General Application Tips and Advice

Below are tips and advice on how to make the application process easier and better for yourself overall.

Staying Organized

Juggling multiple deadlines and the different requirements can be difficult. You must write essays, obtain transcripts and recommendation letters, and ensure everything is uploaded before the deadline. Getting organized early on will save you time and effort later, making the entire process easier for you.

1. Create a central document for all materials

This document is where you keep track of all of your applications (deadlines, documents required, steps to apply) and your progress. You'll also want to keep track of your recommendation letter needs, requests, and whether they've been submitted. This type of organization helps you make your own timeline and work at a pace suitable for you to complete each necessary task.

2. Work backwards from the deadline

You want at least 3-4 weeks between your first draft and the application deadline. That will give you time to get feedback from the office, your mentors, and others. Waiting until the last minute makes it difficult to put forward your best application.

3. Develop a calendar

Once you've decided on what opportunities you want to apply for, you'll need to stay organized to ensure you gather the required materials (resume, recommendation letters, transcripts, etc.) and complete all the application components (essays, background information, etc.).

Time Management

Time management is a crucial part of being successful in the professional field as well as everyday life. Taking the proper steps to prepare yourself for many award applications will help you to pay the best attention possible to what needs to be accomplished. Becoming better at time management and completing things early will help to alleviate stress in the future when deadlines begin to approach.

1. Plan ahead

No matter where you are in your academic career, it's never too early or too late to begin planning ahead. Ask graduating students what they wish they'd done when they were at your stage in their academic career. Talk to faculty and staff about opportunities they know of or how they got where they are today. Start thinking about what you want to get involved in this fall, spring or summer. Reach out to offices on campus to see how they can help you get where you're trying to go.

2. Evaluate your commitments

Take a critical look at your weekly/monthly schedule, thinking about each activity on it. What is of the least value to you? Is it something you can remove with minimal consequences? Are there things which you enjoy but have little time for? How might you declutter your schedule so you have more time for those activities? As always, we're here to help if you'd like to talk more about this. You can set up an appointment here.

3. Take things one step at a time

Rushing yourself is never the best way to get a task done to the best of your ability. Leave yourself enough time to reflect on your drafts, ask for a review from a peer, tutor or our Office, and don't be too hard on yourself. If you try and force your best work out of you because you have high expectations, you will not sound authentic and might turn in something that does not truly represents yourself. Allow yourself time to process and complete each part of the application individually while sticking to a schedule that puts you right on track.

Going Beyond Classroom Involvement

Being involved with extracurriculars is a very important thing to do in college! Not only does it build your character and open you up to so many opportunities, but it allows you to give recommenders and those who view your application a better look into who you are and what you are apart of! Finding the right balance between academics and clubs or opportunities outside of that can be challenging, so the following tips should help you stay on track.

1. Find things that interest you

You can put what you've learned in the classroom to work by joining student-run research projects, doing an internship, conducting undergraduate research, or studying abroad. Find things that you like that you are proud to be a part of and fully invested in! These opportunities and experiences will help make you more competitive for external fellowships, scholarships, and awards. Your personal pursuits matter. Whether you're conducting research, building rockets with a student organization, or volunteering with your fraternity, what you pursue is important. These personal pursuits demonstrate your curiosity, commitment, and values. Including these in your application helps reviewers see your personal identity and the person you aspire to be.

2. Be a leader

Want to branch out and take on some more responsibility? Considering going for a leadership position in a club you are apart of? Do it! There is nothing stopping you from being a leader on campus and in your own life other than yourself. The qualities leaders posses help make you more marketable and understanding of the things you need to accomplish in your career. No matter how early or late you join a cub there is always room for you to be a leader and get yourself involved!

3. Use the opportunities you get to enhance your professional skills

It's not enough to simply show up to a club or event and put it on your resume. Selection committees often want to see that you have deep and sustained involvement in your areas of interest. If you're working on a research project, ask questions so you can fully understand why the research is being done, the expected outcomes, and ways to expand your role. Use your internship as an opportunity to develop your communication, teamwork, and collaboration skills and learn as much about the organization as you can. These experiences could be the foundation for a fantastic application.

Take Time for Yourself

Giving yourself the proper time to reflect on what you have accomplished and the things you have learned is very crucial to being successful in the future. Dealing with rejection and responding to success can seriously impact your experience with awards in the long-run. The following tips are beneficial ways to keep yourself checked in to any emotions the application process before, during, and after may bring to you.

1. The bigger picture

Once your semester is over it is a great time to reflect on all the things accomplished. What did you do? What did you learn? What are some of the little details which might be hard to remember later? Write all of these down now, while they're fresh on your mind. It'll come in handy later when you're trying to remember details as you write personal statements or prepare for job interviews.

