Build a Winning Application

Preparing a strong and compelling application takes a great deal of time, effort and planning. We're here to guide you through the process.

Two goldwater recipients pose in front of a window.

Hannah Seppala and Dennis Fedorishin, 2019 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship recipients.

On this page:

The First Steps

  • Review opportunities. Read the Find Funding section of our website to identify fellowships and scholarships that you are eligible and qualified to compete for.
  • Participate in the Spark Program, a graduate student boot camp or attend a workshop. The Office of Fellowships and Scholarships offers many workshops throughout the year to aid you in your funding search and to answer any questions you may have. Visit our Attend a Workshop page for upcoming events.
  • Meet with us to begin the conversation.
  • Prepare your resume/CV. As part of the application you may need to submit a current resume/CV. UB's Career Design Center can help you polish your resume.
  • Think about recommendation letters. Fellowship applications almost always require one or more letters of recommendation. Think about the faculty member(s) that you would ask to write you a letter of recommendation.
  • Do your research. Read over the fellowship foundation's website. Oftentimes, you will find an example application that you can print. Review the application and begin to ask yourself how you would answer all of the required questions. If an application requires a research statement or proposal, begin to jot down ideas.
  • Plan accordingly. Note the submission date and whether or not UB has its own internal submission date. Allow yourself enough time to write, review, edit and gather all of your materials (transcripts, recommendation letters, etc.), before the submission date.

Know the Requirements

Although every opportunity is different, there are some components of an application that are required for many different scholarships. Don't be surprised if you are asked to provide the following:

  • Certified transcript(s).
  • Personal statement.
  • Recommendation letters.
  • Research proposal.
  • Resume/CV.
  • Certified transcript(s).
  • Personal statement.
  • Recommendation letters.
  • Research proposal.
  • Resume/CV.

It is imperative that you submit all of the required materials to be considered for an award.

Writing Your Proposal

  • Be clear and concise. Be sure to get your point across without rambling. It should be apparent that you are both knowledgeable and interested in the topic. Be succinct—more is not better.
  • Adhere to the rules. Note the proper page layout, format and length, and adhere to it.
  • Use proper spelling and grammar. An easy way to have your application overlooked is to submit it with spelling and grammatical errors. Use spell-checkers, proofread and let others review your application, before you submit it.
  • Keep your audience in mind. Remember that the review panelists may not be an expert in your field. It is important to remember your audience as you write. Avoid jargon and acronyms that may not be clear to others.
  • Revise your work. You must read and revise your proposal. It is crucial that you put forth your best work.
  • Seek writing help. Reach out to faculty mentors and contact UB's Center for Excellence in Writing to schedule an appointment to review your application.

Obtaining Recommendation Letters

  • Give them time. Approach your recommenders several months prior to the fellowship deadline to ask them to write your letters.
  • Give them information. Provide them with your resume/CV, the draft of your proposal or personal statement and information about the fellowship. You can refer your recommender to our Write a Meaningful Recommendation Letter page for assistance.
  • Give them direction. Fellowships usually require the recommender to upload their letters directly into the foundation website.
  • Be sure you will receive quality material. It is ok to ask the recommender if they will be able to provide you with a strong letter of recommendation and not just a form letter. Having strong, personal recommendation letters is key to a successful application.

Additional Resources