The process of the Nationally Competitive Scholarships

The Nationally Competitive Scholarships, also known as “fellowships”, are highly known as being one of the most competitive and prestigious awards, based on merit, available to students both graduate and undergrad. Some may compare this scholarship to the “gold medal” of all scholarships, that is just how competitive this is, and the selection for the scholarships measures you as a leader in the field you have chosen.

“It can kind of happen a couple of different ways. Sometimes students have a scholarship in mine,” said Laura Seals, director of the Nationally Competitive Scholarships.

The needed preparation for the scholarships are usually started before senior year of high school, but they don’t always have to. It does not matter if you are already in a graduate program or not, there are always options no matter where you may be within your academic career. It is a better idea to try and broaden personal, professional and academic horizons in order to be recognized by the nationally competitive scholarships.

There are many ways to apply for this scholarship, depending on what kind of scholarship a student may be seeking as well as the before mentioned, broadened horizons. “They’ve known a friend who applied for Gilman and they want to learn about it or they know about something they’ve heard in their class,” Seals said.

Seals continues to speak of the process after a student has heard of the opportunity, she uses a scenario as an example, they go to the Nationally Competitive Scholarships office and say “hey, how do I apply for this?” and they start looking and Seals talks them through the process. Sometimes students just come in and ask “are there any scholarships available?” Then Seals looks at what the applicants look like as students, for example, what their major is, or what year they are. From there, they figure out some things about the applicants, and then look for a scholarship that would be a good fit for them.  There are many options and if their horizons are not “broadened” then they will be helped out and will be walked through the process.

Seals went on to speak about different options for the scholarship, “There’s some scholarships based on demographics, there’s Hispanic scholarships, and then there’s some scholarships based on major or there’s particularly in STEM, there’s more STEM scholarships available than in other fields.” STEM is also  what offers funding to undergraduate students and allows them to spend a summer conducting research at one of ten U.S. hosting Universities.

“All of these are funded outside of the University, so I never decide who wins. But we have had some really great applicants who have applied Fulbright program,” said Seals.

Seals talked about her experiences with granting students scholarships and students receiving scholarships, as well as how that may work. She also mentioned the Fulbright program, which is a program set to “increase mutual understanding between the peoples of the United States and other countries” through exchange of people and their knowledge and skills, it is open to U.S. citizens who are working towards a bachelor’s degree and intend to study, conduct, research or teach English abroad.

“From that we’ve had several  winners who have been Fulbright student award winners. Those students go abroad for a year after they graduate and it really is just a life changing thing,” said Seals.

This scholarship opportunity, not just necessarily in the context of the Fulbright program but any option previously listed, could easily open new doors and be a life changing experience. It is highly competitive and very prestigious but it is not impossible and there are many options, all you need is just an open mind and a broad horizon.