NMSU’s Office of National Scholarships and International Education (ONSIE) seeks to unlock major funding opportunities for students wishing to pursue graduate or professional school in the United States or abroad. Many of these awards are among the most exciting and competitive programs available. They will give you an important edge after leaving NMSU, but more importantly, offer you a unique chance for personal growth through new experiences.

The scholarship application process is a challenging but rewarding journey. Our office is here to help you throughout each stage of the process, from identifying awards you are eligible for, to help you build your qualifications, and finally, to crafting a winning application.

 

Who should consider applying for postgraduate scholarships?

A wide range of grants is available to students from all fields. Most awards are based on academic merit; many are also given to students with financial need, members of minority groups or organizations, returning students, those wishing to serve their community, and students desiring to study abroad.

If you are interested in graduate or professional school, public service, or studying abroad, consider applying for a fellowship.

Which scholarship is right for me?

It depends. There are many fellowships that may fit your interests and qualifications. Be realistic about your achievements, but even if you only meet the minimum qualifications, don’t be afraid to take a risk and apply for a scholarship. Search committees look not only at your grades, but also at your campus activities, service, and your interests. Plus, the process of applying will be rewarding for you.

The best way to start is to talk to the Director of the Office of National Scholarships and search our website. Look for scholarships in your field of study, class year, or examine those aimed at certain populations (e.g. minorities, women, international students).

What do applications involve?

Each scholarship has specific requirements. Most ask for a personal statement, a study plan, transcript, and letters of recommendation. Sometimes the GRE or an interview may be necessary. Check the specific application for the scholarship you are interested in for detailed requirements.

An excellent personal statement is vital. Talk to the Office of National Scholarships about this component of your application.

What are they looking for?

Academic achievement is usually key. Those who select scholars for these competitions also look at a student’s record of leadership, public service, research experience, and his or her meaningful participation in extra-curricular activities. They typically like to see that you have had or will have an important impact on a community-academic, social, political, or otherwise defined.

How important are grades?

Grades are important but are only one element of the applicant’s packet. Other qualifications, such as research and service, can be just as critical. Winners of most prestigious fellowships generally have GPAs of 3.5 and above.

Do I have to be an Honors College Student to apply?

No. Our office will happily assist any student at NMSU in his or her pursuit of fellowships.

That said, the NMSU Honors College offers a variety of opportunities that students applying for fellowships should consider: challenging and intriguing courses, superb instructors, possibilities for conducting research and creating art, an attractive credential for transcripts and resumes, and camaraderie with other interesting students.

What should I be doing to prepare for prestigious fellowships?

  • Reflect on your career and personal goals.
  • Get to know professors in your area early in your time on campus who may later be able to write letters of recommendation on your behalf.
  • If possible, be involved with the NMSU Honors College.
  • Read and re-read the homepages and guidelines of the fellowship you are applying for.
  • Meet with your advisor and the fellowship coordinator well before applications are due.
  • Regularly read a quality newspaper such as the New York Times or The Economist.
  • Listen to NPR and watch the BBC World News on KRWG TV-22.
  • Start early! Your freshman and sophomore years are ideal times to begin preparing yourself as a competitive applicant.

What makes a strong application?

A strong application fits together well and demonstrates why you are right for the award by highlighting your strengths and uniqueness. Assuming a good academic and activity record, the personal statement (and, if applicable the research/study plan) becomes critical in conveying this. Honors 214/314 is designed to help you hone your fellowship writing skills.

Letters of recommendation are also important. They need to be detailed and personal, connecting to your background and plans. The ONSIE has a guide to writing letters of recommendation for these awards that you can share with your recommenders.

Ultimately, your application needs to be distinctive. It needs to stand out when compared to many others. It needs to speak to a wide range of audiences.

A good way to craft a strong application is to work with the ONSIE as early as possible.

How much time do applications take?

It depends on the competition. Some scholarship applications are fairly straightforward; some require a quite a bit of time and effort. Finalists and winners of the most prestigious fellowships often spend 40-60 hours on the application and their interview preparations. Students not prepared to devote the time necessary to prepare a competitive application will not fare well.

To help manage the application process, consider signing up for the one-credit courses “Window on the World” (HON 111) and/or “Successful Fellowship Writing” (HON 214/314) in NMSU’s Honors College to help create time in your schedule to prepare a solid application.

