Daniel Lemire's blog

, 1 min read

How to ask for a scholarship

I have had some experience reviewing scholarship requests from graduate students. Here are a few pointers:

  • For God’s sake! Know why you are going to graduate school! Boring reasons include: learning more about your favorite field, wanting to become a professor one day, finding your topic fascinating (why is it fascinating?), and so on. Yes! You are expected to figure out an original and interesting story as to why you are trying to get a Ph.D.! Yes, it is hard! That’s the point!
  • Avoid telling us about how good your school, supervisor or department is. Assume we know.
  • Waste no time telling us why you got bad grades or why you have no research experience. We know you are young. We know bad grades can happen.
  • Have some accepted research papers. Short of that, claim to have submitted research papers. Short of that, post some research reports on your web site. No need to dump a large list, but have something. Everyone can submit a research paper to a journal or a conference! Show that you are trying!
  • Avoid telling us about your teaching experience. Not relevant. We are not hiring you as an instructor!
  • Come up with a simple, original and clear research proposal. It is no time to explain complicated ideas!
  • Avoid specialized acronyms or terminology. I do not know the first thing about robots, but I still have to read your proposal. Make it interesting to me!

To sum it up:

  • Write well.
  • Be interesting.
  • Be original.

Extra pointers:

  • Do not join 20 sheet of papers when one would suffice.
  • When given 2 pages, take 2 pages! It is no time to pull a 10-liner!
  • If asked to provide 2 letters of references, do so! Do exactly as your told. Provide a complete file!