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It is never too soon to start thinking about scholarships and fellowships!

planningaheadscholarships.pngSome scholarships, such as the Boren, are even available to first-year students. Others are so competitive that it is important to plan ahead to ensure you have the kinds of experiences that will make you competitive.

Please note that the ideas below will be useful to you regardless of whether you ultimately apply for or receive a scholarship/fellowship. Following this advice will make you more competitive for graduate school and for employment. It will also help you make critical decisions about your future as you gain experiences that are connected to your future goals.

Our office can help you plan your college career early on to enhance your competitiveness.

  • Applying for nationally competitive scholarships really requires long-term planning. Some applications are due a full year before you would receive funding. If you are seeking funding for graduate school, you will need to apply for scholarships before your grad school applications are due. In other words, don’t wait until you’ve been accepted into a graduate program or a study abroad program to look for scholarships – you will likely miss many opportunities for scholarships.
  • There are several things related to academics that you can do to make yourself more competitive for national scholarships and fellowships:
    • Keep your grades up. For most scholarships, you need at least a 3.6 GPA to be competitive. For a few scholarships, the average GPA for awardees is a 3.9.
    • Take challenging classes that demonstrate broad interests. If it makes sense for you, choose a second major or a minor that complements but is different than your major (and be prepared to explain why you chose that combination and how it supports your larger career goals).
    • Engage in research. Talk with your advisor and reach out to professors in your field of interest. Try to be doing some kind of research project by your sophomore year. Can you get a research internship the summer before your junior year? If you are given the opportunity to present your research at a conference or submit an article to a journal, take it!
    • Practice your writing. Every scholarship requires an essay of some form, and it will make or break your application. Take some classes that require you to write papers. Get in the habit of writing more than one draft and getting feedback. Ask your professors for advice on how to improve your writing—ask even when you get a good grade.
    • Develop strong relationships with a few key professors. You’ll need letters of reference from professors who can speak to not only your academic achievements, but also your initiative and leadership capacity. Perform well in class, but also make a point of having conversations with professors during their office hours. Discuss your ideas and your interests with them. Ask for their advice on finding internships and conducting research. In order to write a high quality letter of recommendation, they need to know more about you than what they can glean from your papers and test performance.
    • Think about mastering a foreign language and/or doing a study abroad experience (preferably for an entire semester or a full summer). Some scholarships require you to be proficient in another language. Study abroad demonstrates that you’re interested in learning about other countries. (By the way, there are scholarships to help you pay for study abroad experiences!) Interested in a language that isn’t offered at Eastern? Full-time students can take one class per semester at any other public institution in Connecticut for free.
  • Your time at Eastern shouldn't just be about academics. To make the most of your college experience (and to be more competitive for scholarships, graduate school, and future employment), make sure you engage outside of classes in things that matter to you:
    • Get involved in extra-curricular activities that have meaning to you and can connect to your larger career or educational goals. Find activities that you think you’ll want to stay involved in for your entire college career to demonstrate your level of commitment.
    • Plan meaningful summer experiences. Aim to secure some kind of internship that is related to your professional goals every summer. (Internships during the school year are great, too!)
    • Be a leader. If you see a problem or need in your community, take the initiative to fix it. Demonstrate that you are the kind of person who will solve problems in the future. Many scholarships are hoping to find the world’s future leaders.
    • Read. It’s not uncommon for applicants to be asked in interviews questions about current events or their favorite books. Be knowledgeable about the world around you by reading the New York Times or the Economist. Read academic journals in your field of interest. Read a range of fiction. Attend lectures that interest you. If Eastern brings a well-known journalist or civil rights activist to campus, go hear him/her speak.
  • If you think you might be interested in applying for national scholarships and fellowships, contact the Fellowships Office. It can be very helpful for first-year students and sophomores to come to the Fellowships Office to discuss your career goals. We can help you identify possible opportunities and also give guidance on experiences you can undertake now to enhance your competitiveness later. 

    Don’t wait until a few months before a scholarship is due to contact our office for the first time. Make an appointment today!