2. Dealing with rejection

Rejection is hard. We want others to recognize our hard work, see our potential, and to invest in us so it's disappointing when that doesn't happen. So, what do you do if you aren't selected? It's up to you how to respond. One option is to ask for feedback so you can identify areas where you can improve. Another is to talk to your mentors and advisors about other opportunities you might pursue. With luck, the next time you'll be celebrating your success. In life, we often get told no more than we get told yes. It's frustrating and can make you want to give up or change course. But, when you know what you want to do, you have to go after things even when they're hard. Think about what you can do to push past the difficulties and step outside of your comfort zone. Keep doing this enough and it will become a part of who you are. Once it does, you'll be able to do anything.

3. Don't be your own worst enemy

We've all made mistakes. One of the key features of resilient people is that they don't let adversity and past mistakes define them. Start by reflecting on what you've done, paying attention to your successes. Try to let go of guilt, anger, or regret about things you wish had gone differently. Instead, think about how you can reframe those situations and use them as a learning experience. Reflecting on your past helps you strengthen your inner self and face the challenges which lie ahead. Often the news we receive regarding awards is disappointing because you find out you didn't win. It's okay to be disappointed as long as you spring back from that disappointment and use what you learned in the application process to come back even stronger. The goal is to turn this year's disappointment into next year's success.

Developing Your Skills

Working on any skills in life only help you to be better at the things you are trying to accomplish. Professionally, you are going to continue to develop your skills for your job so that you stay focused in what you do. In terms of applying for awards, jobs, internships, or anything else, you need to get a good foundation of skills to the next level in order to stand out amongst your peers and competitors. The following tips are resources to help you best develop your skills.

1. Develop a winning mindset

In life, we often get told no more than we get told yes. It's frustrating and can make you want to give up or change course. But, when you know what you want to do, you have to go after things even when they're hard. Think about what you can do to push past the difficulties and step outside of your comfort zone. Keep doing this enough and it will become a part of who you are. Once it does, you'll be able to do anything. It takes hard work to be successful. It’s tempting to focus on what you can do or what comes easily to you while ignoring the things you don't want to or think you can't do. But can you set yourself up for success and to achieve your goals without doing those things? Probably not. Think about how you can make those difficult things manageable by breaking them down into smaller tasks, asking friends and mentors for help or guidance, or finding online resources to help. Setting yourself up for success will make it easier for you to achieve your goals.

2. Be yourself

Strong applications come from being authentic. Reviewers have trouble trusting and awarding funds to people who come across as fake, phony, or unreliable. To be authentic, you have to be introspective and understand what motivates you. Keep your true self and desires in mind as you select the opportunities which best fit with your motivations, core values, and beliefs. Being authentic means that you look for the best-fit opportunities rather than contorting yourself to fit what a program is looking for. By working on showing your program exactly who you are, you will feel more relaxed about the content you are submitting. Highlight the things you are passionate about and be true to the things that make you, you.

3. Reach out for help

If you are feeling unsure about an application, reach out to our Office for help! there are plenty of opportunities to have a draft revised, get some feedback on ideas, or overall just have your application reviewed by us. There are also other outlets on campus such as the Writing Lab that would be happy to work with you to make your skills better for this application and for the future! Don't be afraid to reach out for help, it is important to feel super confident in the material you submit to any program.

Searching for a Mentor and Virtual Networking

Searching for a mentor can be an overwhelming process. Being able to have insight from someone who has been in your shoes at one point is extremely beneficial to your development as an applicant and a recipient of an award. A mentor is someone you can get feedback from, learn about your industry from, and experience professional growth with. Mentors offer guidance on achieving your career goals, handling tricky work situations, which opportunities to pursue, and more all based on their experience. Do you have someone in your life doing all of those things? If not, you need a mentor!

1. Finding a mentor

As we said before, we all need mentors. So, how do you find them? First, you have to know what you're looking for. Think about your short- and long-term goals and your mentorship needs. With this in mind, you can conduct research to identify potential mentors. You'll want to include your existing network (professional, alumni, etc.) as you're thinking about who has the knowledge, expertise, and/or experience you're looking for. Once you've made a list of potential mentors, the next step is making the ask.

2. Making the ask

Asking someone to be your mentor can be intimidating. After all, what if they say no? That's a risk you'll have to take. Whether it's someone you know well or someone you don't know at all, start by sending a brief introductory email that ends with a request to meet for 30-45 minutes to talk more. You can then use that initial meeting to describe what guidance you seek, why you selected them, and the work you're willing to put in to ensure the mentoring relationship is successful. If they say no or you realize they aren't a good fit during that initial meeting, reach out to someone else on your list of potential mentors. You can't get a mentor if you never ask!

3. Attend events of interest to you

There is a great deal of online workshops, seminars, and information sessions that award offices put on in order to inform you about their opportunities for you. Attending these events online (or in person if available) is a great way to get your foot in the door with a committee or just become informed about the things available to you now and in the future. You can find out about these events through our office, a mentor, faculty you connect with, and other outlets that pertain to you. Don't miss out on a chance to expose yourself to opportunities you didn't know about in the first place!