Unusual among the awards handled by the Graduate Studies Office, this is an undergraduate scholarship. It is designed to encourage students with a keen interest in pursuing a career in the sciences to continue with their education unimpeded by financial necessity. Those selected are expected to make future significant contributions to their chosen field.
The number of awards is around 300 per year, variable depending on the distribution between sophomores and juniors and the available funding. The scholarship is highly competitive, despite the relatively modest minimum requirements given above under "eligibility." The goal is truly to foster excellence in science and mathematics. The best candidates will not only have a stellar academic record but also will be able to demonstrate a commitment to a scientific career and the potential to make a significant contribution. Ordinarily this means the intention of engaging in advanced study. An additional factor is the state of residence of the nominee, since as a governmental program, the Goldwater Foundation tries to provide at least one scholarship from every state.
Students interested in being nominated should contact their department chair early in the fall. The chair will notify the Graduate Studies Advisor in response to a request for recommendations. The Advisor will contact those named by the chairs asking for an expression of interest and detailing the procedures to be followed in seeking the nomination and subsequently in filling out an application.
The application itself consists of a series of questions with space for a short paragraph in response. These questions are designed to elicit statements about your interest in science and your intention of pursuing it as a career. For example
The major piece of writing required is a 600-word essay in which you are asked to "discuss a significant issue or problem in your field of study that is of particular interest to you. Your essay must include a description of the issue or problem, discuss an idea for research that could have significant impact on the issue or problem, describe an aspect of the research in which you would be involved, and explain the relevance of the issue or problem to you as a mathematician, scientist, or engineer. Assume that your reader is knowledgeable in mathematics, science, and engineering, but not necessarily a specialist in your field. The content and style of your essay will be important to the success of your scholarship application."
It is important to realize that this essay is not necessarily a proposal that you will actually be able to undertake. Rather it is designed to reveal to the selection committee something about how you approach questions, how practical you are in proposing solutions, how sophisticated your appreciation for the vagaries of the research process, and basically how your mind works. It is a good idea to think carefully about it and to do some outside reading so that your approach is well grounded in realistic factual detail. Those with research experience will have an obvious advantage, both in exposure to actual research questions and methods and in appreciating the style of thinking involved. Those without that experience, however, can use their analytical skill and ability to express themselves verbally to construct an excellent essay. If you need suggestions on how to approach proposals like this, you might find it helpful to consult Proposal Writing: the Art of Persuasion, linked to this web page. The Writing Workshop can also be helpful.
Another unusual feature of this scholarship is that it is based entirely on merit. No financial need must be demonstrated. It is a rare Holy Cross student who doesn't need at least some assistance, however. You might be concerned that if you won this fellowship, your financial aid package would be adjusted downward to compensate. That is generally the policy for students obtaining additional cash assistance, but in cases such as this, the Office of Financial Aid is willing to negotiate reduction of loans or work-study instead. It is a great honor to win a Goldwater Scholarship, and Holy Cross wants to do what it can to encourage students to apply.
Further information may be obtained at the Goldwater web site: http://www.act.org/goldwater.
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