Student Academic Grants and Awards

Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation: Frequently Asked Questions

The following FAQs were adapted for Willamette students from "Candidate Q & A," Truman Foundation Website.

http://www.truman.gov/

  1. Who are Truman Scholars and who can receive Truman Scholarships?
  2. What are the primary criteria for selection?
  3. What does winning a Truman Scholarship mean?
  4. What are Truman Scholars Leadership Week and the Washington Summer Institute?
  5. Are there any benefits for nominees even if they are not selected as Truman Scholars?
  6. How important are grades?
  7. What if my profile has one or two gaps, such as no government internship or limited campus activities?
  8. How does the Foundation define "public service"?
  9. Are there any degrees or fields of graduate study given priority?
  10. What if I intend to obtain graduate degrees in medicine, business administration, engineering or physical science?
  11. Does the Foundation care about the political party or the individual candidates I support?
  12. What types of jobs do previous Truman Scholarship winners now hold?
  13. How do I apply for a Truman Scholarship?
  14. