free money for smart people

how to win that prestigious scholarship

Top tips from the College Center for Scholarly Advancement.

Benjamin Recchie, AB’03

The College Center for Scholarly Advancement (CCSA), founded in 2015, provides a central resource for students (and alumni—more on that later) interested in applying for the Marshall, Rhodes, Fulbright, and about 400 other life-changing scholarships and fellowships.

According to Nichole Fazio-Veigel, CCSA’s director, here’s what you need to know about today’s hunt for postgraduate funding.


2015–16 fellowship applications submitted


2015–16 awardees


2015–16 nationally recognized applicants


Total students advised (July 2015 to Autumn 2016)


Plan of attack

Nowadays, “a student can’t just sit in the Reg, get a 3.9, and be a Rhodes Scholar,” she explains. “There’s not a true bookish national scholarship any more.” Candidates need to get involved in research, show engagement and leadership outside of academics, and (for international scholarships) engage internationally. Oh, and get good grades.

The shotgun approach

“Rarely is a student qualified for just one opportunity,” she says. Much of the hard work that goes into one application can be reused for the next. The center helps students identify scholarships they might otherwise overlook.

Not too early to start

Fazio-Veigel tells first-years to think about what they need to accomplish to be a competitive applicant three years later. Toward that end, CCSA holds workshops for first-years on how to get to know faculty members who might become mentors.

Not too late, either

Not every elite scholarship requires the applicant to be a current student. (The Fulbright doesn’t even have an age limit.) In some cases, Fazio-Veigel says, alumni are better candidates than current students because they have real-world experience—and CCSA will work with them too.

Getting personal

Developing a 1,000-word statement (required for virtually all applications) gives students a reason to reflect on what they want out of their education. “It might be the only time in their undergraduate education when someone asks, What gets you out of bed in the morning? What hurts you about the world? What are the fundamental driving commitments that keep you moving forward?”

Lessons learned

Whether or not students win an elite scholarship, Fazio-Veigel sees value in having a plan to get the most out of their short time at UChicago. She’s fond of a quote from George Bernard Shaw: “Life isn’t about finding yourself. It’s about creating yourself.”

One of CCSA’s most recent successes is Rhodes Scholar Lilian Dube, AB’15, a native of Zimbabwe, who will pursue master’s degrees in education and English at the University of Oxford next fall. (Photo by Tse Hon Ning)

Below: Illustration by Charlie Donahue