The Gilman Scholarship

This page has introductory information about the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship -to learn more about it, visit their website:

Program Overview: The Gilman Scholarship is a program that gives undergraduate students with financial need scholarships specifically to use for study abroad expenses. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US State Department has run the Gilman program since it was started in 2001. The program encourages students to study abroad in non-traditional countries (outside of Western Europe and Australia), and it supports students who have been traditionally under-represented in study abroad education (including first-generation college students, students with high financial need, students in STEM fields, ethnic minority students, students with disabilities, and students attending community colleges). The award amounts range from $100 to $5,000 depending an applicant’s situation. The Gilman program also has additional scholarships for students studying a Critical Need Language. Recipients of the a scholarship must complete a Service Project upon their return that shares their experience, promotes study abroad, and teaches people about the Gilman program. After completing their study abroad, the Gilman program also offers a number of events, training, and conferences for the Gilman alumni.

Eligibility: Because the Gilman program is through the US State Department, there are some clear eligibility requirements for this scholarship. One cool aspect of the program is that it doesn’t look at GPA or test scores (however, you do need to be in good standing with your institution so you can study abroad). Also, while the Gilman encourages students to study in less traditional countries, applicants can study in any country that has a level 1 or 2 Travel Advisory Level. Below I’ve listed the abbreviated eligibility requirements. If you are thinking of applying for the Gilman, you should carefully read the detailed requirements and FAQs on the Gilman website.

Gilman Applicants Must:

  • Be a citizen of the US
  • Be an undergraduate student at an accredited institution of higher education in the US
  • Be a recipient of a Federal Pell Grant
  • Have applied to or been accepted to a study abroad or internship program
  • Study with a credit-bearing study abroad program in a destination with an overall Travel Advisory Level 1 or 2 according to the US State Department Travel Advisory System
Gilman Alumni Ambassadors Tour of Washington DC

The Application: The application for the Gilman Program requires information about your study abroad program, your financial information, and two essays. They also need the contact of a financial aid adviser and study abroad adviser to verify and get more information. To find out who your advisers for the Gilman program are, contact the study abroad office at your school (at K, it’s the CIP). The CIP also announces application deadlines as there are different deadlines for programs taking place at different times in the year. I recommend starting your application early, communicating well with your advisers, and double checking all your deadlines! Check out this page for the dates and timeline of the Gilman Program. The application for the Fall 2020 programs opens mid January 2020 and the deadline is March 3, 2020!

The Essays: As I touched on above, there are two essays for the Gilman application- they are a super important part of your application. I’ll describe them briefly and then provide my advice for the essays below. The first essay is called the “Statement of Purpose” essay. It needs to include why you want to study abroad and why you’ve chosen your destination, details and unique components about your program, and how study abroad relates to career and future goals. This essay is also your opportunity to describe challenges you’ve faced that might inhibit your ability to study abroad and how the Gilman Scholarship would help you. It’s a lot of information to pack into one 7,000 character essay (about 1.5 pages)! The second essay, called the “The Follow-on Service Project Proposal,” is another 7,000 character essay for which you describe your Service Project. You’ll need to come up with a project you can do after you return from abroad that will share your experience with others, encourage others to study abroad, and promote the Gilman Program. Then in the essay, describe your project, anyone you might collaborate with to make it happen and your target audience. For the complete prompts and tips on the essays, click here. Below are some more tips that worked for me when I applied for the program.

My Advice for Successful Essays:

  • Start early so you have plenty of time to brainstorm ideas and write several drafts
  • Make your essay reflect who you are as a person- start with a short antidote and make sure your essay has a voice (at least for the purpose essay)
  • Write over the character limit and then revise it – keep the most important parts. Be concise and clear!
  • Think about the questions before you start writing and answer the questions sincerely
  • Visit the K writing center with your final drafts. Consultants will help you make sure your essay makes sense to people who aren’t familiar with your program and that you’re addressing all parts of the prompts
  • Meet with the Gilman adviser to verify your information is correct and to run through your service project idea
  • For the service project proposal, avoid hypothetical plans and be specific. For example, instead of writing “I would ask the CIP to help me to do this”, say something like “I’ve already talked with Tony from the CIP, and he’s agreed to help me with advertising once I’m back on campus” (that being said, actually do talk to the people you say you did!)

If you are applying for the Gilman scholarship, feel free to reach out to me. I’d be happy to let future applicants read my essays to give them a better idea of what Gilman essays are like!

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