APPLICATION TIPS FOR STUDENTS
A competitive application requires planning, attention to detail, and sufficient time to work with campus individuals who can support the student’s application. All applicants need to plan appropriately.
As materials are prepared, students should keep in mind that the Goldwater Scholarship is awarded to those who show the greatest potential for becoming the United States’ next generation of research leaders in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering. All elements of an application – from answers to the online questionnaire to the individuals whom students select to write letters of recommendation – should help the Foundation understand how the applicant intends to be one of these leaders.
As with all important applications, a student should:
• Carefully read and review all of the application materials,
• Know and stay on top of all deadlines (including those established by the Goldwater Program and those set by the institution’s CR),
• Work with individuals who can assist and provide feedback throughout the application process (i.e., Goldwater CR, mentors and references),
• Make certain the information provided is accurate and reported in a way that is asked for in the application,
• Proofread, proofread, proofread all application materials! Enlist others to review the application for science, grammar, format, etc., and
• Well in advance of deadlines, make certain all application materials are in order (i.e., check with the CR).
There are also items that apply specifically to the Goldwater process.
• In the online questionnaire, one of the first questionnaire sections is titled Career Goals/Professional Aspirations. It contains questions about a student’s goals and background for which the student must write narrative responses. A student should draft answers to these questions, refine the drafts and then refine the drafts again. During this process, the applicant should talk with his/her faculty – both research mentors and non-mentors, other professionals in the field, and, if available, post-doctoral research associates and graduate students, about their research and career experiences. This will help a student better understand what a research career entails and will help him/her write stronger statements.
• As part of the Career Goal responses, students should provide their specific plans for graduate school, post-doctoral research (if-possible), and research experiences that support their career goals.
• The Research Essay should not simply be a “slightly expanded” abstract that was used for another purpose. While the Research Essay might start out as an abstract, it needs to be much more. In addition to describing the research question, methodology, analysis and results, the Essay should clearly describe how the student was involved in the work and what specific contributions he/she made to the work. Future directions for the work or a new research initiative built on skills learned should be included.
• Research Essays should be written with the understanding that Goldwater reviewers are experienced science reviewers, but may not necessarily be an expert in a specific research area.
• Students should work with their faculty and research mentor(s) to ensure the Research Essay is scientifically accurate, uses appropriate scientific format, and provides an appropriate balance among the various elements that make up the Research Essay.
• Students should carefully reflect upon whom they want to ask to write their Goldwater Letters of Recommendation. Give the highest priority to faculty and mentors who understand the applicant’s desire and passion to pursue a research career. While these individuals will certainly include research project mentors, the list may include others who can comment on the student’s potential for becoming a research scientist, mathematician or engineer. After research mentors, a student might consider asking individuals who 1) know the applicant well and who might be able to compare him/her with previous Goldwater Scholars or with other students who have gone on to successful research careers, 2) might have observed the applicant at times when he/she demonstrated particular intellectual daring, insight, creativity, originality, integrity, or perseverance, or 3) have had the student in a class where his/her performance stood out from peers, particularly in a class that may be important to an applicant’s career aspirations. The key to any good letter is for the Recommender to be able to cite specific examples about an applicant. Again, students should give careful thought as to who these individuals might be and should be certain to discuss their list with their Goldwater CR before approaching any potential reference.
• Students should volunteer to give references background material, like the narrative statements they have written for the Goldwater online questionnaire, resumes, lists of presentations/publications, etc., that would be helpful to the Recommenders as they write their letters.
• With regard to course grades, are there any – particularly STEM courses – that need explanation? If so, address them.