'Prestigious Awards' are exceptionally competitive and require significant investments of time and effort in order to craft applications, write essays, enhance resumes, and practice interviews. Students are urged to seek advice from the Director of Center for Undergraduate Research and Engaged Learning, as well as from faculty, advisors, and other campus resources regarding the preparation of competitive applications. The major components that will be required for competitive awards and applications for admission to graduate/professional programs are listed below.
Click the tabs below for application resources:
Students are encouraged take time to research award opportunities as early as possible to understand the requirements and allow enough time to build strong applications (resume, personal statement, and essays).
- Attend campus workshops that provide professional development opportunities
- These types of workshops are often offered by the UCR Career Center and Center for Undergraduate Research and Engaged Learning.
- Workshops offer valuable information that will help you enhance your profile.
- Seek Opportunities outside of the classroom to expand the undergraduate learning experience
- Focus should be placed on research, community service, internships, and education abroad experiences
- Seek out campus resources and advisors to maximize success
- A record of strong academic performance and leadership in activities outside of the classroom will be necessary to gain positive outcomes when applying to scholarships/fellowships
- Faculty and advisors are good resources for involvement in scholarships/fellowships
- Make an action plan
- Set personal deadlines well in advance of the actual deadline
- Take into consideration other commitments - (GREs, midterm, work)
- Begin working on essays well in advance to allow time for editing and feedback
- Winning essays will take multiple revisions
- Be considerate of your time and others who are helping you - give them time to make edits
- Set personal deadlines well in advance of the actual deadline
- Speak to advisors who will provide support during the process
Attention to detail is an important skill in putting an application together.
- Read all of the fine print for each program of interest and understand the deadlines and required materials.
- Make note of all deadlines, including any institutional deadlines that may precede the organization’s deadlines.
- Know the date and time that the application is due. Be cautious to note the deadline time-zone, for example the Mitchell Scholarship has a 5PM (EST) deadline which is 2pm in California (PST).
- Application deadlines are strictly enforced. Planning ahead to meet the deadline a day or two before the published deadline will help to deal with any unexpected glitches. A time line for completing each application should be developed and strictly followed, a good resource is the NPSA Planning Guide.
- Remember to be considerate of people's time, especially when requesting a letter of recommendation, or support in reading your draft essays.
- Students are responsible for ensuring that all application components are submitted by the application deadline. Most application components include:
- Online/paper applications
- Essays: personal statement, project proposal/plan of study, others
- Read the application requirements – most awards require official transcripts from all schools ever attended, even if the grades are listed on the UCR transcript
- It is a good idea to have a few copies of sealed transcripts on hand
- Letters of recommendation
- Deadlines are strictly enforced. It is the applicant's responsibility to follow up with the letter writers to ensure timely submission
Undergraduate research provides an opportunity for students to apply what they have learned in the classroom to real world issues under the supervision of a faculty mentor.
- Use UCR’s Undergraduate Research Portal to find current faculty-led research opportunities
- Talk to faculty about volunteer opportunities in on-going research projects
- Look at the departmental faculty webpages to identify and contact faculty involved in the research interest area
- Students can also develop their own research focus through:
- Whenever possible students should seek opportunities to publish and present their research findings
- Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity Symposium
- Undergraduate Research Journal
- Utilize your faculty for identifying additional opportunities
Letters of recommendation are crucial for successful award and admission applications. A strong letter of recommendation goes beyond the standard language of praise for academic achievement. Strong letters must include specific distinguishing remarks that testify to a student’s unique capacity to carry out their proposed plans, leadership capacity, specific achievements, and potential. Earning a strong letter of recommendation comes from developing a strong relationship with a professor, often over several years, before the letter of recommendation is needed. Tips on earning a strong letter of recommendation include:
- Utilize office hours to get to know professors
- Discuss your long term goals and seek advice on how to achieve them
- Be inquisitive and ask for recommended readings to further your knowledge
- Enroll in a series of courses with specific professors, so that the professors can develop a solid academic basis for offering a strong endorsement
- Volunteer in ongoing research projects sponsored by a professor - this provides a great opportunity to get to know the professor, and demonstrate your skills and development as a researcher
- Be mindful of the professor’s time
- As a courtesy, professors should be provided at least 2-3 weeks’ notice when requesting a letter of recommendation
- The professor should also be provided with information that will make the letter writing simple:
- Draft personal statement, and any other required essays
- Information on the opportunity you are applying to the award’s mission statement and a link to the award website criteria
- Your resume (that has already been reviewed and edited)
- Transcripts (can be unofficial, so they can see your course history
- Sample of your work (if appropriate)
- Recommended highlights and talking points you want them to consider including in the letter
- Deadline for when the letter needs to mailed or uploaded
- Any special instructions, particularly for awards that require a campus endorsement
Thank You Notes
It is important to demonstrate your appreciation for the support you receive during your application process by sending a personalized thank you card. This small gesture of appreciation will ensure that faculty, staff, letter writers, etc. know that you followed through with the application. Remember to keep them informed of your progress in the competition.
The personal statement should make a strong case for why the award and the student are a good fit. A personal statement articulates why the award would benefit from the student’s selection and participation in intellectual/scientific/arts community of recipients. It should be written in a manner that captures the reader’s attention and makes them excited to get to know you and helps the reader identify with your background and experience.
- Make a specific and compelling presentation of who you are, including where you have come from, what you have accomplished, your future goals, and how those components fit with the award’s purpose. Read "Helping Students Tell Their Stories" from the Chronicle of Higher Education.
- The Center for Undergraduate Research and Engaged Learning (CUREL) has writing support staff to help refine your essays. After working with the CUREL Director on your essay drafts, schedule an appointment with writing support staff here
- Allow time for editing several drafts of the document. Great essays take several drafts and months to develop
- Do not be shy about asking friends, faculty, advisors, alums of the award, or people in the career field for their advice