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Crafting Successful Applications

Start early

Some applications take a considerable amount of time and require collecting information and approval from others, which is out of your control. Do not wait until the last minute to work on applications and note that national deadlines are absolutely firm. Some applications that require a host affiliation may need months of lead time. Take note of regional time differences when it comes to deadlines, or better yet, complete your application days in advance.

Do Research

First, determine if you are eligible. Second, determine if you are competitive for the award. Reach out to us with questions, but also look at online profiles of past winners. Do not get discouraged with the perception that awardees are more advanced than you. Looking through the profiles of past winners is a great way to gain inspiration and see if your area of study and experiences are a good fit for an award.

Presenting yourself as a candidate

  • Creating a master CV/resume is a great practice that will aid you in future years. Develop a CV of all your academic, work, service, and extracurricular experiences going back to high school. While you will not present all of this information in an application, having a master CV lets you pick experiences to present that are relevant for a particular award.
  • Let committees know why you are fascinated by your area of study. What unique skills and perspectives do you bring to your field?
  • What are examples of your leadership? What makes you a change agent? How have you made or how can you make an impact on society?
  • If applying to an award where you are underrepresented in your field, consider how diversity impacts your path in that field. How has your experience shaped your path and what types of specific examples can you draw from? For example, a student whose parents are not English speakers may have become interested in language at an early age, as they often did translation work for their family.
  • Consider our geographic background in South Texas and issues that are important in our region, should they relate to your proposed research or future academic and career goals.
  • When appropriate or requested, provide background about UTSA as a Hispanic Serving Institution.
  • You might also consider discussing your academic department and resources available to you (course selection, grants, etc.)

Requesting Letters of Recommendation

  • Politely request a letter of recommendation at least four weeks in advance.
  • Do not ask if the faculty member can write you a letter of recommendation, but whether they can write you a strong letter of recommendation.
  • We recommend that you request a letter of recommendation by email, addressing faculty members by name and title, and by providing drafts of your application, a CV, and application instructions for letter writers. Asking recommenders by email is preferable, as it does not put them in an awkward position to decline an invitation in person. Emailing your request also gives the faculty member time to review materials and assess whether or not they support your application. Requesting a letter in person, especially at the end of a class, places faculty in a difficult position to help students.
  • Letter writers should know you well. Ideally, you have taken multiple classes with a faculty member, conducted research with them, or they have had an opportunity to assess your writing closely.