Frequently Asked Questions
Got questions regarding scholarships, the application process, and more? See if we’ve already answered them below!
- The Scholarship Opportunities Program
- Scholarship Requirements
- Applying for Scholarships/Eligibility
- Scholarship Advising
How is the SOP different from Financial Aid?
The Scholarship Opportunities Program serves as the official faculty representative for many prestigious, national and international scholarships, based mainly on academic merit. The majority of our scholarships are applied towards graduate study, either in the US or abroad, and funds typically cover at least one full year of tuition and all university-related expenses. These scholarships typically have a campus-level endorsement process, and all applicants must pass through the campus-level competition before their scholarship application can proceed to the regional, national, and even international level of competition.
Where is your office located?
We are located in the Student Excellence Center on the 5th floor of the Science Library.
What about scholarships from other departments (ex. Financial Aid, the Study Abroad office, etc)?
Other departments at UCI administer their own scholarships, which may be local to UCI or national in scope. Please inquire with the department that you are interested in if you have specific questions about their scholarships, as the application process for each scholarship differs. However, note that for the scholarships that we do work with, we are the sole undergraduate* campus representative for that scholarship. (For example, if you want to apply for the Truman scholarship, you would have to apply through SOP. You would not be able to apply through a different campus department or directly to the Truman.)
*If you are a graduate student, please contact the Graduate Division and apply for scholarships through that department.
What does your office provide?
We provide both individual and group consultations regarding scholarship information, general scholarship guidance and eligibility determination, host annual events to promote prestigious scholarships as well as recognize the hard work of our past winners, and serve as a central resource for anyone interested in applying for prestigious merit scholarships. We maintain a comprehensive archive of past winning scholarship applications, and can provide advice from past winners to assist applicants with understanding how to successfully apply for these prestigious awards.
Where can I get more information about your scholarships?
Our website has a complete listing of all the scholarships that we work with. See the Prestigious Scholarships Description section for more information. Clicking on each scholarship link will provide detailed information about each award.
Are there any generic application components that are the same for all of your scholarships?
Generally, all scholarships ask for:
1) Application form + essays
3) Letters of recommendation
Depending on the scholarship, you may want to obtain letters of recommendation from different people based on the objectives of the scholarship. For example, letters for academic merit awards are usually composed by faculty or instructors, including research mentors. Letters for public service awards might include work or volunteer program supervisors who can attest to your commitment to service and your team leadership abilities.
Most scholarships ask for a personal statement, with a generic prompt that may be something like: “Describe yourself… how do your background and values… affect your goals… and how you carry yourself today…?”
When should I start looking for letters of recommendation? Who should write my letters?
It is always best to start early! You will want to give faculty, supervisors, or other mentors plenty of time to write your letters. In some cases, your reference writers may be able to work with our office to draft letters for these awards. Start looking for letter writers several months before the deadline of the scholarship, as it may take up to 1 month (or even longer) for a professor (or other person who knows you well) to craft a well-written letter.
Each scholarship has different requirements for how many references you must provide and who your letter writers should be. Some may want faculty only, others want those who can attest to your character, leadership, etc. Check each scholarship’s requirements individually. In general, most scholarships prefer letters from professors over graduate students, TAs, etc.
Please review our handout with additional tips for Asking for Letters of Recommendation.
Your reference writers can submit their recommendations by email to email@example.com. In most cases, scholarship agencies request that references be formatted on letterhead and include signature. Electronic copies will be sufficient.
Additional tips for reference writers are available in our Best Practices for Writing Letters of Recommendation handout.
How long do the essays have to be? Does my English have to be perfect?
For each scholarship, the length and format requirements are usually indicated on the application. If not, use standard MLA or APA format. Because the essay components offer the scholarship committee a chance to view your character and ideas (not just your writing style), you will want to show them that you can communicate flawlessly in standard English. Remember, these scholarships are very prestigious and demand academic excellence, so you will want every part of your application to be honed.
How do I get an official vs an unofficial transcript?
Your school’s registrar or admissions and administration office should have them on file. For UCI, please go here.
Please note that most final scholarship applications require official transcripts from UCI and any other colleges you have attended in the past (ex. junior/community colleges). Always double-check and read their submission instructions carefully! It may be helpful to ask the scholarship foundation directly if you are allowed to open / unseal the official transcripts.
Where can I find leadership experience at UCI? Community service? Research? What about study abroad?
(Typically, scholarships look at many of these factors in your application, but each scholarship weighs each category differently, depending on the goals of the scholarship. Please note that the following links are NOT the only places that offer each opportunity. Explore!)
