Application Tips

Before applying

1. Decide    

Which scholarships best suit your academic interests and career goals?

Be absolutely certain that you meet all eligibility requirements.

2. Visit

Visit the SMU office for advice. Attend one of our Info Sessions.

3. Deadlines   

Highlight all application deadlines on your calendars. Enter alerts in your calendar, one week and two weeks prior to the deadline.

4. Requirements    

Develop a checklist of requirements for each scholarship and a timeline for completing each. Honor your timeline!

5. References

Identify and contact those who will write references for you. Make sure they know your plans and aspirations. Provide them as much information about the scholarship as you can. Provide them as much TIME as possible!

6. Resume   

Fine-tune your resume or CV.

7. Photos

If a photograph is required, use a wallet-sized head and shoulder shot of professional quality and in interview attire.

8. Transcript

If required, order your transcript. SMU's transcript requests portal is here:


The Application

1. Rules   

Carefully read all information on how to apply. Follow instructions to the letter.

2.  Forms        

Answer every question, complete every blank, that is relevant to you on the application form.

3. Fine Print

Read all the fine print. Some instructions appear in tiny print but they are no less important.

4. Titles           

Use academic titles in listing academic referees: “Professor” not “Dr.” for senior faculty, “Dean”, “Provost,” etc. Do not write, “Professor John Smith, Ph.D.” (doctorate is assumed). If uncertain, check the SMU directory.

If asked for referee e-mail contacts, be sure to supply them.

5. Order    

Order any lists (employment, publications, travel, activities, etc.) from most recent to least recent.

6. Sign & Date            

Sign and date the form after carefully reading over the application. Be sure you understand what your signature commits you to.


What should I be doing, and when?

First Year

  • Study: Establish a solid GPA
  • Get involved: organizations and activities that reflect your values and interests
  • Show curiosity: take a variety of courses and extracurricular activities
  • Stay informed: read and listen to a variety of news sources

Second Year

  • Find a mentor: help your professor with their research
  • Stay involved: explore leadership roles in your organizations
  • Stay curious: keep taking chances with courses, extracurriculars
  • Plan ahead: find opportunities for internships, research, and study-abroad

Third/Fourth Year

  • Start a project: pursue an undergraduate research project
  • Present: show your work at a conference, for a community group, on campus
  • Write: journal about yourself and your passions
  • Prepare for awards: meet with the Office of National Fellowships, research requirements
  • Study for national exams: such as the GRE and MCAT


Writing tips


Thoroughly read the website for your desired fellowship. Make notes—what is unique about the current fellows, what are some of the provided prompts?


Make a lot of lists! Think about everything in your background. Some essays require you to self-disclose your background, ethnicity, gender, etc. Jot down everyone who has made an impact on you, every organization you’ve been involved in, all of your interests.

Rough draft

Look at the essay prompts and your lists. Then just start writing. Right now, don’t second guess if something is relevant or not. If it popped into your head, it might be relevant!


Revising can be the toughest and most fun part of writing. It’s good to wait a few days between revisions. Some people like to print out their draft and write notes long-hand.

The first step of revising is to identify salient points. What is the “hook” or “lede” that draws in the reader? The next step is to move these points around in an order that flows.

Once you have your draft in pretty good shape, ask a friend or mentor to read it and give you feedback. That’s also where the Office of National Fellowships can help you!


This is the final stage. Take into account the feedback you have received—what is unclear? Simplify and clarify sentences. Check spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Make sure you have someone do a final proofread of your essay! It is always good to have “another set of eyes” to catch typos.

Fodder for your brainstorms

  • Your family and hometown
  • Your proudest accomplishments
  • What first interested you in your major
  • Your mentors
  • Organizations you’re involved in
  • Your favorite classes
  • Your favorite projects (in and out of class)
  • Your other interests and hobbies
  • Your work experience
  • Where you have traveled
  • Current events—what issues and stories do you follow?
  • Your career goals
  • Your strengths and weaknesses


Interview Tips

Before the Interview

  • Schedule a mock interview with us.
  • Carefully go over travel and housing arrangements. Are you responsible for these costs, or will you be reimbursed?
  • Whether flying or driving, always allow yourself plenty of time!
  • Go over the itinerary for the day. Sometimes there is a social gathering or lunch along with the interview.
  • Pick out clothes that look professional and give you confidence.
  • Get plenty of rest in the days before the interview.

During the Interview

  • Be your “best self”—you were invited to interview, so you are qualified. Have confidence, and have fun getting to know the interviewers.
  • It’s ok to pause and think before giving an answer.
  • Keep your answers concise. Leave them with a chance for follow-up questions; that makes it more of a conversation.
  • It’s ok to admit that you hadn’t considered something, or don’t know about it.

After the Interview

  • Tell us how it went! And let us know if we can call on you to help future interviewees.