On Monday July 2nd, Kevin Gilligan, Sameer Ahmed, and Nada Zohdy joined the MPSN fellows to discuss fellowships and scholarships, including the Rhodes, Marshall, and Presidential Fellowships. The regal Iraqi rice dish and tomato sauce sat between us simmering under dim light as Nada began giving her tips to success, and Kevin and Sameer joined: apply early and plan ahead, have different types of people read your essays and personal statements, be authentically you in the application, apply to many scholarships and fellowships, and expect the unexpected.
1. Apply early and plan ahead
Decide which scholarships/fellowships to apply for early. You will need to secure many letters of recommendation and write numerous essays.
2. Have different types of people read your essays and personal statements
The speakers introduced the “mom test”- your mother must approve of your essays as authentic and easily readable. Different points of view coming from people who know you in a multitude of ways will make your essays and overall application more human.
3. Be authentically you in the application
Don’t pretend to be someone who you aren’t. Accentuate your interests, skills, and activities that are unique but don’t feel that you have to conform to the mechanical “ideal” applicant.
4. Apply to many scholarships and fellowships
These scholarships and fellowships are tough to come by, so it’s best to apply to as many as possible. Similarly, don’t fall in love with any one of them, unless you want your heart broken. Play it cool.
5. Expect the unexpected
Who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow. Who knows how the application committees are feeling the day they read your application or what they need in that particular pool of applicants. So be prepared for both unexpected rejection and acceptance. Kevin explained that much of his application experience was filled with the ironic such as seemingly random government agencies granting him interviews.
All in all, go about the application process intelligently. My mother always says, “Hope for the best but plan for the worst.” However, my mother also walks around the house doing impressions of 1970s TV personalities, so take that with a grain of salt.