Advice on Scholarships & Grants

Grants & Scholarships Timeline

A timeline for students who wish to receive prestigious grants and scholarships as a junior, senior, or graduate student, based on suggestions by Professor Russell Christensen, Hamline University.

If you want to receive a Fulbright for study abroad in your junior year or after graduation–or any of a dozen other prestigious grants and awards, you must begin in the freshman year. If you wait until your junior year to begin thinking about an application, your chances are slim. Here is a proposed timeline:

First Year

Sign up with your university’s honors program. You will likely find some of the best classes on campus through that program.

Take several general education requirements.

Take one writing course–creative, memoir, critical–it doesn’t matter as long as the teacher her or himself is an experienced writer and solid teacher.

Begin or continue taking a foreign language–any foreign language.

Get to know one or two professors. This is critical. By the end of the first year, you should know one professor well enough that you can talk to her or him about your interests and plan with that professor what you can read over the summer–a book and two articles–that connect you with your personal interests and the professor’s area of expertise. This connection–a mentoring relationship–begins a direction of thinking and research that eventually leads to delivering conference papers and possible study abroad in the junior or senior year, an honors thesis in the senior year, and a grant for advanced study in graduate school. Most universities have an office of prestigious fellowships and scholarships that can help you get started. Visit this office right away and get started with your dreaming and planning. The site for the Office of Prestigious Scholarships and Fellowships at BYU can be entered here: This will change your life in ways you cannot begin to imagine, no matter where you are headed next. Remember: it needs to start by the end of the freshman year.

Second Year

Finish general education requirements.

Begin coursework in your major and take at least two courses in another discipline that interests you–or begin work now in a second major.

Do not let the class schedule dictate how you arrange your day. Ask FIRST: who the best professors are, line up their classes, and then fit the rest of your schedule around them. If you start by filling in time slots, you will reduce the value of your education by at least half.

Get started on a research project that is growing out of your summer’s reading. Work with your faculty mentor, and with other experts she or he may recommend to begin developing a paper that you will deliver in your junior year. Your research can combine your personal interests with an existing academic discipline. If you like doll collecting or fly fishing, you can weave those into a cross-disciplinary research project. These projects don’t mean leaving what you love, they mean building on what you love. A happy camper is a person who loves fishing and combines that with research of insects on a favorite trout stream. Every Saturday is lab day on the trout stream. You can do the same with what you love–and take classes or do independent research that will support it.

A WORD OF CAUTION: If you are applying for a Truman grant, you must apply at the end of the second year and have a well designed research program in place. There’s no time to diddle here.

By now you should be well acquainted with two other professors on campus whose resarch or writing and teaching has caught your attention. How do you do this? You go to their office, confess your interest in what they are doing and the classes you are taking from them. You may be thinking about weaving some of their research into your own project.

Plan with your mentor and these other professors, with whom you are now connected, what your summer reading will be.

Begin planning your application to a distinguished scholarship or fellowship program. Below are some of the most important web sites. There are many others, with which your university scholarship office can help you. Browse through these and note which may be appropriate for your plans and interests.

Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship Program:
Ford Foundation:
National Institutes of Health:
Daughters of the American Revolution:
British Marshall:
Dwight D. Eisenhower:
Gates Cambridge:
Golden Key Graduate:
Hertz Foundation:
Howard Hughes Biology Scholarship:
Institute for Humane Studies:
Intercollegiate Studies Institute:
Jacob Javits:
James Madison:
Andrew W. Mellon Fellowships in Humanistic Studies:
George Mitchell:
National Defense Science & Engineering:
National Physical Science Consortium:
National Science Foundation:
Phi Kappa Phi:
Phi Eta Sigma:
Rotary International:
Society of Women Engineers:
Society of Explorers Geophysicists:
Tau Beta Pi:
Harry S. Truman:
Whitaker Foundation:
Woodrow Wilson:

More detail on the above list, with deadlines, information on the nature of the grant is available at:

Remember: the Harry S. Truman application must be completed by the end of the second year. This is a lucrative fellowship for those planning on a career in public service.

Third Year

Take advanced classes in your first foreign language and begin studying another one.

Continue studies in your majors–or in your major and other courses with professors who excite you. Remember there’s plenty of flexibility in every university’s requirements for you to take the classes you want if you plan early.

This is the year to have a paper ready to deliver at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research (NCUR). Here is the web site. You can see for yourself how the conference is planned and laid out:

This conference will take place in mid-March of your junior (and senior year), so you must have your paper written and ready to go by the end of February.

Take the GRE or AMCAT or GMAT or LSAT or other tests for graduate study in spring of this year. Some students find preparatory courses for these exams helpful.

By now you are well into your resarch and thinking on your honors thesis. You are working closely with your mentor-advisor and other faculty or experts who are steering you to research, archives, museums–whoever has the material you need for your work.

Collaborate with them on your summer reading and research and writing a first draft of your thesis.

Fourth Year

Early September: prepare the faculty with whom you have been working and who now know you well to write letters of recommendation for you (see section below) and work with a professor who has strong writing skills to work with you on your personal statement, Many of the applications are due in early fall. Pay careful attention to deadlines and begin working on your application with a faculty mentor at least two months in advance of the deadlines.

Continue advanced foreign language study in two languages.

Continue taking the best faculty you can find–the most interesting and vibrant–in your double major or in your major and advanced supplemental courses. If you need advice from faculty on who the best teachers are, ask. They know or they can help you find out.

Complete your honors thesis and prepare to go on to nirvana. Or something better than you thought you ever could have achieved.