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Now that you’re in college, probably the last thing you want to do is think about extensive applications, but nationally competitive scholarships provide unmatched study, research, and networking opportunities truly unavailable through anything else. You’ve heard the names before, no doubt – but it’s time to give the rundown on some of the most prestigious scholarships this world has to offer.

The following five programs are available for college undergraduates to apply for and receive. They’re a pretty big deal, but the financial benefits and (perhaps more importantly) the prestige and networks you join into after receiving these scholarships are well worth the time and effort you put into the application and program itself. Without further a due…

Critical Language Scholarship

The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) funds rising sophomore, juniors, or seniors in college as well as graduate students to study a language critical to U.S. foreign interest intensely for a ten week period during the summer. CLS welcomes all majors and potential careers to apply – and language programs range from the beginning to advanced level, so whether you’re nearly fluent or just beginning in your preferred language, CLS can help you out.
Languages offered for the summer of 2014 include Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Turkish, and Urdu. Unfortunately the application for 2015 just closed on November 12, but be on the lookout for information on next year’s application process.

Boren Awards for International Study

Coming off the international language summer program of CLS, the Boren also has a heavy focus on language and international study. Boren Scholarships fund up to $20,000 for undergraduate students of all ages to study in areas critical to U.S. foreign interest (similar theme to CLS) and underrepresented in the usual study abroad experience. In other words, you won’t be getting any funding from Boren if you want to study in Western Europe or Australia. This scholarship is for those interested in studying abroad in countries in Africa, Asia, and parts of South America and the Pacific. There is also a strong emphasis on language, once again of the nontraditional sort. Essentially, for the college student looking to study abroad for a semester or even longer in an interesting country, with an interesting language, and who has an interest in U.S. national security (broadly defined by the Boren committee), then this is scholarship gold right here. An important thing to note is that though the national deadline isn’t until February, each university has its own internal deadline, which could be coming up soon. So find out who your Boren representative is on campus and get in touch ASAP.

Goldwater Scholarships

Goldwater Scholarships are of the few undergraduate scholarships that may sometimes be referred to as “anointing scholarships.” If you’re able to get a Goldwater as a sophomore or junior in college, then you’re setting yourself up nicely for a bigger stake graduate scholarship (like a Marshall, Rhodes, or Gates-Cambridge). Goldwaters are strictly for those interested in scientific research, and accordingly, applicants should have a strong research background and desire to go further into the research field after graduation. The Goldwater foundation gives about 300 Goldwater Scholarships nationally each year, and a scholarship will provide an annual $7500 toward tuition, fees, etc. for STEM majors. For undergraduate science geeks, this is the one you should be looking at.

Udall Scholarships

Perhaps the most unique and specialized of the most prestigious undergraduate scholarships, Udall Scholarships grant about 75 scholarships annually which provide up to $5000 toward senior year tuition and fees. They’re the most unique because, unlike the Goldwater which is designed specifically for STEM majors, Udall Scholarships are dedicated to those interested in Native American policy and politics. This specification extends to anyone interested in a career working in environmental studies and improvement of natural resources and land management due to their inherent connection with Native American interests. There are very few scholarships dedicated to students with these interests, so if this is you, you may have just found your scholarship niche.

Truman Scholarships

Rounding out the main nationally competitive undergraduate scholarships is perhaps the most prestigious and most well-known – the Truman. The Truman Foundation awards between 70 and 80 scholarships annually which provide $30,000 toward senior year and graduate tuition for those interested in a career in public policy (again, somewhat broadly defined). Though the money is reason enough to apply, the truly invaluable aspect of the Truman Scholarship is the vast and impressive network you enter into upon receiving the award. As a Truman Scholar, you join the ranks of George Stephanopoulos, Susan Rice, Bill de Blasio, and various other prominent public figures. As far as nationally competitive undergraduate scholarships go, this is very much the cream of the crop.

So college students, it’s really time to look more into these incredible opportunities, and high school students – well, it’s never too earlier to start thinking about it. In a few months, we’ll be bringing you the rundown on nationally competitive scholarships for graduates – and that’s where the real fun begins.

Bonus tip: Yo, prospies, are you still struggling to find scholarships that you’d like to apply for? Our friends at InstaEDU are giving you the hookup: Chat with college counselors one-on-one and get the help you need. It’s like a private college consultant but without the $300/hr price tag.



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Eric Aldieri is a junior at Villanova University double majoring in Philosophy and Humanities. You can contact him at ealdieri@villanova.edu or @ealdi94 .

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