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Important Updates

Prestigious Scholarships FAQs

General Information

  • What are prestigious scholarships?
  • Prestigious scholarships are a specialized form of outside scholarships that are given to some of the highest achieving students in the nation. These scholarship programs are nationally and internationally renowned and can open the door for students to some amazing opportunities. 
  • What do prestigious scholarships offer other than money?
  • In addition to the monetary value, prestigious scholarships may include conference attendance, summer research or internship positions, networking opportunities, cross-cultural experiences,  guaranteed employment, priority federal hiring status, language acquisition, admission to a graduate program, and matching scholarships awards.
  • How competitive are prestigious scholarships?
  • Prestigious scholarships are highly competitive.  Some programs select 2-3% of applicants, while others select 20% or more.  UC Davis students are selected each year for these scholarships, including in some of the most competitive programs.  
  • What are the benefits of applying if I do not receive the scholarship?
  • Applicants will refine life skills that are directly relevant to applying for graduate/professional school, employment, and other opportunities.  Skills include clarification of academic and professional goals, determination of support network for letters of recommendation, experience writing and revising personal statements, honing interview skills, and identifying priorities of funding sources. 
  • What does a “finalist” or “honorable mention” designation from a program mean?
  • “Finalist” and “honorable mention” are designations used by many programs to convey that a candidate would have been selected as a scholar if the program had additional funding.  These are significant designations that should be added to a CV or resume.
  • If I apply for a scholarship and am not selected, should I reapply the following year?
  • The applicant pool is different every year, and you may have grown during the past year.  Re-applicants may find they have greater goal clarity, stronger relationships with letter writers, additional experiences and skills to highlight, and a greater understanding of the application process – all of which may be beneficial when re-applying.  Re-applicants are encouraged to meet with the Prestigious Scholarship Advisor Scott Palmer (scpalmer@ucdavis.edu) to discuss how to improve their applications.  

Campus Deadlines

  • Why do some programs have a campus deadline that is earlier than the scholarship foundation deadline?  What do I have to do by the campus deadline?
  • Some programs require UC Davis to nominate or endorse applicants for the national competition.  Other programs limit the number of nominees UC Davis may endorse.  The campus deadline is used to select the most competitive applicants as nominees who are provided with feedback and support to refine their applications.  Candidates seeking nomination must submit the full application along with all required documents (including letters of recommendation) by the campus deadline.
  • Why do letters of recommendation need to be submitted by the campus deadline?
  • Our campus committees perform a holistic review of applications to select endorsed candidates.  Letters of recommendation make up an integral part of any application, and therefore, are part of the endorsement review process to determine the most competitive candidates.
  • I just learned about a prestigious scholarship whose campus deadline recently passed. Can I still apply?
  • Each application takes a significant amount of work and we generally will not accept late applications.  In rare circumstances, we may allow a late application; contact Prestigious Scholarship Advisor Scott Palmer at scpalmer@ucdavis.edu to express your interest in applying.

Letters of Recommendation

  • Whom should I ask to write a letter of recommendation?
  • Suitable recommenders will vary by scholarship.  A letter of recommendation should always come from individuals who know you well and can make claims that they substantiate concerning your suitability for a specific scholarship but generally are from faculty, post-docs, community leaders, or others who know you well.  Letters should not come from family members, personal friends, or TA’s.  No high school letters should be used unless the candidate is a first-year student.
  • What should a letter of recommendation for prestigious scholarships say?
  • A letter of recommendation should be enthusiastically supportive of your candidacy to a program and demonstrate why someone should heavily invest in you.  The letter should demonstrate that the writer knows you, and understands why you are a strong fit for a particular program.  Letters should make specific claims concerning your qualities (such as academics, character, leadership, etc.) and substantiate these claims with specific evidence.  Letters should not re-iterate information available elsewhere (transcript, CV, resume), or make general comments that could apply to any student. 
  • How should I ask for a letter of recommendation?
  • It is best to ask for a letter in person when possible.  This will allow you to receive a prompt response and ensure the writer feels they can offer strong, enthusiastic support for your candidacy.  You should specify that you would like to know if the letter writer feels they can offer “a strong, enthusiastic letter of support” – this will allow them to understand what you are seeking, and to let you know if they are not in the position to do this. Make sure to start this process early to provide potential letter writers with plenty of time to write their letters.  It is advisable to request the letters of recommendation four (4) or more weeks prior to the deadline. 
  • What pertinent information should I provide to potential letter writers?
  • There are a number of helpful items you can provide to your letter writers.  These include sharing the aims and selection criteria of the specific scholarship they are writing for, your CV/resume, essay drafts, notable accomplishments, and submission deadline.  Some programs offer specific guidance which should also be shared (ie., Gates Cambridge Scholarship; Goldwater Scholarship; Knight-Hennessy Scholarship; Marshall Scholarship; Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship; Rhodes Scholarship; Truman Scholarship; Udall Scholarship). 
  • The deadline for a scholarship I am applying to is approaching and my letter writers have not submitted their letters yet.  I am getting nervous; what should I do?
  • The vast majority of letters of recommendation are submitted within 48 hours of the deadline.  If your letter has not been submitted yet, this may be perfectly normal.  However, you may send a gentle reminder to your letter writers of the deadline and submission procedures.  For example, “Dear ______, as the deadline for the letter of recommendation for [prestigious scholarship name] is approaching, I want to make sure you don’t need any information from me to complete it.  Can you please let me know when the letter has been submitted?  Thank you very much for your support.”

Letters of Affiliation

  • What is a letter of affiliation?
  • Letters of affiliation are letters supporting a project or program proposal that an applicant is submitting.  Letters of affiliation will provide application reviewers with an understanding that the project or program being proposed has localized support from a sponsoring organization or faculty member.  For example, if a candidate proposes to earn a graduate degree at an institution, a faculty member of that institution should submit a letter stating how they would support the candidate’s project (welcome into a research group, providing lab space, mentoring, gaining access to archives, etc.).
  • How is a letter of affiliation different from a letter of recommendation?
  • Both letters are written to demonstrate support of a candidate.  However, while a letter of recommendation is written in support of a candidate based on prior interactions, a letter of affiliation demonstrates support for what a candidate proposes to do through the program. 
  • Which prestigious scholarships require a letter of affiliation?
  • The Donald A. Strauss Scholarship requires a letter of affiliation from a partner organization demonstrating their support of the proposed public service project.  Research and study applicants for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program must obtain a letter of affiliation from an in-country sponsor detailing what support the sponsor will provide.  The Churchill Scholarship requires a letter from a faculty member at Cambridge inviting the applicant to join the letter writer’s lab.  The Rhodes, Marshall, and George J. Mitchell Scholarships do not require a letter, but applicants to these programs are strongly advised to demonstrate engagement with potential research mentors and indicate this engagement in the applications.