected and will only add to your strength as an exceptional candidate who can attend to both their academics and their co- and extra-curricular activities in a meaningful way.   It is also worth mentioning that the standards for determining the GPA are far more difficult to assess with the onset of grade-inflation at many institutions across the US (not at UChicago).  Again, it is just one part of your story.
  • Scholarships are only for students who have ‘done it all’.  If you have ‘done it all’, you have probably not done much of it well.  So, be wise, reflective and critical as you begin to determine what is worth your time and energies (and begin to do this as early as your first year).  As an undergraduate student, the most obvious priority should be your academics but consider involvement with things that directly relate to your studies and/or future ambitions.  For example, undergraduate research may be a meaningful way to engage your subject outside of the traditional classroom.  Or, perhaps involving yourself in a relevant service activity would make sense especially if it means there is room for you to grow as a leader.  Even pursue jobs and/or internships that have bearing on your overall plans.  For example, if you are interested in public policy, find ways to expand your experiences to include work on a national or international scale.  Whatever you do, make a point of choosing with intention as opposed to collecting random activities to simply ‘pad’ your resume.  Review committees quickly recognize students who have set out to ‘do it all’ without a clear sense of why.  ‘Doing it all’ won’t serve you in the end and it certainly won’t make for a cohesive, intentional set of experiences that indicate your commitment to your discipline(s), your interests, and your proposed future plans. 
  • Scholarships are only for those with documented financial need.  There are a number of need-based scholarships but there are also opportunities that do not take financial need into consideration and instead, take as their focus, a candidate’s academic merit and preparation for future successes. Nationally competitive scholarships and fellowships are about more than the money and are an investment in the candidate and their future.  They are looking for applicants who recognize that at this stage in the process, it is about fully engaging in one’s education and all of the experiences available to support those academic pursuits. 
  • I can’t apply for multiple opportunities at the same time.  This is one of the few times when it makes perfect sense to put all of your eggs into the proverbial ‘same basket’.  Some national opportunities like the Critical Language Scholarship, Boren, Goldwater, Udall, and Truman require you to apply early on in your undergraduate career but many others including opportunities in support of post-graduate studies in the U.K. or the Fulbright, require that you apply around the same time during the fall of your final year as an undergraduate.  Incidentally, you will likely also be applying to graduate school or professional opportunities at the same time but given that there is no guarantee of the outcome of your application for a national scholarship, it makes sense to apply to all those opportunities that are a good fit for you.

Deciding if you are a good applicant:

Carefully review the information provided on the website of the funding opportunity to make sure that you meet their basic qualifications – minimum GPA, class-standing, citizenship, your profile as it relates the purpose of opportunity, etc.  If you meet the minimum requirements and determine that the opportunity is a good fit for you, and are committed to putting your best effort into the application process, then you are a good candidate with a good chance of winning.  Of course, we hope that you will also take every advantage of the resources at UChicago, benefit from the collective wisdom and guidance of your faculty, and seek out the support of the experienced staff of the CCSA.

FACT: Remember that at this stage it is as much about seeking out the specific opportunities provided by the scholarship or fellowship as it is about the funding.  It is not in your best interest (nor those who will be reading your application) to simply apply to everything under-the-sun.  This is your opportunity to find programs and experiences, ideally supported by scholarships and fellowships that are the very best for you and what you hope to accomplish.