Office of National Scholarship Advisement

University of Mississippi
Pre-med biology major Mike Hohl works on a project in a biology lab. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Pre-med biology major Mike Hohl works on a project in a biology lab. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

What is a national scholarship or fellowship?

A national scholarship or fellowship is an award for study, research or travel that is offered by an agency to students throughout the United States, as opposed to a merit-based award offered by a particular educational institution. These awards tend to be highly competitive and are often specialized, with specific eligibility and selection criteria. Most are intended to support graduate study, but a few support undergraduate work. You can find a list of them here. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the awards, the eligibility requirements, and the application process.

How selective are these competitions?

It varies depending upon the scholarship but most are highly competitive. The Rhodes Scholarship has a selection rate of about 3% in some years. Most applicants will be highly qualified. You should consider how well the purpose or mission of the scholarship aligns with your own academic and career goals and be sure that you meet the basic eligibility requirements.

How can I learn more about national scholarships? 

There are workshops held throughout to introduce each scholarship and application process. You can also explore the links to the foundation websites for each award and read about the application process and see the biography of recent grantees. It is highly advised that you meet with Tim Dolan as soon as possible to explore your options and talk about choosing an academic trajectory that will help you be as competitive as possible.

What is an institutional endorsement?

Some national scholarships require you to be nominated by the University of Mississippi. For those scholarships you must first submit an application to the ONSA office and participate in an interview, if necessary. These scholarships have an institutional deadline that is usually much earlier than the scholarship’s national deadline.

What if I have already graduated from the University of Mississippi? 

Alumni are welcome to meet with Tim Dolan and discuss the application process.

How time consuming is it to put together a competitive scholarship application? 

Students should expect to invest a significant amount of time and effort into the process. Some scholarships require less effort than others, but successful students often invest many hours working on application materials for months before the deadline.

How can I prepare to be a competitive applicant? 

Start early. Most national scholarships require a strong academic record, research experience, public service, and leadership.

Academics: Take challenging classes. Develop meaningful relationships with your faculty members since they will be the ones who write your recommendations. Faculty are excellent resources for finding research or service projects and for directing you toward higher level courses or readings. Find out what you are passionate about and immerse yourself fully into that subject. Explore challenging related classes. Academics are always important in national scholarship competitions and so taking challenging classes and maintaining good grades is vital. Most national scholarships are for graduate school so you should be taking a rigorous academic program that will make you a competitive candidate for graduate studies.

Research: Conduct research or work with faculty as a research assistant. Use your summers to conduct research or work as an intern. Offer to be a research assistant to professors that are doing important research in your chosen academic field. Look for community based research projects or paid summer research programs.

Public Service: Get involved in public service. Don’t wait to be told what to do; take charge, create a nonprofit, recognize needs in your community and find ways to address those needs. Look at other national programs for models that might work in your community. Think big. Think sustainable–how will your work continue once you graduate?

Leadership: Student government is one way to be involved in your community. But there are many ways to lead–clubs, organizations, fraternities and sororities, honor societies. How can you be a change-agent and start transforming the communities or issues you care about? How can you rally the support of others in order to make the largest impact possible? Look to other national programs for models and inspiration.

In addition it is important for you to be informed on current events. Read a good periodical newspaper daily. Read current event magazines like The Economist, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, the New Republic or The American Review. Read with a critical eye for bias. Read scholarly journals in your subject area.

Finally, good communication skills are vital. Writing is the key component to every application and many scholarships require an interview if you are named as a finalist. Take advantage of every opportunity to improve your writing and public speaking abilities.

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