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Many of the well-known scholarships target juniors and graduating seniors and so freshman are often prone to overlook external scholarhsip opportunities. However, there are several competitions open to underclassman and many benefits to applying. Obtaining an external scholarship as a freshman can provide a valuable experience as well as position you to compete for some of the country's most prestigious later in your career. You might also find that applying for a scholarship helps you reflect on your goals and interests in a manner that leads to a more satisfying and stimulating college experience.
So what can a freshman do? First, you should always think of your college career as a narrative. The best applications tell a coherent story that relates your academic interests, career ambitions, and personal values. This means that at each decision point in your academic career- whether selecting a class, choosing a paper topic, or deciding how to spend a summer break- look for opportunities to build on your interests and enhance your skills. This may be difficult, as you are just starting to explore your interests and you may feel unfocused. But if you talk to faculty and advisers, you will find them quite able and willing to guide you.
Second, start to forge relationships with faculty members and academic advisers. If you feel comfortable with a particular professor, look for another class to take with him or her. Visit during office hours, ask about future research opportunities, and let her get to know you as a person. The more professors you know, and the more your professors know you, the more opportunities you will discover. And remember, a professor at DePaul typically teaches 6-7 courses and meets over 150 students per year. It will be very hard for you to leave an impression if you are not at least occasionally meeting outside of class.
Begin to explore unique ways to combine your interests. Interested in Mandarin and China? Take a Chinese art course, write a paper in your American history class about Chinese immigrants in the 19th century, join DePaul's Nihao Debao club, or volunteer at the Chicago Chinese Cultural Center. Look for extra-curricular activities that match and build upon your interests in the classroom.This might involve community service, on-campus clubs, intramural sports, internships or a first-year study abroad program. Activities that add diversity to your resume are particular beneficial. Because as a freshman you must take a lot of First-year and Liberal Studies courses, you are limited in what you can do. You also need to be careful about over-committing yourself. Nonetheless, the more you can find ways to pursue your interests inside and outside the classroom, the better.
Take a chance and apply to scholarship competitions listed on this website. You might not win, but you'll find the application process will help you think concretely about your experiences and goals and greatly enhance your writing skills. Applying will also help you build relationships with your professors. DePaul has a number of internal scholarships for students interested in research and study abroad. These include the Undergraduate Summer Research Program, Undergraduate Research Assistant Program, and the Meister Scholarship. Obtaining one of these scholarships is often a first-step toward landing a prestigious external scholarship.
As a sophomore, you are eligible for many more scholarship and research opportunities than you were as a freshman. You should strongly consider applying to the scholarship programs that most interest you. Obtaining a scholarship during your college career not only opens new doors, it also lays the foundation for success in future scholarship competitions. Even if you do not win, you will benefit from the applicaiton process by improving your writing skills, forming stronger relationships with faculty, and reflecting on your academic and career goals.
If you have not done so already, you should meet with the campus scholarship adviser.
You should look both for external scholarships as well as those offered internally by DePaul. DePaul has a number of internal scholarships for students interested in research, study abroad, and public service. These include the Undergraduate Summer Research Program, Undergraduate Research Assistant Program, the Meister Scholarship, and numerous scholarships offered by the Study Abroad Office.
Aside from sending out some initial applications, you should continue to build on the foundation you started in your freshman year. Begin to seek out leadership opportunities within your extra-curricular activities. That might mean assuming a particular office or starting a new initiative. Many prestigious scholarship programs aim to identify and assist future leaders, so you will want something in your college record that indicates you are an appropriate candidate.
Continue building relationships with faculty mentors—take a second class from a professor you like, approach her about research opportunities, and visit her office hours. Take every opportunity to allow your professors to get to know you.
If your interests are international, start exploring opportunities for a junior year study abroad experience. DePaul offers a number of good options and there are many scholarships available for studying abroad, particularly Boren, Gilman, and the Critical Language Scholarship. These require advanced planning so you cannot wait until your junior year to begin the application process. If you do not want to go overseas, consider some of the many programs that aim to help students launch careeers in international affairs such as Pickering, Rangel, and the State Department Foreign Internship Program.
If you haven’t done so already, visit the DePaul Career Center. While you are still a few years away from being on the job market, you will find that meeting with career advisers and attending job fairs will help you gain a better sense of how your academic interests and values can translate into professional goals. Working on a career roadmap can help you focus your coursework and extracurricular activities so that your college career is a more coherent narrative. Almost any scholarship application requires you to tie together your past experiences, immediate goals for the scholarship year, and post-college professional ambitions. Students who have a detailed, concrete, and realistic sense of career options are at a signficant advantage.
