The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Tips for Scholarship Applications

General Advice

All scholarship applications require a current resume which will be reviewed as carefully as your application. Your resume may include relevant experience and any record of community service. Don’t be reluctant to reapply. Be prepared to write a thank you letter if you are the recipient of the scholarship.

Plan ahead. Keep a calendar of deadlines for scholarships.
Read all of the application instructions and the entire scholarship application before you complete it, along with all eligibility requirements.
Know your audience. Make sure the goals you express in your application match the goals of the scholarship program.
Show your strengths and explain your weaknesses. Highlight extracurricular and community activities as well as academic achievement. Explain any issues that may portray you in an unfavorable light.
Be clear and concise. It's best to write your application in word and then cut and paste it into the electronic application once you are satisfied with it. 
Proofread your application; then ask a friend to proofread it.
Request letters of recommendation from people who know you reasonably well. Don’t wait until the last minute to ask.
Submit your application by the published deadline. 
Ask for help if you need it. If you have questions, please email

Writing a Statement of Financial Need

This should be a short (1–2 paragraph) piece that explains why you would benefit from being awarded a scholarship. It also gives you an opportunity to explain any extenuating circumstances you may have.

Here are some points that you should consider including:

  • How are you currently financing your education?  What are your sources of financial aid? Do you get help from family? Are you taking out student loans or private loans? Do you currently work while attending college? 
  • What difficulties have you faced in paying for your education? Are there extra costs this year? If you are studying abroad, how does paying for your program compare with paying for your semester at UMass Amherst? Has there been a change in your family or personal situation that is making it harder for you to pay for college?
  • What would you gain from this scholarship? Would it help you to be able to work less so that you can focus on your studies? Do you need support so that you can take an unpaid internship or complete community service learning project?

Resume Tips

The Basics

Your resume needs to speak to your relevance to the employer, not just how wonderful you are. Put yourself in the employer’s shoes: if you had only a couple of seconds to read your resume, would you pick yourself for that job?

Resumes should always be clean, concise and consistent!
Translate you and your experience into their language: use the exact same words found in the job description.
One page in length (with specific exceptions).
Use one single readable font such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Cambria ; font size 10-12 pt. 
Apply consistent formatting within sections.
Make sure your paper resume is photocopy/scanner ready with light neutral paper color and no (), underlines, italics, columns, lines or funky design bullets.

Name and Education

Your name is clearly visible and probably two points bigger than the rest of the text.
E-mail is not hyperlinked if handing or mailing in; e-mail address is professional.
Write out University of Massachusetts Amherst every time - UMass is a nickname.
Include GPA if 3.0 or higher: if it is not there, employers will think it is below a 3.0.


Possible section headings include: Relevant Experience, Related Coursework, Additional Background, Technical Skills, Teaching and Tutoring Experience, Research Experience, Community Service, etc.

Demonstrate your relevant skills by including coursework, lab techniques, class projects and large research papers. Focus on courses relevant to employer (do not use basic courses or course numbers).
Make sure dates are in reverse chronological order and consistent (e.g. if you said Summer 2016 do not say June-August 2016 in another job)
Capitalize major titles (i.e. lifeguard = Lifeguard)
Use descriptive titles (i.e. Intern = Software Design Intern)
Describe your accomplishments and skills as they relate to the desired position; don’t just list “job duties”
No articles, pronouns or helping verbs (i.e. a, an, I, them, their, etc.)
Start descriptions with action verbs
Use as many numbers as possible (Supervised group of 13 children, Managed budget of $15,000)
Use well-known abbreviations only (i.e. CPR not ASB)

Unnecessary items:
Using the phrase "References Available Upon Request” and name dropping within resume unless employer knows person

Writing the Scholarship Essay

The essay will carry the most weight in the review of your application. Typically you are allotted 300 words.

The first third of your scholarship essay, no matter what type of scholarship you are applying for should briefly introduce yourself and describe your plan of study and then detail what you have accomplished thus far in your college tenure academically, professionally, and in the community.

Essay Writing for General Support Scholarships

If you are applying for a general support scholarship you should include this information in the second and third sections:

  • The second section should describe your aspirations and the things you have yet to accomplish at UMass.  In essence this portion of the essay should describe your educational plan.
  • The final section should tie in how receiving this scholarship will provide the support you need to achieve the objectives that are outlined in part two.

Essay Writing for Internship Scholarships

If you are applying for an internship support scholarship, you should include this information in the second and third sections:

  • The second section should detail the pathways you envision to create a portfolio of experience that will be attractive to the employers in the job sector you are targeting.  In essence this portion of the essay should describe your career objectives.
  • The final section should tie in how completing this internship will complement your professional portfolio and further your career objectives.

Essay Writing for Study Abroad Scholarships

If you are applying for a study abroad scholarship you should include this information in the second and third sections:

  • The second section should provide detail on how you chose both the location and program for study abroad and why.  How will pursuing this program in this specific location enhance your educational plan and broaden your world view?
  • The final section should summarize the impact that a study abroad will have not only within your college tenure, but also in your life as a whole.

Essay Writing for Research Scholarships

If you are applying for a research scholarship you should include this information in the second and third sections:

  • The second section (two quarters of the whole) should detail the research project. The overview should be well written, concise and make clear the purpose of the research. Include information on the relevance of the project and how the research may address a current social problem.
  • The final section (last quarter) should summarize what you expect to learn from your participation in the project and what new skills you will develop. Be sure to include any tangible event or result like publishing in a research paper or presenting at a conference for example.

Attaining a Research Scholarship is an extremely competitive process. Use each of your allotted words very carefully. Think deeply about the overview before you craft the description. Another factor that affects the committee decision will be the sponsoring faculty letter, so you should plan to discuss both your application and the faculty nomination with your sponsoring faculty member in order to put your best collective application forward.

For all SBS Scholarship Applications you should strive to be honest. Use the 300 words in your essay to craft a persuasive argument. If you do not need the 300 words, then make it brief but do not waste one word in your essay. Please resist the temptation to fill the essay with non-essential information in order to achieve a 300 word length.

Other Places to Look for Awards

Financial Aid Resources page 
Alumni Association Scholarships (Deadline February 14)
Commonwealth Honors College  (NOTE: Not all of these awards are for honors students - read carefully)
Office of National Scholarship Advisement

Don't forget to check in with your major department to see what scholarship funds they have available.