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Preparing an Application for Off-Campus Opportunities

Preparing a strong application takes time and planning.

A successful application starts well in advance of the deadline. Applications can require a number of components and individuals, so starting early to create an application that accurately represents your interests, goals and experiences is extremely important.

The Application
Be sure you take the time to review the application deadlines (both DePauw and award deadlines), as well as required components. Request recommendations, transcripts and other documentation well in advance. And give yourself ample time to write multiple drafts of your materials, getting feedback from a number of people along the way.

The Personal Statement
Not all applications require a personal statement, but many do. A personal statement is an intellectual narrative about a selection of specific and relevant accomplishment to the proposed fellowship or award. It provides the reader a sense of the your priorities and judgement, allowing them to know you more personally. Students who have received opportunities in the past consistently say they wrote at least 7 drafts of their personal statement before they were happy with it, and it changed a lot over that process. In writing these drafts, it is critical to see out regular feedback from a variety of faculty members and the fellowship adviser.

Research Proposal
In a research proposal, you aim to outline what the project is, including what you'll be doing and your methodology, what your research goals are, the significance of the research, with whom you'll be working. You also want to convey what relevant training and experience you have that will allow you to be successful in carrying out the project. Ultimately, you want your reader to grasp what you are doing, see that it is a feasible project, and that you have the requisite background and resources to be successful in completing the work. Faculty mentors are critical in helping you write your proposal, so be sure to consult faculty members who have the appropriate disciplinary expertise on your essay drafts.

Letters of Recommendation
Competitive opportunities typically require at least 2 recommendations. Most often they must come from faculty members, though sometimes a letter of recommendation from a staff members is appropriate and necessary. Faculty and staff members are not required to write letters of recommendation, but such letters are a typical part of their workload. The student's job in getting strong letters of recommendation starts with establishing strong relationships with faculty and staff members. It is also critical to request letters at least a month (ideally 2-3 months) in advance of the deadline.

The Interview
Competitive opportunities often have an interview as part of the process. Sometimes this is an on-campus interview with DePauw faculty and staff, sometimes it is with the sponsoring organization, and sometimes it is with both. More and more, interviews will focus on how well you articulate your passions and your ability to carry out the work you will do as part of the research or fellowship opportunity. 

  • Preparing for Interviews Guide (DePauw University)

  • Additional Advice: Preparing for Interviews (Willamette University)

Suggestions for a strong application

  • Be clear and concise: The individuals reading the proposal want applicants to get to the point about the 'who, what, when, where, why and how' of what you are intending to do as part of your project. Avoid discipline-specific jargon.

  • Organize the statement carefully: Don't make reviewers search for information. You're encouraged to have several people read and critique your application, including a faculty adviser in your discipline, a faculty member outside your discipline, and a fellow student.