Leadership/Career Center: ASUCI and other campus organizations (student clubs, teams, etc) have leadership built into their structure in the form of boards and committees. Leadership is also exemplified in areas such as employment and research, where you are in an above-entry position (for example, shift lead, manager, or similar).
Community Service: Numerous student-run organizations are based on community service. Certain campus departments also offer their own volunteer programs.
Research: This may differ by field and major. Check with your academic school to see what research opportunities your academic area is engaged in. You may also consider research in a related field. There are also options for independent research projects.
Study Abroad: There are several departments on campus dedicated to sending Anteaters overseas. To raise your cultural awareness, you may also consider associating yourself with culture-based clubs, UCI Extension and ESL programs, in addition to studying in a foreign country.
How do I apply for x scholarship? What's involved in the application process?
Typically, you may have to contact our office if you are interested in applying for a particular scholarship. Some scholarships have electronic applications, linked on our website, and others require hard-copy forms you must complete and submit to our office.
Each application process generally consists of:
1) completing and submitting the application
2) undergoing a campus screening process, which may consist of meetings, an interview, revisions, etc.
3) obtaining nomination to proceed to the next level in the scholarship competition
4) further screening at the higher levels of competition
The scholarship states I must receive campus endorsement or nomination from UCI? How do I do this?
Your website says the scholarship is due x date, but on the scholarship’s official website, it says it’s due on y date. Why are these different?
There is an institution nomination / faculty representative section on the application form. How do I fill this out?
How much work is it to apply for a scholarship?
For Big 10 scholarships (Marshall, Mitchell, Rhodes, Churchill, Fulbright, Gates, NSF, Soros, Knight-Hennessy, and Schwarzman), the workload is approximately the same as a 4 unit class, spread out over the course of 6 months. For all of our other scholarships, the workload is spread out over several months (less than 6, usually) and consists of multiple drafts of the application and essays, and inputting information into the application form. These are prestigious nationally competitive awards, so the application processes reflect this. Our office will work with you throughout the application process and have created internal deadlines to help keep you on track.
Your website says you must intend a career in x field to apply for this scholarship. Is that a hard requirement? What if I change my mind later on?
Generally, though these are not ‘hard’ requirements, the scholarship foundations want to be assured that they are funding the right person who will commit to their elected field. You must show commitment to this field by listing relevant academic, co-curricular and extracurricular activities, for example, so applicants cannot and should not bluff and state their intentions to go into the field purely to get scholarship funding. However, if you do honestly want to change your field later on (after the duration of the scholarship), it is sometimes possible to do so.
Your website says you have to be a sophomore to apply. I have sophomore standing, but I’m a freshman. Can I still apply?
The year-in-school requirements go by graduation date, not by units. If you entered UCI in 2012-2013 and you will graduate in 2016, and the current year is 2013-2014, you are a sophomore, regardless of how many units you have. Therefore, when it says “you must be a junior to apply,” it means “you must graduate in the year following this current year.”
How important is GPA?
Typically, GPA is a very heavily-weighted factor, but it is only one of many factors considered for funding a scholarship applicant. GPA does not reveal everything about you, and in some cases, other demonstrations of commitment can be more important, depending on the objectives of each scholarship agency.
If I’m taking a gap year, can I still apply? What if I’m staying a 5th year?
This varies by scholarship. Please contact our office for specific questions about a particular award.
Can I apply during my gap year? 5th year?
This varies by scholarship. Please contact our office for specific questions about a particular award.
I’m not a US citizen now. Can I still apply?
Many of our awards are for US citizens, but you can contact us for a list of scholarships that do not require US citizenship. If you are in the process of becoming a US citizen, please note that all of your eligibility requirements are determined as soon as you SUBMIT your final application. Therefore, if you will gain US citizenship BEFORE the final application is due, you will be able to change your application to reflect this and therefore be eligible.
I just found out a scholarship is due tomorrow. Can I turn in my application one day late?
Deadlines are strictly enforced. Our office cannot accept late submissions. Late submissions are unfair to other scholarship applicants who submitted materials on time and may jeopardize our office’s internal nomination process, even by a single day.
What if I am still unsure about my academic and professional goals?
Please make an appointment to speak with an Advisor at the Career Center in the Division of Career Pathways, to explore the various career options available to you, such as professional or graduate school.
What if I am looking for scholarships to fund my undergraduate education?
What if I want to study abroad as an undergraduate?
What if I want to know if I am an honors student?
What if I'm interested in increasing my research, service, and/or leadership experience?
Please visit the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), Volunteer Connection, the Career Center, Campus Organizations, or ASUCI (UCI's student government) to get more involved on campus or in the local community.
And finally, what if I'm a graduate student?
Please visit the Graduate Division Resource Center, which offers graduate students a wide range of support and advising services.