Gathering Materials

Any given scholarship application will contain different sections and will ask that you submit any variety of supplemental information. It is extremely important not only that you know what they want, but that everything you submit is the best it can be. This section should help you accomplish that.

Scholarship Application

About 90% of the scholarships we see require applicants to submit a front sheet that includes basic biographical information, and sometimes responses to short-answer questions. Completing these forms is pretty self-explanatory. Just remember to follow the instructions that are provided.  

If you receive the application in paper form, see if there is a web site (we provide web links in our database if one is available) where you can download a digital copy of the same forms. Many organization  have now instituted an online application platform to complete. However, there are often applications in either a Microsoft Word format (.doc) or in portable document format (.pdf.) Microsoft Word documents can be typed using any computer that supports the program and has it installed (the UC Berkeley Microcomputer labs all support Microsoft Word.) PDF documents can be a little more complicated. Some applications, when used on newer versions of Adobe Acrobat Reader, will allow you to modify PDF files; others do not and have to be printed and then typed upon.

If you have illegible or messy handwriting (and even if you don't) you may want to consider typing the application sheets even if they allow you to use pen. Remember that the cover sheet is often the first thing that a scholarship evaluator will see of your application.

Personal Statement

The Personal Statement is perhaps the most fluid and least quantifiable element in the scholarship application. Not only does each individual student have his or her own respective style, but quite often different scholarship applications will make specific requests of applicants in the personal statement. For example, a travel grant may ask you to place your personal experience in the context of both the uses of your travel and its relevance to your normal academic program. There is some general advice on writing the personal statement, however. The personal statement is generally one of the most critical factors in the application; through it, the applicant presents the first real solid picture of himself as a person and as a student. The Personal Statement should not simply regurgitate information already contained in transcripts, etc. It should present a picture of you as an individual. A compelling personal statement should help you stand out among other applications. You should use it as an opportunity to explain or contextualize any gaps in the academic record. After reading your personal statement, the scholarship selectors should think of you as the perfect recipient for their award.

For more specific help on writing the personal statement, the Scholarship Connection does offer personal statement workshops in the spring semester specifically for Rhodes, Marshall, and Mitchell applicants.

Letters of Recommendation

Strong letters of recommendation are extremely important to most scholarships. In a big university like Berkeley, however, where students are often taught by graduate students or other academic personnel, rather than by tenured professors, it is extremely important to make a point of establishing relationships with your professors as early as possible in your academic career. Attend office hours and engage in discussions outside of class. Participate in Freshman and Sophomore Seminar courses, where enrollment is limited to 15-25 students, the Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program, which matches undergraduates with faculty doing research, the Haas Scholars Program, which funds independent research projects under the guidance of faculty mentors, or other undergraduate research opportunities. Even if there are no formal or funded research opportunities in your area of study, you still can and should pursue opportunities to carry out independent research under faculty guidance via independent study courses or junior/senior honors theses.

Letters should come from professors who are familiar not only with your academic abilities, but also with your personal interests and background, and how those relate to your potential success. Although recommenders should consider what each scholarship is looking for, they should not feel compelled to address every aspect of the scholarship profile. Recommenders should address only those elements of your application on which they can comment confidently. Effective letters of recommendation are detailed, specific, and contextualize your achievements. It is helpful if the recommender can attest to the appropriateness of your proposed program or suitability to the award.

Ideally, you’ll have a letter from a full professor, known in her/his field, who knows you well. Students often ask if letters from Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs) are appropriate. According to one foundation, "Letters from people who know you well are far more valuable than letters from well-known people who know you less well and who might write, at best, a form-like letter." Note that, sometimes, professors are willing to cosign letters written by GSIs. But whenever possible, letters written by faculty are preferable. Generally, letters from college (rather than high school) instructors are preferable. Non-academic letters should discuss your volunteer and/or leadership experience. Do not use letters from relatives or family friends.

Approach letter-writers as soon as possible. Remember that professors and other instructors are quite busy and will need some time, usually a few weeks, to work on a good letter of recommendation. When you are approaching the recommender, discuss your plans and let them know what you hope to study and why you want to apply. These discussions may help you clarify your plans and will help reestablish your relationships with your recommenders. Provide them with a written description of the scholarship and copies of your personal statement, proposed academic program, transcripts and activities/honors list. Do not leave the forms in their mailboxes, and, to ensure effective letters, don’t wait until the last minute. Much of the anxiety that comes from asking for letters of recommendation can be relieved by planning ahead and giving recommenders plenty of time to write an awesome letter.

Transcripts

Not every scholarship will require a transcript, and many that do request applicants to send one do not place a relatively high importance to grades and the like. Nevertheless, when an application requires a transcript, you should take their request seriously and mail (or have mailed) a transcript well before the deadline. In the academic world, there are two types of transcripts: unofficial and official. An unofficial transcript is a listing of coursework and grades similar to the printout available from Bear Facts. Unofficial transcripts are normally acceptable only for campus-based scholarships and awards. An official transcript is printed by the Office of the Registrar on official paper and includes the seal of the university and the signature of the Registrar. All of the information on your BearFacts printout will be included on the official transcript, with the additional information of your major(s) and college. Most, if not all, scholarship foundations will request an official transcript, and ordering official transcripts, like letters of recommendation, requires some advanced planning. DO NOT SEND A BEARFACTS PRINT OUT WHEN ASKED FOR AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT.

The Office of the Registrar is the ONLY campus unit that will issue official transcripts, and they do it according to their own time line. There are various options for requesting transcripts:

Current and Summer Students
Quickest method: Use the PDF service available at: TranscriptsPlus (spring/summer 2016 use BearFacts; fall 2016 use CalCentral under Semester)

Other methods include:

  • In Person: Get a transcript on the spot at Cal Student Central in 120 Sproul Hall
  • Standard Mail:  Spring and summer 2016 - BearFacts; fall 2016 - CalCentral under Semester; processed in three to five business days

Express Mail: Use TranscriptsPlus (spring/summer 2016 use BearFacts; fall 2016 use CalCentral under Semester) or walk in to order at Cal Student Central in 120 Sproul Hall

Alumni
Use the PDF service available at: TranscriptsPlus (Note: This will be available through fall 2016.)

To request official transcripts by mail, print out the transcript request form, and mail it to Office of the Registrar. The transcripts will be sent via first-class mail within three to five business days. There is no fee for this service.

Always remember that official transcripts will not include current course work and grades until approximately four weeks after the semester has ended, and degrees are not posted until approximately ten weeks after the semester has ended. Also, transcript requests will not be processed if you have outstanding financial obligations to the University.

For more information on transcripts, please visit the Office of the Registrar's web site at http://registrar.berkeley.edu.

Resume

Some scholarship applications will include a space on the form to list activities and honors. For those that do not, however, you should list activities (including dates of involvement) as you would on a resume. Use headings, such as Community Service and Academic Honors, and list entries in chronological order or order of importance. Briefly describe activities that are not self-explanatory, and (where appropriate) describe the impact you made in each role. Your activities should represent your varied talents and passions outside the classroom. Selectors want to get a sense of who you are and what you believe in. List all significant activities and honors, but be selective. The selectors are looking for sustained commitment (rather than two hours spent on a community clean-up). Keep in mind that anything in your application is fair game in the interviews. Be completely honest. If you list that you speak fluent French, for example, you’ll want to be able to converse with an interviewer in French. More information on resumes can be found at the Career Center web site, http://career.berkeley.edu.