Continue to look for interesting ways to pursue and combine your academic interests. While this doesn’t mean that you need to double major, you should try to develop themes in your coursework and class selections.
Your junior year is critical. Now is the time to start bringing together the various components of your DePaul career and to begin applying for some scholarships.
Many of the most competitive and prestigious scholarships require you to apply as a junior or at the very start of your senior year. For example, even though the Truman Scholarship pays for graduate school, it requires you to apply as a junior. Other scholarships that cover expenses after you graduate, such as Fulbright, Rhodes, and Marshall, have campus deadlines in early September, which is typically before the start of the Fall quarter of your senior year. This means that you must start working on scholarship applications during your junior year.
If you have not done so already, it is definitely time to meet with the scholarship's campus representative, visit the Career Center, and start talking with faculty mentors about scholarship and research opportunities. Apply for DePaul grants such as the Undergraduate Summer Research Program, Undergraduate Research Assistant Program, or the Meister Scholarship. If you are not sure with whom you should talk about the scholarships that interest you, contact the DePaul Scholarship Adviser. Go back and look at the advice offered to sophomores. If there is anything on the sophomore list that you have not yet done, make sure you do it early in your junior year.
You should also be seeking out leadership positions in your extra-curricular activities. The strongest scholarship candidates are the students whose extracurricular activities and academic interests build upon one another—and who show a steady progess in their expansion of responsibilities and leadership positions.
As you approach the end of your junior year, you've probably taken a number of courses in your major field and a significant number related to your particular academic interests. Now is the time to consider an independent study. Independent studies are ideal for deepening your knowledge on a particular subject and forming a strong relationship with a professor. The substantive knowledge you gain can often be applied directly into scholarship application essays. If you're not sure how independent studies work or are arranged, talk to your department's chair or academic adviser. If your department offers it, you might also consider applying to write a senior thesis.
At the same time, look for publication outlets for papers you have written in your classes. For example, consider submitting a paper to a student conference or to the student journal, Creating Knowledge. Professors in your home department can help you find these kinds of opportunities.
If you are studying abroad and are thinking you would like to continue studying or working overseas after you graduate from DePaul, begin to explore the applications for scholarships like Fulbright, Rhodes, and Marshall. Do your best to establish relationships with faculty in your host university. Some programs, such as Fulbright, require you to obtain a letter of affiliation from a university in the host country and so it will be very helpful if you already know someone. If the situation allows it, look for community service, teaching, or internship opportunities while abroad. (If you are in an intensive language program, this may not be feasible).
Also, if you are interested in going overseas after you graduate, teaching English is one common route. The Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) program annually funds hundreds of students to work in approximately 70 countries. You need not be interested in a teaching career to apply, but Fulbright will want some evidence that you will be a good instructor. If you think you might be interested in applying for the ETA, look for teaching and mentoring opportunities. Take a class or pursue a minor in English as a Second Language (ESL) or Bi-Lingual Education, apply to be a Writing Fellow for the DePaul Writing Center, or find a volunteer opportunity at place like LIFT-Chicago.
Now that you're in your last year at DePaul, it's likely that you're very focused on what comes next. If you've followed the advice offered here during your first three years, you should be in great shape to apply for a number of national scholarships.
As has been emphasized throughout the advice section, get started on the applications early. Meet with the campus scholarship adviser and start drafting your application essays at least a quarter before the campus deadline. Give drafts to the campus adviser, faculty mentors, and anyone else whose judgment you trust. Remember, many of the scholarship competitions have one awardee for every ten applicants. Selection committees spend most of their time eliminating good candidates, rather than selecting qualified ones. Don't give them any reason to reject you.
What if it's your senior year and up until now you haven't given much (if any) thought to scholarships for post-graduate study? Is it worth applying? It depends, but usually the answer is "yes", assuming you have a good GPA and a solid record of extra-curricular activities. You will need to work hard, but if you are willing to put in the effort, you can find faculty willing to help you. But you need to start immediately gathering information about scholarships, drafting essays, and reaching out to professors who can write you a letter of recommendation.
Aside from getting started on your applications, you should continue what you started in your previous three years—pursuing academic interests both inside and outside the classroom, taking a leadership role in extra-curricular activities, attending job fairs and working closely with faculty advisers and the Career Center.
Consider taking a class or independent study that will provide skills you will need to succeed in your scholarship program or career beyond DePaul. Perhaps this involves getting a certification in geographic information systems, taking a class in teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), or doing an independent study to deepen your knowledge of a particular issue.
And continue the process you started last year of looking for outlets for papers you have written in your classes. Consider submitting a paper to a student conference or to the student journal, Creating Knowledge. Faculty in your major-field department can help you find these kinds of opportunities.