Top Ten Awards for Honors, First-Year to Graduation


What’s Your Award?


Any brief list of awards is going to be selective, but by limiting this list to just 10 awards, so many great opportunities must be left aside: the Boren awards for study abroad to non-Western European location, or the highly prestigious Rhodes and Marshall scholarship for UK graduate study. Use the awards database on the NCA website to peruse a broader set of awards, and to link to other useful search engines. The goal here is just to get you started.

But first: why apply for a national award? Why put it on the radar? The short answer is that applying for such awards helps clarify long-term goals, it helps you build a network of faculty and professional support, and it makes you a more ambitious student. And you never know–you might just win! Our students have had increasing success with these awards–especially those in the Honors College.

The National Awards office exists to help students apply for these awards–and to help them with the statements required in particular. But there is a bunch of great info on the NCA website related to asking for letters of recommendation and how to begin the application process. Read around, explore the expanded awards database, and fill out an Applicant Profile form if you’re interested in these opportunities now or in the future and the NCA office (Dr. Vander Zee) will be in touch!

Okay, here are 10 awards to keep an eye on:

Fulbright US-UK Summer Institutes (first-year, sophomore; summer abroad)

The US-UK Fulbright Commission offers highly competitive, special Summer Institutes for first and second-year students (US citizens) to come to the UK.  These summer programmes provide the opportunity for US undergraduates to come to the UK on a three, four, five or six week academic and cultural summer programme. Participants in these programmes will get the opportunity to experience an exciting academic programme at a highly regarded UK University, explore the culture, heritage and history of the UK and develop their academic ability by improving presentation, research and communication skills. Check the website for updated classes.

Fun Facts:

  • The less international experience you have, the better: FBSI wants to be your first, major international engagement.
  • CofC has had a winner each of the last three years–all of them honors students.
  • This is open to any field or major
  • Eligibility: undergraduates with at least years left of study to complete.
  • Award: The Summer Institutes will cover all participant costs.  This includes round-trip airfare from the US to the UK, tuition and fees at the host university/institution, accommodation and meals and in some cases a small daily allowance.
  • Deadlines:
    • Suggested internal deadline: February 8
    • National: Early March (TBA)
  • Notes: This award is looking for students without significant UK or international experience
  • On the Web: Summer Institutes

Hollings Scholarship (oceanic & atmospheric science and education)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Ernest F. Hollings (Hollings) scholarship program is designed to increase undergraduate training in oceanic and atmospheric science, research, technology, and education and foster multidisciplinary training opportunities;  increase public understanding and support for stewardship of the ocean and atmosphere and improve environmental literacy; recruit and prepare students for public service careers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other natural resource and science agencies at the federal, state and local levels of government; and recruit and prepare students for careers as teachers and educators in oceanic and atmospheric science and to improve scientific and environmental education in the United States. You might also look to other major national agencies (the Department of Defense SMART Scholarship, for example, or internship programs at NASA and elsewhere).

  • Eligibility: sophomores (or juniors if taking a fifth year) studying biological, life, and agricultural sciences; physical sciences; mathematics; engineering; computer and information sciences; social and behavioral science; and teacher education.
  • Award: The Hollings Scholarship Program provides successful undergraduate applicants with awards that include academic assistance (up to a maximum of $9,500 per year) for full-time study during the 9-month academic year; a 10-week, full-time internship position ($750/week) during the summer at a NOAA facility; and, if reappointed, academic assistance (up to a maximum of 9,500) for full-time study during a second 9-month academic year.
  • Deadline: Late January
  • On the Web: Hollings Scholarship
  • Application Instructions

Critical Language Scholarship (summer language study)

The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. In 2006, its inaugural year, the CLS Program offered intensive overseas study in the critical need foreign languages of Arabic, Bangla, Hindi, Punjabi, Turkish and Urdu. In 2013, approximately 600 scholarships were awarded for thirteen languages, including Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Turkish, and Urdu. CLS is an overseas, group-based program that takes place each summer. Program sites, dates, and overseas institutional partners may vary from year to year.

