Strategies to Enhance Your Candidacy

Strategies to enhance your candidacyEvery fellowship application will ask you to provide additional information beyond what is listed on your transcript or discussed in your essays. These sections are designed for you to highlight your strengths, experiences and accomplishments. Some will merely ask you to submit a resume or curriculum vitae, but others will have specific form for you to list additional information such as work experience, volunteerism and/or community service, foreign travel, publications, and honors/awards.

Candidates who have a varied background of experiences and achievements, and who have taken a leadership role or gone above and beyond to do something noteworthy will stand out from those who have had more typical experiences to that point. Any candidate can plan ahead to take advantage of the many opportunities that surround them to gain experiences and excel in their personal and academic lives to be competitive for prestigious scholarships. Here are some tips to be a stand out candidate:

Academic Rigor

Strive for excellence in your academic pursuits. Take challenging courses in diverse fields outside of your major. Expand your base of knowledge by exposing yourself to a variety of disciplines and schools of thought. Fully engage yourself in the courses you take, and use every opportunity to network with your professors. These are the people who will be writing your letters of recommendation.

Community Engagement

Enrich your knowledge about people, places, and events by following the news, reading broadly and exploring informed blogs. Consider travel and study abroad. Many students who win undergraduate study abroad fellowships then go on to win prestigious graduate level fellowships. In addition, there are many ways to “travel” intellectually and culturally without boarding a plane to another country. Participate in intercultural events, attend lectures, read scholarly and professional journals in your field of interest. Consider volunteer work or an unpaid internship in an arena that exposes you to populations or social issues that are beyond your usual experience.

Get involved in campus organizations or community groups and fill leadership roles in the activities that are most important to you. Attend a variety of cultural events on campus and throughout the city.

Undertake independent research

Seek opportunities to do research, to show that you are able to conduct independent work and/or engage in advanced graduate level study. There may be ongoing research activities on campus that you can get involved with. Ask your faculty mentors for advice on finding research projects conducted by them or their colleagues. Perhaps you could serve as a research assistant gaining valuable research skills in the process. You could also consider completing a thesis as part of your degree requirements, or apply for a summer NSF- REU program in one of many sites throughout the US.

Develop Leadership Skills

Work to improve the world. Give generously of your time to support public service or volunteer programs dedicated to addressing social problems or needs about which you care most. Take a leadership role within the activity to inspire and lead others. If a service or program does not yet exist to address a particular need \ consider developing one that will. Seek out professors and other mentors to help you implement your ideas.

Get involved in extracurricular activities that are meaningful to you, and help to inform you. As you explore these activities, take some time to think about why they matter to you.

Volunteer in the community. Connect with the Office or Community Engaged Leadership to find ways to get involved on and off campus. There are many resources in Boone and the surrounding areas.

Find an internship, internships may be paid or unpaid and take place during the summer or the school year. The Career Development Center is a great place to start for internship and job opportunities.


About Nationally Competitive Scholarships

Nationally Competitive Scholarships (NCS) works with the Appalachian community to recruit and support students for nationally competitive scholarships and fellowships, including those that support research, teaching and critical language learning. This is achieved with outreach, mentorship and advising throughout the entire application and selection process. NCS is committed to helping undergraduate and graduate students find ways to connect their Appalachian education to their future endeavors through scholarship opportunities. Learn more at

Compiled and Written by Johnna Reisner

April 17th, 2023

Boone, N.C.

Published: Mar 29, 2023 1:37pm