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Apply for Competitive Fellowships and Scholarships

Ready to apply for a competitive fellowship or scholarship? Follow these tips from competitive fellowships and scholarships advising. 

Although applications for major awards can vary, each award generally requires the following components.


It is a good idea to always keep a resume that you update through the years. You can make an appointment with competitive fellowships and scholarships advising program manager Valerie Shor or Career Services to work on your resume.

Make an Appointment

Personal Statement

Your personal statement should be tailored for each specific award. You want to create a cohesive and concise application package. The personal statement should focus on why you are a strong candidate for the opportunity rather than why you want the opportunity.

Letters of Recommendation

You should be creating strong relationships with a few of your professors during your academic career. These awards require between two and eight letters of recommendation. You should ask faculty members for recommendations only if they know you well.

When you ask for recommendation letters, you should:

  • Ask politely and always allow for a “no.” If a professor says no, then he or she might not feel able to write you a strong letter for any reason. You want a strong letter.
  • Allow for time. We recommend that you ask for a recommendation at least two weeks before the application is due, although a month is customary.
  • Offer ample information. Tell the professor about the award, your interest in the award, and your plans if you are given the award. If there is an area you want them to focus on, offer that suggestion.
  • Say thank you. Always be sure to thank the professor who writes you a recommendation letter. Chances are that you will need to ask them to write another one someday soon.

Many of the major awards require university endorsement, which at Saint Louis University are administered through Competitive Fellowships and Scholarships Advising. There is generally an on-campus interview before the award deadline.

If you are a finalist for an award, then you will be offered an interview with the awards committee. If you request a mock interview, we can help arrange one before the official interview.


In order to be competitive for some of these awards, you will need to showcase your leadership abilities, a clear career plan, and a commitment to community. 

Here are some ways you can foster a record of achievement in these areas throughout your academic career:

Freshman Year
  • Look for courses that will challenge and interest you.
  • Join two or three clubs that you find intriguing.
  • Visit a few of the professors you really like during their office hours.
Sophomore Year
  • Get involved in your major and minor department activities
  • Begin taking upper level coursework
  • Continue to cultivate relationships with faculty members
  • Run for office in some of your clubs
  • Contemplate studying abroad
  • Apply for departmental awards
  • Make an appointment to visit with Competitive Fellowship and Scholarship advisers
  • Apply for national, merit-based awards like the Udall or Goldwater scholarships
Junior Year
  • Begin deciding on specific fellowships and scholarships
  • Start drafting your application materials
  • Get involved with research projects in your department
  • Devise a service project that matches your career goals
  • Make an appointment to visit with Competitive Fellowship and Scholarship advisers
  • Apply for awards like the Truman, Udall, Goldwater, or Beinecke scholarships
Senior Year
  • Submit award applications before deadlines
  • Complete the university endorsement process

Faculty Referrals

Competitive Fellowships and Scholarships Advising seeks to work with academically talented, leadership-oriented students for major national awards. Faculty are often in the best position to recognize promising candidate for these awards.

To aid in the process of faculty referrals, here are some suggestions for determining competitive candidates:

  • Clear academic and career goals
  • Strong, consistent academic record
  • Leadership in and out of the classroom
  • Commitment to service beyond course or organizational requirements
  • Excellent writing and speaking skills
  • Interest in social justice
  • Transformative thinking and an active curiosity about the world and global issues facing humanity

To refer a student to our office, please fill out a reference form if you have any questions. 

Tips for Writing a Recommendation Letter

Here are some tips for writing a recommendation letter for a national, merit-based award:

  • Research the award: A generic letter might hurt the candidates more than it will help. Be sure to do some preliminary research on the award before you begin writing the letter (find some more detailed tips here).
  • Determine the focus: Discuss the appropriate focus for the letter with the candidate.
  • Include detail: Give concrete examples of your positive and recent experiences with the candidate.

Here is one common format of recommendation letters:

  1. How do you know the candidate?
  2. Past accomplishments of candidate
  3. Leadership potential of candidate (particularly in career path)
  4. Discuss candidate’s plan for the scholarship
  5. Why is this a strong candidate for this award? How do they stand out?

University Endorsement Committee

These faculty members review applications and interview students that are applying for competitive fellowships and scholarships.

  • Jenny Agnew, Assistant Professor, School of Professional Studies

  • Amy Bautz, Associate Professor, Fine Arts

  • David Borgmeyer, Director, International Studies

  • Simone Bregni, Associate Professor of Italian, Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

  • Natasha Case, Assistant Professor, Biomedical Engineering

  • Richard Colignon, Professor and Chair, Sociology and Anthropology

  • Laura Dailey, Assistant Director, Pre-Professional Health Studies

  • Gregory Divers, German Instructor, Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

  • James Gill, Assistant Professor, Mathematics and Computer Science

  • Srikanth Gururajan, Assistant Professor, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering

  • Emily Lutenski, Assistant Professor, American Studies 

  • Jeanne Melton, Director, Pre-Professional Health Studies

  • Bruce O'Neill, Assistant Professor, Sociology and Anthropology

  • Charles H. Parker, Professor, History

  • Steven Rogers, Assistant Professor, Political Science

  • Ina Seethaler, Instructor, Women's and Gender Studies

  • Alexa Serfis, Professor, Chemistry

  • Leah Sweetman, Assistant Director, Service-Learning

  • Katrina Thompson, Associate Professor, History and African American Studies

  • Joya Uraizee, Associate Professor, English