There are two essays required as part of the Gilman Scholarship application: the Statement of Purpose Essay and the Follow-on Service Project Proposal. This page provides specific guidelines for each required essay.
The most critical advice for these and any other essays for a nationally competitive scholarship is to ensure that your essays address the prompt/theme and they are proofread prior to submission. Applicants that do not follow these two simple recommendations will compete poorly during the selection process and generally will not be awarded a scholarship. We recommend you compose your essays first in a word processing program and then copy and paste your essays into the text boxes provided in the online application. This will allow you to save your essays and ensure that your information is not lost due to session timeout (approximately 15 minutes of inactivity). Your essay should be composed in paragraph format (not as numbered responses to the questions in the application).
Keep in mind that you are limited to 7,000 characters (including spaces) per essay. This limit is approximately 1.5 pages, single-spaced in a word processing program. When you are ready to transfer your essays to your application make sure to double check your essays for the possibility of being cut off due to exceeding character limit. Additionally, do not format (i.e. bold, underline, italics) your essays in the word processing program because your formatting will not be retained upon transferring. We have provided limited formatting to reconstruct your essays once you have pasted them into the text boxes in the online application.
Visit our Videos page that has informational videos, including a Composing Competitive Essays video, that will help you throughout the application process.
Statement of Purpose Essay
The Statement of Purpose Essay is your chance to personalize your application. When composing the Statement of Purpose Essay it is important to address the impact that your study abroad program or internship will have on your academic, professional, and personal goals. You should also address the impact that receiving the Gilman Scholarship would have on your achievement of these goals. Some key points to keep in mind are:
- Why do you wish to study or intern abroad and what factors led you to this decision? What do you hope to gain from and what do you anticipate will be the impact of your experience abroad? What impact will my choice of country have on my experience abroad? What initially inspired me to want to study abroad in this particular country or learn this language? What factors led to my choice of country of study?
- Describe your study or intern abroad program. What factors led you to select this program and length of study?
- Why have you chosen your country of study? What factors led you to select this country?
- How will this study or intern abroad program and the coursework you take abroad impact your academic and future professional goals?
- Are there any distinctive components to this program, beyond coursework, that will impact your overall learning experience abroad? (i.e. home-stays, internships, field research, volunteer activities, extra-curricular activities, etc.)
- What challenges, if any, did you face in your decision to study or intern abroad? How did you meet these challenges and what impact do you foresee them having on your experience abroad? These could include, but are not limited to, being a parent, being a non-traditional student, having a learning or physical disability, being in a field of study for which it is difficult to incorporate study abroad, etc.
Follow-on Service Project Proposal
The Follow-on Service Project Proposal is your chance to explain how you will give back by inspiring others to pursue their own experiences abroad. To help expand the impact of the Gilman Scholarship Program, all Gilman Scholars are required to carry out a Follow-on Service Project upon their return from abroad that helps to promote international education and the Gilman International Scholarship. This project can be done on your home campus or in your local community and must be completed within six months of your return to the United States. All applicants must submit a project proposal within the online application and this proposal is closely reviewed during the selection process. Please see our Frequently Asked Questions and Follow-on Service Project Overview Video for additional information on your Follow-on Service Project Proposal. Some key points to keep in mind are:
- Briefly outline your proposed project to promote the Gilman Scholarship and international education. How will this project impact your home university or home community? What are your project goals?
- What is your target population and how will your project impact this group?
- How will you integrate the impact of your experiences abroad into your project?
- What, if any, campus departments, student organizations, and/or community organizations will you collaborate with in promoting the Gilman Scholarship and international education? Have you already made contact with these groups?
Critical need language award
Critical Need Language Awards Applicants who are studying a critical need language while abroad in a country in which the language is predominantly spoken have the option to be considered for the Critical Need Language Award of up to $8,000. In addition to receiving the highly competitive award, recipients of the Critical Need Language Award will be offered the opportunity to evaluate and certify their language skills acquired during their program through a recognized oral proficiency language test. To be considered for the Critical Need Language Award, a brief supplemental essay is required and can be submitted in the same Gilman application. Some key points to keep in mind are:
- Be sure that the language you are studying while abroad is considered a Critical Need Language by the U.S. Department of State. You can see the list of Critical Need Languages here. Any other language study is not eligible for the Critical Need Language Award.
- Be sure that you are studying the Critical Need Language in a country where it is predominately spoken.
- Explain how you intend to improve your language skills, your motivations for doing so, and how this particular language study will further your academic and career goals.
Tips for Writing Competitive Essays
- Have your essay proofread. One of the most important things to remember for any essay is to have it read by an advisor or professor. Spell check and grammar check are fine, but a good proofreader will find things that your word processing software won’t. For example, “study ABROAD” is often spelled incorrectly in essays as “study ABOARD.” In addition, a proofreader can often make suggestions on how to clarify a point that may not make sense to someone else.
- Work with your advisors. It is important to talk with your study abroad advisor prior to completing your essays. Your study abroad advisor may be able to help you develop your Statement of Purpose essay and/or a creative Follow-on Service Project. Remember your advisors may have participated in selection committees for scholarship program, especially Gilman, and can give you great insight into what makes an interesting and competitive essay.