  • Eligibility: All applicants must be U.S. citizens; applicants must be currently enrolled in a U.S. degree-granting program at the undergraduate or graduate level; current undergraduate students must have completed at least one year of general college course-work by program start date (one year is defined as two semesters or three quarters).
  • Award: Airfare, tuition, room and board, cultural program expenses, overseas health benefits, and applicable visa fees – are fully covered for all participants. Participants receive a small stipend to cover incidental expenses and meals not provided by the program. The CLS Program provides undergraduate academic credit through Bryn Mawr College. Upon completion of the program, participants also receive a certified American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) score.
  • Deadlines:
    • Suggested Internal Deadline: November 1
    • National: mid-November
  • Notes: Many specific language options assume that you have no experience with the language (you can enter as a beginner)
  • On the Web: Critical Language Scholarship Program

Goldwater Scholarship (sophomore, junior; math, science)

This is the premier award for undergraduates preparing for careers in engineering, math, and the natural sciences. Applicants are evaluated based on outstanding academic performance and potential for careers in related areas. Pre-medical students may apply only if their career interest is research rather than clinical (MD / Ph.D). Institutional nomination required. About 275 awards are given each year. CofC can only nominate four students.

Fun Facts: CofC has had four Goldwater scholars over the past three years, and each had significant research experience when the applied (though sophomores will naturally have less research experience). Average winners have a 3.9 GPA

  • Eligibility: Current sophomores or juniors with research experience and strong mentor support.Applicants must work through the NCA office to receive internal nomination.
  • Award: Maximum of $7,500 annually, covers eligible undergraduate tuition, fees, books, and room and board(for one or two years, depending on whether student wins as a junior or as a sophomore).
  • Deadlines:
    • Internal: January 16
    • National: January 31
  • Notes: research experience will help you be more competitive, but a high GPA is essential as well: in 2013, winners had a 3.9 average GPA.
  • On the Web: Goldwater Scholarship
  • Sample essays

Truman Scholarship (junior; public service)

Truman is all about leadership and public service. The award–juniors are invited to apply–supports graduate school of any type in preparation for a career in public service (broadly conceived). Truman scholars may attend graduate schools in the United States or in foreign countries. Institutional nomination required. About 75 awards are given each year. CofC can only nominate four students.

Fun Facts: While CofC has had great luck with other awards, we have yet to move beyond the finalist stage with Truman. Be the first! Truman has a great webpage with detailed info on whether or not you might eventually make a strong Truman candidate. A strong Truman candidate is, of course, a strong candidate for anything–so use their profile as a sort of guide to structure your own community and academic engagements over the next four years.

  • Eligibility: College junior U.S. citizens who plan to attend graduate school, are committed to a career in public service, and have high academic standing.CofC nomination required.
  • Award: $30,000. Scholars are eligible to receive $3,000 for the senior year of undergraduate education and $27,000 for graduate studies. Award also includes leadership program and networking opportunities.
  • Deadlines: 
    • Internal: Early December
    • National: Early February
  • Notes: Applicants must be a “change agent” with a sustained record of public service and academic achievement evidenced my leadership positions.
  • On the web: Truman Scholarship

Udall Scholarship (environment)

For undergraduate students who intend to pursue careers related to the environment–this includes policy, engineering, science, education, urban planning and renewal, business, health, justice, economics, and other related fields–or for Native American and Alaska Native undergraduate students who intend to pursue careers in health care and tribal public policy. Institutional nomination required. About 80 awards are given each year. CofC can only nominate six students.

Fun Facts: CofC had its first winner two years ago, and last year placed with an honorable mention.

  • Eligibility: Current sophomores or juniors who have been proposed by a member of the CofC faculty. The nomination committee cannot consider applications from students who have not been proposed in this fashion. 3.0 GPA minimum.
  • Award: $7,000 for one academic year and formal scholar orientation in Tucson, AZ (Students who win as sophomores can apply again as juniors.)
  • Deadlines:
    • Internal: Early February
    • National: Early March
  • On the Web: Udall Scholarship

Rotary Global Grants (juniors and seniors; international grad study)

Rotary Foundation Global Grants support graduate studies overseas for graduating seniors and recent graduates. Graduate pursue degrees leading to  sustainable high-impact outcomes in one or more of the six Areas of Focus, which include Peace & Conflict Resolution, Disease Prevention & Treatment, Maternal & Child Health, Economic & Community Development, Basic Education & Literacy, and Water & Sanitation.

