Wednesday, February 28, 2018

How to qualify for selective internships and scholarships

THERE ARE SEVERAL COMMON THEMES in the background of students selected for selective internships and national scholarships
  • Previous research experience
  • Related part-time job experience, especially as a field- or lab-assistant
  • Previous internship experience – especially important for students who seek non-science, non-research internships
  • Strong letters of recommendation from faculty members
  • A competitive GPA, often 3.25 or higher.
  • Junior year standing – because it takes that long for most students to acquire the qualities listed above.


  • Participate in the Maryland Student Researchers Program.  “All” you need is motivation and a responsible attitude.  There are no GPA requirements. 
  • Apply for the part-time/summer field and lab assistant positions you see posted in The ENSP Advising Blog.  Click on the “research” LABEL (right-hand column).
  • Apply for the part-time/summer field and lab assistant positions you hear about in class.  These are more common than you think, especially during spring semester! 
  • Go to Careers4Terps and search for research experiences.

TO DEVELOP A RELATIONSHIP WITH A FACULTY MEMBER with whom you share similar academic interests... ask him/her directly if s/he has a research project, undergraduate teaching assistantship, and/or a part-time job you could apply for.  If your instructor has a TA who is studying for the Ph.D., approach the TA, too. Many would love to have help!  If the answer from either of these people is “no, I don’t have any positions right now,” ask if s/he can recommend other faculty members or TAs.


==>  It’s not about who you know personally (e.g., someone you like)… It’s about who knows you intellectually (e.g., someone who’s seen you at work, in class, lab, or on the job)

Faculty recommendations are much more valuable for research internships, scholarships, and graduate school applications than "advisor" or “employer” recommendations because only faculty can speak to what admissions committees want to know. Here are the questions letter writers typically need to answer for students applying to graduate school:
  • How do you compare to other students in your program who have gone on to graduate study?
  • What is your research potential?
  • What is your level of creativity/imagination?
  • What is your intellectual potential?
  • What is your ability to analyze a problem and formulate a solution?
  • How well do you work with peers?
  • How strong is your writing ability?
  • How strong is your speaking ability?
  • How motivated are you for this area of study?
  • What is your potential for career advancement?
Knowing you are a 4.0 student is not enough; admissions/selection committees will want classroom- and/or research-related examples of your potential/creativity/motivation, etc.

Therefore, ask previous employers, academic advisors, etc., for a recommendation only after you have two good faculty recommenders.  Count on non-faculty to add information about you which faculty may not know, e.g., extra-curricular leadership experience, career-related experience, unique personal qualities, etc.

WHAT IF YOU DON’T KNOW ANY FACULTY MEMBERS?  Simply meeting with a faculty member during an appointment goes a long way towards beginning such a relationship. Bring a copy of your resume; information about the scholarship, internship, or graduate program you are applying to; and be ready to explain why you are interested in the opportunity.