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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, June 16, 2024

Tufts prepares students for post-graduation scholarships

If you happened to be looking for recent Tufts graduate and current Fulbright scholar Hannah Arnow (LA' 15) last fall, chances are you would have found her in the library.

“I went to class, but I don't think I did homework for the first month and a half of school because I was working on my application,” Arnow said, describing her Fulbright application process. "I had nine drafts of my grant statement. The week before it was due, I literally lived in the library with my writing tutor, going through incarnations and making sure it was as concise and powerful it could be."

After being offered a grant to do anthropology research in Estonia, Arnow joined over 1,900 U.S. citizens traveling abroad with the 2015-2016 Fulbright U.S. Student Program, according to a Fulbright press release. Fulbright scholarships, which annually send students to over 160 countries, are awarded to students who have demonstrated academic and professional achievement and leadership capabilities. The grants are "designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries" and are sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. 

According to the official Fulbright statistics page, only about 7.43 percent of 2015-2016 applicants received a grant in the Europe/Eurasia region, though award rates varied by country. Such low grant offer statistics are common not only among other Fulbright programs but also among other big-name fellowships and scholarships, including the Rhodes Scholarship, the Harry S. Truman Scholarship and the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, according to these programs' websites. 

Still, last year alone more than 79 Tufts students applied to seven such scholarship and fellowship programs, according to Dr. Anne Moore, the program specialist for scholar development. Moore said she believes exposure to research opportunities gives Tufts applicants an advantage. 

“There are a lot of opportunities to pursue independent research as an undergraduate at Tufts,” Moore said. “We are a research [institution] with a relatively small graduate population.”

According to data provided by Moore, most Tufts students who apply for and are awarded scholarships receive them through Fulbright. Eleven of 52 Tufts applicants received the grant during the 2015-2016 cycle. Between 2009 and 2012, Tufts placed annually on The Chronicle for Higher Education’s list of top Fulbright producers

Tufts students have also been relatively successful competing for the Goldwater Scholarship, which is awarded to undergraduates who intend to pursue research careers in science, math and engineering. For four of the past five years, at least one Tufts student has been chosen to become one of 260 annual Goldwater Scholarship recipients, Moore said. 

Tufts has historically struggled with the Rhodes and the Marshall Scholarships; it has been several years since a Tufts student received one of these scholarships, Moore said. In fact, between 1904 and 2015, only four Tufts students have ever won a Rhodes Scholarship, according to the program's website. These scholarships, which fund graduate study in the United Kingdom, are among the most competitive scholarships nationwide, with 40 or fewer Americans receiving them each year.

“I get my heart broken every year by Rhodes and Marshall,” Moore said. “We have these students, and they’re so incredible, and they have such a strong leadership record, and they’re so smart and nothing happens.”

Moore said that part of the reason Tufts students do not perform as well as other schools could be historical disadvantages in the selection process.

“I think historically the numbers of Rhodes and Marshall in terms of coming from Ivies are higher,” she said.

To make the university more competitive, Tufts has implemented an internal review process for applicants, Moore said.

"There’s no limit from Rhodes or Marshall as to the number of students a school can nominate, but we have imposed an internal limit of two for Rhodes and four for Marshall," Moore told the Daily in an email. "During my time at Tufts, we’ve always had an internal review process to get nominated for Rhodes or Marshall, but we added an interview element to that internal process two years ago ... It’s a prestige factory ... We need to communicate to them that we are as invested in sort of selecting the very, very best brightest amongst our students."

Students awarded scholarships in the past were impressed with the help they received from the Office of Scholar Development and from Moore herself, saying it gave them an advantage. Senior Luke Sherman, who received a 2015 scholarship from theUdall Foundation, which funds college sophomores and juniors committed to studying the environment or health care and tribal policy concerning American Indian and Alaska Natives, explained that he worked with Moore on his application.

“[Moore] is such a great resource, and so much of your success and how your application goes is determined by your fellowship advisor,” Sherman said. “And Tufts is so lucky to have an incredible fellowship advisor.”

In fact, if Moore had not reached out to Sherman about the scholarship, he probably would have never applied, he said.

“I’m actually [a] first-generation [college student], so I didn’t really understand that these things existed,” Sherman said.

Under Moore’s guidance, Sherman recently submitted applications for the Marshall Scholarship and the Mitchell Scholarship, which funds graduate study in Ireland.

Arnow also praised Moore and the resources her office provides for applicants.

"Anne Moore was absolutely influential. She’s amazing...[and] was fantastic and completely supportive," she said. "You go through a Tufts interview process and they give you a writing tutor from the graduate school who has been trained to work with Fulbrights ... They had workshops. They had information sessions. They really help a lot and support and encourage you."

According to Assistant Director of Career Development Nicole Anderson, scholarships can greatly improve one's future professional opportunities.

“As fellowships are often competitive and are fewer in number, there is prestige in having one listed on the resume or curriculum vitae (CV),” Anderson told the Daily in an email. “In some fields, fellowships are well-known for training and preparation in the field and can help with networking for the job search and graduate school admissions.”

Sherman can attest to the career boost provided by winning one of these prestigious awards.

“I have four new job postings in my inbox a day,” Sherman said.

Though scholarships like these are competitive, Moore said students should not feel discouraged about applying, since there is always a chance.

“If you don’t apply for something, there’s always this imaginary possibility on Earth B that you did get it, and you would have been like….imagine how good life is on Earth B; if only I had done that,” Moore said.

Even unsuccessful applications can benefit students, according to Moore and Arnow. Applying can help students practice completing applications for other fellowships or for graduate school.

“If you’re going to graduate school, you should be used to asking people for money," Moore said. "That’s what you’re going to do for the rest of your career if you go into research.”

Arnow said thinking of her Fulbright application as just "practice" helped her deal with her fear.

“I was intimidated," Arnow said. "[I thought] ‘I'm going to do this now because I’m going to learn how to apply' ... So later on in my academic career when maybe I’m in graduate school, I’ll have applied once and be more successful.”

Applying can help people get a clearer sense of their goals for the future, according to Sherman.

“Even if you don’t win, you still enjoy a lot of benefits of the application process, such as helping crystalize your own thoughts about your future and your academic background,” he said.

Moore agreed, asserting that self-reflection in any capacity is a useful skill.

“You have to answer some pretty difficult questions about what motivates you and what kind of impact you want to have on the world,” Moore said. “And that kind of self-knowledge is incredibly valuable.”

Anderson emphasized the usefulness of fellowships and scholarships for students still deciding on their career paths.

“I suggest post-grad fellowships to students, particularly seniors who are indecisive about post-graduation plans and don’t want to make a long term commitment by applying for full-time permanent jobs,” she said.

Ultimately, Moore thinks applying can be just as valuable as winning.

“I want [students] to win,” Moore said. “I really want them to apply just to apply. Just applying for things is super valuable. It helps you take yourself seriously and present yourself as someone who should be taken seriously."