Fun Facts: Though these grants are offered nationally, they are decided by region. In our region last year, 16 students applied–12 from CofC–and we had two recipients. CofC has had winners of this scholarship for many years in a row, an we have great local support from Rotary leadership. This award is also cool becuase it’s a great way to network with local business professionals. Get involved early by joining the Rotoract club!

  • Eligibility: Junior, Senior, or recent graduate with plans to pursue overseas studies in one of six Areas of Focus. Open to international students as well as U.S. citizens.
  • Award: minimum of $30,000, maximum $50,000 for overseas graduate study.
  • Deadlines:
    • Internal: April 15
    • District: June 1
    • District Interviews: Late August
    • Note: April applicants would plan on graduate study beginning the fall after the current calendar year. This means that a graduating senior applicant would anticipate a gap year before the program begins if selected.
  • Notes: Although there is not official nomination process, the NCA office works closely with the local Rotary district to recruit applicants and process their applications internally before the district deadline.
  • More on the Areas of Focus and Attributes of Successful Grant Applications: Rotary Areas of Focus in Detail (note that only a portion of the linked site covers scholarships)
  • Download Rotary Application

Fulbright (seniors; international)

Grants for one year of study, research, or English teaching assistantships in almost any country in the world; this is the U.S. Government’s premier scholarship program. Over 1,000 awards are given each year in dozens of countries, and opportunities vary by number and requirement for each country, so researching and reflecting upon the many opportunities available is absolutely essential.

Fun Fact: CofC has done increasingly well with this scholarship over the past 5 years, and we routinely have over 10 semi-finalists and a handful of recipients.

  • Eligibility: U.S. citizen, holding bachelor’s degree by the time overseas project would commence.
  • Award: One-year award (though some are longer) typically covering round-trip transportation, language or orientation courses, tuition where necessary, book and research allowances, and living expenses.
  • Deadlines:
    • Internal: mid-late September(subject to change)
    • External: mid-October
    • Notes: Many research grants require what Fulbright calls an “affiliation.” This is an overseas research mentor who will oversee and consult on your self-designed project. You might also join a larger research project, but it will be important that your role is distinct and substantial. These awards don’t go to lab assistants. Overseas experience is not necessary. It is important to begin the Fulbright application process as soon as possible given complications around affiliations that can arise.
  • On the Web: Fulbright U.S. Student Program
  • Additional Resource:

Rhodes Scholarship (seniors; UK; academic study)

This is one of the most prestigious international awards, the Rhodes Scholarship offers two or three years of study at Oxford University leading to either a second bachelor’s degree or an advanced degree (taught and/or by research). Institutional nomination required. 32 awards are given each year.

Fun Facts: this is an extraordinarily difficult award to get, but you can read the profiles of past winners to get a sense of what you need to do to be a part of the conversation. Other UK awards include the Gates-Cambridge, the Marshall, and the Mitchell. You can read more about these under the “seniors” awards category–all are highly competitive awards for students in any field at a variety of institutions. CofC has not had a recipient for one of these awards. Be the first! All awards–but this one in particular–require careful future planning in selecting one’s leadership, extracurricular, and academic engagements.

  • Eligibility: graduating senior or recent graduate; U.S. citizenship, 18-23 years old on October 1 in the year of application; most winners have a 3.7 or higher.
  • Award: Two years of full tuition, fees, living allowance, and travel expenses (with some possibility of an extension for a third year); guaranteed admission to Oxford University.
  • Deadlines:
    • Internal: September 10
    • National: October 2
  • Notes: Rhodes Scholars are chosen not only for their outstanding scholarly achievements, but for their character, commitment to others and to the common good, and for their potential for leadership in whatever domains their careers may lead. They have also had an interest, historically, in stellar student athletes, though this is not a requirement by any means.
  • On the Web: The Rhodes Trust

National Science Foundation Grad Fellowship

Fellowship recognizes and supports outstanding seniors (who are applying to graduate school) and graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions. As the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, the GRFP has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers.

  • Eligibility: Seniors applying to graduate school and grad students in NSF-supported fields; significant research experience is expected for successful applicants. 
  • Award: Fellows benefit from a three-year annual stipend of $32,000 along with a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees (paid to the institution), opportunities for international research and professional development, and the freedom to conduct their own research at any accredited U.S. institution of graduate education they choose.
  • Deadline: November (TBA)
  • On the Web: NSF GRFP

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