Udall's Advice to Applicants

The Udall Foundation, Udall faculty representatives, and Udall Scholars offer advice to help you prepare an effective application for the Udall Scholarship.

Advice from the Udall Foundation:

Work closely with your Udall faculty representative
Ask them for feedback on your short essay answers and essay.

Articulate a career "path" or field

Even if you don't know exactly what you want to do, be clear about what issues you want to work on and how you're preparing yourself to have an impact. Clearly explain how you plan to use your education and experiences to affect environmental issues, or benefit your tribe or Indian country.

Show your commitment
Use the short essays to highlight your community service, activities, internships and research in support of environmental causes or Native issues.

Demonstrate how you go about problem-solving or consensus-building
Choose examples that show you working with others, mediating conflicts, or identifying solutions to problems.

Illustrate your leadership potential
The readers will look for students who can motivate others, bring people together, take initiative, and implement practical solutions.

Request your transcripts well in advance
Remember that you'll also need to submit transcripts from any colleges or universities that you attended before your current school (except for courses taken during high school).

Briefly identify and explain any activities or honors that readers are unlikely to understand

Answer Question #8 (additional personal information)
Write about an interest, activity, research project, or anything else that hasn't been expanded upon elsewhere in the application. Making a plea for the scholarship based on financial need is a wasted opportunity.

Alert the Foundation to any unusual circumstances or hardship
Examples include situations that may have affected your academic performance or limited your activities.

Read widely among the speeches, legislation, and policy statements of Congressman Morris K. Udall or Secretary of Interior Stewart L. Udall
For the essay, choose a speech or piece of legislation that clearly relates to your interests and career goals. Essays are read for content; quality of writing; critical analysis; and relevance to the applicant's career or educational goals. Readers also appreciate (and reward) some freshness of perspective and originality of voice.


Advice from Udall Scholars:

As far as the application goes, get an early start on it, make sure your passion is evident in your writing, and ask numerous people to edit it for you. Also, don't settle for just two drafts. Go over your writing with an editor until you can't even stand it anymore!!

Use Word to type out your answers to essay questions (even when adding a little more) because if you type your essays in the submission boxes first, the application system will time out and make you start over!

Make the application tell a story. Track your passion in each of your essays; have everything you write support and prove just how much you care about your specific field.

Don't be afraid to revise your essays 3, 5, or 3,500 times.

Make sure you're telling a concise story about what you’re currently doing and how it connects to what you want to do in the future! You can be doing the most amazing things in the world, but if you don't know how to talk about them your chances of getting the Udall are slim. Practice articulating your story!

Just be yourself and represent your true passions; there is no stronger version of you than that.

Think strategically. Let each part of the application tell a different chapter in the same narrative, each section adding a complementary, yet novel piece to your "argument" for the scholarship.

Even when you feel like throwing the application out the window because it's so long and you've gone through so many drafts, and your professor tells you that you're almost certainly not going to get the scholarship because you're from California so the odds are against you, don't do it! Finish the application, and at the very, very, least it will be a good learning exercise in self-identity and self-expression.

Don't try to fit into what you think a "perfect" applicant is; dig into what makes you so passionate for what you do, and let your originality and individuality shine.

Be genuine and candid: the Udall Foundation is looking for real change makers who are passionate, authentic, and creative.

Show that you've thought about your future, especially by thinking of a real job that a) currently exists and b) that you can see yourself doing. It was really exciting to dig deeper into specific prison horticultural programs, and gave the rest of my application direction. Then be okay with whatever plan you write about changing!


Advice from Udall Faculty Representatives:

The Udall Foundation is looking for students who will be change agents in their fields. Here are some tips to consider when writing your essays and filling out the application:

  1. Make sure to give each essay question its full weight (especially "What else would you like us to know?").
  2. Your interest in the environment or Native American affairs has to be more than a cursory interest; the reviewers are looking for students who are going to make a career (the next 30 to 40 years) in their field of study.
  3. Do not mix your academic focus. You have to be committed to the environment, tribal policy, or tribal health care.
  4. Focus on your leadership role within groups and organizations. How did you make an impact, how did you create consensus within a group, and how is the organization or group different because of your actions?
  5. Make sure to connect your career plans to your coursework.
  6. Demonstrate that you have taken some actions regarding the issues raised in the essays.
  7. Don’t just summarize the Udall speech, essay, or book that you’ve chosen. Try to demonstrate how it has influenced your thinking about the issues you’re passionate about. Read more than just one piece so that you are aware of what Udall stood for as a whole.
  8. Previous research experience is not required, but you need to demonstrate that you have an actionable plan for your project(s).
  9. If possible, demonstrate that you can see both sides of the issues at the center of your studies.
  10. Your commitment to community and public service is more important than your academic history.

Top Ten Mistakes:

  1. "Senator" Udall (a surprising number of recommenders make this mistake as well)
  2. Not answering #7 (what additional information would you like to share with the Udall Scholarship Selection Committee?). Sure, it's optional, but what a wasted opportunity.
  3. Using #7 to thank the committee for their time (shows good manners, but nothing else)
  4. Using #7 to tell us how much you need the money (we feel for you, but it's not a factor in selection)
  5. Using #7 to try to explain why you have no courses, activities, or work experience to support your "interest" in the environment or Native American issues
  6. Using #7 to inform the committee that your commitment is amply demonstrated by the fact that you are a vegan, you let the "yellow mellow," and to further conserve water, you have not bathed or washed your hair for a year. We want to see you at the Scholar Orientation. In Tucson. In August.
  7. Unambitious career goals (I want to cut lawns in an environmentally friendly way)
  8. Unrealistic and naïve career goals (I plan to end global warming in my 20s, run for Senate and then President of the United States, and open an organic, vegetarian restaurant).
  9. Answering questions without any sense of excitement about what you're doing and where you're headed (if you're bored, the readers will be too).
  10. Failing to convey WHY you have set yourself a certain career path, and what motivates you to keep going down it.