The criteria for success in national scholarships vary. Programs intended to fund study for a graduate degree (like Truman or Javits) will typically have different criteria than those intended to fund international study (like the Fulbright grant) or an independent project (like the Watson). For specific eligibility requirements, you should consult individual scholarship guidelines; read them carefully and pay special attention to any FAQs for candidates included in the application materials. Websites for some programs, like Rhodes and Truman, have a wealth of information for applicants to help you begin answering the question of whether you are a viable candidate.
The most universal criterion is academic excellence. National fellowships are highly competitive. To have a fighting chance, you should:
- be in at least the top quarter of your class;
- have a GPA of 3.5 and above, exclusive of freshman year (higher for many scholarships);
- be likely to gain admittance to a top-ranking graduate program (for those programs intended to fund graduate study).
These criteria are necessary conditions, but are not necessarily sufficient for success. The Watson Fellowship, for example, rewards creativity and initiative in planning a year of self-directed discovery abroad. The Goldwater Scholarship, a more explicitly academic scholarship for science -oriented undergraduates, requires academic achievement and potential far beyond classroom requirements. Scholarships such as the Truman and Rhodes demand academic excellence but also seek applicants who have demonstrated the potential to make a positive contribution to their community, such as:
- a record of public service and community involvement.
- an assumption of leadership roles, through activities on campus and in the community