There are three essays required as part of the Gilman Scholarship application: the Statement of Purpose Essay and the two Community Impact Essays, which are the Building Mutual Understanding Essay and the Follow-on Service Project Proposal. For those applying for a Critical Need Language Award, an additional essay is required.
- Compose your essays first in a word processing program, and then upload the file to your online application. Please use 1-inch margins and Times New Roman 12-point font for each of your essays.
- Your essay should be composed in paragraph format, not as numbered responses to the questions in the application.
- The Statement of Purpose Essay is limited to 7,000 characters (including spaces).
- The Building Mutual Understanding Essay is limited to 3,000 characters (including spaces).
- The Follow-on Service Project Proposal is limited to 3,000 characters (including spaces).
- The optional Critical Need Language Award essay has a 2,000 character limit (including spaces).
- Ensure that your essays address the prompt/theme.
- Please preview your essays once you have uploaded them into the application to ensure the correct file was uploaded.
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. In addition, a proofreader can often make suggestions on ways 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 programs, particularly 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.
The Statement of Purpose essay is an important factor in the selection of Gilman Scholarship recipients. We strongly encourage you to read the Gilman Selection Criteria, carefully review your essay, and ask an advisor, faculty member, or others to proofread your essay for spelling, grammar, and content prior to submission.
In your essay, be specific in describing your individual reasons for studying abroad, keeping in mind that this is a scholarship for academic study abroad or credit bearing international internships. Please address ALL of the questions below, in no particular order: (max of 7,000 characters)
- How will studying or interning abroad help you achieve your future academic or professional goals?
- Why did you select your specific program and host country?
- How are you academically prepared to be a successful scholar abroad? If you have faced significant academic difficulties, tell us about those and how you are overcoming them.
- What examples of knowledge, skills, and experiences will you draw on to meet the challenges of going abroad?
The two community impact essays are equally important in the selection of Gilman Scholarship recipients. We strongly encourage you to read the Selection Criterion Community Impact Abroad & Student’s Return Home, carefully review your essay, and ask an advisor, faculty member, or others to proofread your essay for spelling, grammar, and content prior to submission.
1. Building Mutual Understanding Essay
Gilman Scholars represent the United States as citizen diplomats in their host communities; they reflect a diversity of values, beliefs, and opinions that is fundamental to providing a balanced representation of the United States abroad. Gilman Scholars are expected to contribute to the goal of building mutual understanding by sharing what it means to be an American, learning about the host culture, and building meaningful relationships. (max of 3000 characters)
- As a U.S. citizen, how will you represent and share what it means to be an American during your program? How will you seek opportunities to become more culturally engaged and have meaningful interactions with people and cultures different from your own during your abroad program?
2. Follow-on Service Project Proposal
Gilman Scholars are expected to complete the Follow-on Service Project which is to increase awareness of study abroad and the Gilman Scholarship among their peers in their home or campus communities. (max of 3000 characters)
- In no particular order, describe your Follow-on Service Project in more detail: What is your project and how will it increase awareness of study abroad and the Gilman Program among your peers in your home or campus community? Identify and explain why you chose the specific community you will be reaching. How will you integrate the impact of your experience abroad into your project? With which campus departments, student organizations, or community organizations will you collaborate?
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 are 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 official website that highlights study abroad opportunities, the Gilman Scholarship, and information that would be of help/interest to students
- Serving as an official 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 increase 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.
Applicants who are studying a critical need language while abroad in a country or location in which the language is predominantly spoken can apply for a supplemental award of up to $3,000, for a combined total of up to $8,000. Critical Need Language Awards for a country or location where a language is not predominantly spoken may be considered for applicants who make a strong case for their desired location in the application essay. As only a limited number of Critical Need Language Awards are available, not all students who are studying the identified languages will receive a Critical Need Language Award.
Critical Need Language Award recipients who complete their Gilman requirements may take the ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI), which demonstrates language proficiency for educational, professional, or other purposes. The OPI is offered at no cost to all Critical Need Language Award recipients.
In no more than 2,000 characters, including spaces, please address the following questions:
- Are you studying a Critical Need Language in a country where it is predominantly spoken?
- Is one of your goals to increase your foreign language proficiency while studying abroad?
- Is language study a major component of your coursework while abroad?
- Is language proficiency something that is needed or desired in your future career or academic trajectory?
- Will you continue to learn and use the language after your study abroad experience?
*This information is correct as of January 18, 2023.
* You may also use the Critical Need Language Award to study a foreign sign language. Apply for the target language (for instance, Japanese) and explain in your application that you will be studying reading, writing, speaking, and/or Japanese sign language.
** The CNLA for Hebrew language is offered through the generous support of our partners at the Embassy of Israel to the United States.