Develop Yourself as a Strong Candidate
Choose your courses carefully
Be thoughtful about the courses you take. Enroll in a variety of courses outside your major; go beyond your core requirements. Take the most challenging courses you can – push yourself to do more. Look for interesting combinations of courses; often the intersection of different courses can provide great intellectual discoveries.
Always do your best work
Always strive for excellence in your coursework. Turn in work that makes you feel proud. Ask for more work and additional readings. Try to avoid doing only the minimum required work. Professors notice students who care about their coursework even if they are not getting the best grade in the class. Take it upon yourself to learn more about some aspect of each course; discuss your interests with your professors.
Ensure that you are getting an international education
Learn about people and places outside of the United States. Study a second or third language and use that language to volunteer with community groups. Study abroad or take short-term travel courses. Select courses that expose you to people, cultures and places outside the United States.
Get to know your professors
Spend time talking with your professors. Take some time to learn about the research that your professors do. Look for opportunities to be mentored by professors. Ask about opportunities to do research with a professor or under faculty supervision. Even if a professor is unable to put you on a research team, he or she will remember that you asked.
Look for ways to increase your hands-on experience
Develop ways to show that you have pursued your interests in meaningful ways. Engage in research in your major. This can be with a professor in your department, as part of your senior thesis, or via programs like the summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) located across the country. Participate in academic conferences and meetings. Consider internships or field placement experiences that will let you further your learning beyond the classroom.
Fellowship boards are looking for students who take action. When you find issues that you care about, pursue them. Join community agencies, develop a new organization if none exists, dedicate yourself to making a difference outside your classroom. Participate in campus groups, activities and sports.
Pay attention to small things
Fellowships, scholarships, and graduate programs all require that you have professors who will recommend you with enthusiasm. Your reliability and manners when dealing with your professors help to show them that you are mature, respectful and ready for additional challenges. If you make appointments, show up on time. If you ask for extra help or letters of recommendation, send a thank you note.
Click here to find out how to get a strong letter of recommendation.