- Work with your writing center on campus. Take the first draft of your essay to your campus writing center or to a composition professor. These individuals have invaluable expertise in writing essays and can be a great resource on your campus anytime you need to prepare an essay.
- Be creative. Remember that this is a competitive scholarship program and the selection panelists’ only chance to get to know you is through your essay. The essays are your chance to tell the selection panelists about yourself and your decision to study abroad. It is important to develop an original and creative Follow-on Service Project. The most competitive applications are those that have interesting and original essays.
- Check for proper spelling, punctuation and grammar. Before submitting your application, be sure to double check your essay. Did you spell the scholarship name or names of cities correctly? Be sure you have proper punctuation and do not type your essay in all lower case or all upper case letters. Most importantly, check for correct grammar with the support of a proofreader.
Examples of Follow-on Service Projects
Gilman Scholars have proposed and carried out a wide range of Follow-on Service Projects. As long as the applicant’s proposal will meet the goals of the Follow-on Service Project, there is no right or wrong projects. However, we encourage all applicants to propose a unique Follow-on Service Project that highlights their individual background, experiences, talents and skills. Listed below are some examples of projects Gilman Scholars have carried out. This is by no means an exhaustive list and we look forward to continuing to receive unique, individual proposals from all applicants. Remember, all projects must promote international education and the Gilman Scholarship.
- Conducting presentations on their country of study to local classrooms.
- Working with a local teacher to connect with a U.S. classroom while abroad, via photos, letters, emails or Skype sessions, sharing information about their host country, experience abroad and the Gilman Scholarship.
- Organizing and/or working with their university K-12 outreach program, to present and share information on their experience abroad and the Gilman Scholarship.
- Participating in their local high school College Night to share information on study abroad opportunities and scholarships.
- Working with/giving presentations on study abroad and the Gilman Scholarship to high school language or area studies classes.
- Working with/giving presentations on study abroad and the Gilman Scholarship to programs that mentor high school students, such as Upward Bound.
Academic Department Outreach:
- Development of a study abroad information page for the department or major website that lists a suggested academic timeline encouraging students to incorporate study abroad into their degree, in consultation with their department and study abroad office.
- Organizing information on study abroad programs that offer coursework and academic credit in their field of study and links to Gilman and other scholarships and financial aid information that support these opportunities.
- Presentations on study abroad and the Gilman Scholarship at academic club or honor society meetings.
- Development of a brochure or informational flyer specific to the student’s academic department or field of study that is then posted in the study abroad office.
- Serving as a mentor/peer advisor to potential study abroad students in their field of study.
- Submitting an article to their academic department newsletter on their experiences abroad and the Gilman Scholarship either while the student is still overseas or upon their return.
Campus Office Outreach:
Students often propose to work with a specific on-campus office including the Diversity/Minority Services offices, Disability Services offices, Career Centers, Financial Aid offices, Student Leadership offices, and other campus offices. Examples of these projects include:
- Promoting and encouraging study abroad opportunities and the Gilman Scholarship through presentations to student clubs and organizations and through office organized events
- Posting information on the Gilman Scholarship Program in specific campus offices
- Adding a web page to the office website that highlights study abroad opportunities, the Gilman Scholarship and information that would be of help/interest to students
- Serving as an office representative at campus fairs and events by sharing information on study abroad and the Gilman Scholarship
Study Abroad Outreach:
This is the most common type of Follow-on Service Project students propose and can be very beneficial to increasing study abroad participation at your home institution. Consider consulting with the study abroad office to address any challenges or needs your home institution faces in order to offer support through your project and positively impact your campus and peers.
- Volunteering or working in the study abroad office as a Peer Mentor/Advisor to potential study abroad students, sharing information about the Gilman Scholarship.
- Representing the study abroad office and Gilman Scholarship at presentations/information sessions on study abroad.
- Ensuring the study abroad office website has a Scholarship Information page and that a link to the Gilman Scholarship Program’s website is provided.
- Submitting an article on their experiences abroad and Gilman Scholarship to the Study Abroad office newsletter for distribution or publication, either while they are still abroad or upon their return.
- Developing an informational flyer/brochure on university-specific financial aid procedures for study abroad and available scholarships, including the Gilman Scholarship which is then housed in the study abroad office.
- Participating in/organizing a Study Abroad Alumni society which assists returned and potential study abroad students, sharing information about the Gilman Scholarship.
- Serving as a resource person for a specific country/program/field of study that would advise/assist potential study abroad students, sharing information about the Gilman Scholarship.
- Submitting a weekly or monthly article on their experiences overseas to their campus or hometown newspaper while the students are abroad, thereby sharing information with a wide range of readers and including information on the Gilman Scholarship
- Submitting an article or series of articles on their experiences abroad and the Gilman Scholarship to their campus or hometown paper upon their return to the U.S.
- Working with another local organization to share information on study abroad and the country they studied in with their members
- Presenting on study abroad opportunities and the Gilman Scholarship Program at Freshman Orientation or in First-Year Experiences courses thereby encouraging students to consider study abroad earlier rather than later.
- Hosting a photography exhibit on their campus or in their community, sharing about their experience abroad, international opportunities that exist and the Gilman Scholarship
- Presenting art created in or focused on their host country on their campus or in their community, including information on international education and the Gilman Scholarship.