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How to prepare a successful scholarship application A Graduate Student’s Perspective Mariya Lesiv • I apologize in advance for using the pronouns “I” and “my” so my times • Its just because the following thoughts and suggestions are based on my personal experience What have I received? This is not to show off but to show what one can realistically get (and you can get much more than I have) when one makes an effort and applies; I believe that at least 70% of success in this process is about “making an effort” rather than about possessing any special talents 2005-2006: • Provost Doctoral Entrance Scholarship $8,000 (FGSR, U of A) 2006-2007: • Provost Doctoral Entrance Scholarship $8,000 (FGSR, U of A) • Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko Bursary S1,500 2007-2008: • Helen Darcovich Memorial Doctoral Fellowship $12,000 (CIUS) 2008-2009: • Queen Elizabeth II Scholarship $15,000 (U of A Major Award) • Helen Darcovich Memorial Doctoral Fellowship, Renewal $9,500 (without stipend, “too much for one year” – they said ) • Research Abroad Travel Grant $7,000 (FGSR, U of A) • Margaret Brine Scholarship for Women $6,000 (CFUW - Edmonton) • Several smaller scholarships and travel grants Basic things • Follow instructions correctly! Make sure you are eligible • The more publications (articles, book reviews and books), conference/public presentations, administrative and volunteer activities one has on his or her CV – the better it looks: however, “super academic” committees focus on the quality and ranks of journals in which you publish, not just on a number of works • Proposal – introduce your topic, place it in the context of your field (what has been written about your topic already), say what issues you will address, present your methodology for research and analysis, say how your work will contribute to the field Titles • “Flashy” titles/topics work (although I hate to say this ) • My title: “Neo-Paganism Between East and West: Construction of Alternative National Identity in Ukraine and the Ukrainian Diaspora” – “flashy” but probably too long; but it worked a few times Add some “meat” so that committee members remember your proposal • Example: first paragraph from my application for General Awards: “Glory to Our Native Gods!” is a slogan of many Ukrainian Neo- Pagans who strive to revive beliefs and practices from over a thousand years ago. They draw upon historical primary sources containing information about old Slavic mythology and contemporary rural folklore maintaining remnants of the old pagan worldview. Although many folkloric forms have been appropriated by the Christian church, contemporary Pagans consider these elements as originally belonging to them and reclaim them for their own needs. • Having read it for the first time, committee members might not remember the whole thing but I think (or hope) they would remember the first sentence Know your audience! • Tailor your application to the interests of the institution offering the scholarship • For example, Can. Federation of University Women (CFUW) has the following requirements for Letter of Intent (very different from General Awards): – The various reasons you decided to undertake graduate studies – Why you chose your particular focus in your research project – Special circumstances which you feel would be useful for the committee to know • This committee consists of people from various fields, many of them do not necessarily have graduate degrees • I understood that they would want my Letter of Intent to be more personable rather than just a “dry” academic statement; please note that this is a very different approach from that required by the U of A General Awards committee • Thus, I made this Letter related to my experiences, beliefs and visions • Following are a few paragraphs from the Letter: • While research in the physical sciences often finds immediate application in ‘real’ life, research in the humanities and social sciences does not usually produce such quick practical results. However, it is these latter fields that gradually shape and significantly contribute to human thought. Scholars in these areas aim at understanding the way societies create meaning out of their world. Understanding leads to tolerance which, in turn, helps to overcome various social and cultural boundaries. I appreciate the vital role the humanities and social sciences have to play and this is why I chose an academic career path in the field of folklore. • Folklore studies is one of the fascinating disciplines that focuses on how both individuals and groups of people shape their idea of reality and define themselves through creative expression. This process often results in interesting new cultural forms such as the phenomenon of Ukrainian Neo-Paganism, which is the focus of my dissertation entitled “Neo-Paganism between East and West: Construction of National Identity in Ukraine and the Ukrainian Diaspora” (see the description below). • My interest in both the study of identity and of this particular phenomenon is also influenced by my unique personal circumstances. I was born and raised in Ukraine and received most of my secondary education while that country was still part of the Soviet Union. I did much of my post-secondary studies in the context of post-Soviet Ukraine. This was a time of sharp socio- political turmoil in the territories of the former Soviet Union. I witnessed and experienced the major shift in ideologies (from communist to nationalist) that took place at the state level over a very short period of time. On the popular level, the failure of the myth of the “Soviet people” increased the need for many individuals to seek out their new sense of self. This resulted in the formation of a great number of cultural, political, and religious groups. These groups organized a variety of activities that helped many people develop a sense of belonging to a particular community and, thus, form a distinct identity. Neo-Paganism is one such response to post-Soviet turbulence. The adherents of this movement search for the roots of their “true” national identity in pre-Christian beliefs and practices, adapting these to their present needs. Reference Letters – super important! Usually 2 or 3 letters: • Supervisor (often required) • Who else to choose? Students often make decisions based one’s rank, achievements and popularity. This is good. However, this person has to know you well and to be interested in your work to write a good enthusiastic letter • Apply for many scholarships rather than just for one • Ask somebody (a supervisor or a friend who has good writing skills) to read through your application and edit it before you submit it • I forgot to mention that the remaining 30% is about luck • I wish all of you the best of luck!
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