Can I apply for more than one fellowship?

Absolutely. In fact, much of the material (personal essays, letters of recommendation, etc.) that you draft for one competition can be modified and used for other applications. You may find that this material will be helpful in applications for graduate school, professional school, as well as jobs.

Can I apply after graduation?

Yes. It is possible to apply for most major post-graduate fellowships as a senior or for several years after you have graduated. There are no age restrictions on most major scholarships. Check the eligibility requirements for each award.

If I don’t win this time around, can I reapply?

Possibly. Some competitions, such as the Udall and Jack Kent Cooke, allow students to reapply. The ONSIE will be able to advise you on this.

Are current graduate students eligible?

Often they are; again it depends on the fellowship. Current graduate students who wish to pursue additional study in the United States or abroad can find awards that will support that endeavor. Click here for a list of major scholarships available to many current graduate students.

Why do I have to get a nomination from NMSU?

Certain scholarships require an institutional endorsement from NMSU. Some scholarship competitions also limit the number of students who can be endorsed from NMSU. These steps are taken by the agency/foundation running each competition in order to screen applications and limit the application pool size.

If I’m not a U.S. citizen, can I apply for fellowships?

Yes, depending on the fellowship. With certain conditions, the Hughes, Rhodes, and Rotary are open to citizens of other countries. A permanent resident may apply for the Hertz and NSF. Only a naturalized U.S. citizen or child of naturalized parents may apply for the Soros. The Gates Cambridge Scholarship is for citizens of any country other than the UK. Jack Kent Cooke accepts international students. Consult the applications for specific information on eligibility.

For the Fulbright, international students will need to contact their own embassy or consulate for procedures.

The Ford Foundation has a fantastic new program for international students.

Do I need to take the GRE (Graduate Record Examination)?

You will need a GRE score for some fellowships and for many graduate schools. The GRE General Test is given year-round by computer. Appointments are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis, so you should register early. The website for the GRE is www.gre.org.

How can I get involved in community service and/or do research as an undergraduate?

There are a number of ways to get involved in the community and/or gain research experience as an undergraduate. Numerous agencies and non-profit groups in southern New Mexico welcome volunteers. Consider your interests: are you concerned about poverty? Public health? Violence against women? Whatever your interests, there is likely a local, state, or national organization involved. If not, start your own! For more information about public service, talk to Dr. Miller-Tomlinson, Dr. Eamon and other faculty in the Honors Program.

If you are keen on doing research as an undergraduate, talk to your academic advisor or other faculty in your major about research projects you could work on, either during the semester or during the summer. You can often earn credit and possibly financial support. Summer research opportunities abound. See this website and this one for a listing of many of these possibilities.

A unique opportunity at NMSU is the NMSU Rise to Excellence Program. This program was created to increase the number of minority Ph.D. students and faculty members in science, mathematics, and engineering departments.

The Honors Thesis option is another excellent way to capture your research, earn a prestigious distinction, and complete the full Honors Program at NMSU. Present your thesis research at the Undergraduate Research and Creative Arts Symposium, held each spring.

As with most of this advice, the best thing to do is start early, ideally in your freshman or sophomore years.

I want to stay at NMSU. What kinds of fellowships are available for graduate study here?

NMSU offers a variety of fellowships and assistantships that support graduate students on campus. See the Graduate School website for information on Assistantships and Fellowships at NMSU.

Why should a student from NMSU apply for national fellowships? They only select students from prestigious schools like Harvard and Stanford.

This is a common misperception. While many winners of national fellowships are from major or “prestigious” universities, strong students from institutions like NMSU who are properly prepared and submit excellent applications can be very competitive. In fact, some funding bodies encourage applications from our institution and from minority groups, given the fact we are historically underrepresented in these competitions.

The odds are so far against me and it is a lot of work. What’s the point in doing all this?

Win or lose, those who go for fellowships gain in a variety of ways. Students will:

  • Clarify their career and personal goals.
  • Develop close relationships with faculty and scholarships advisors.
  • Get a better sense of the most appropriate graduate program for them.
  • Become more aware of their strengths and interests, and learn new ways to prepare for their career.
  • Improve their writing skills and, if they become finalists, enhance their interviewing skills.
  • Get a jump on applications for graduate school.
  • Meet other interesting and superb students.
  • Have a unique personal growth experience.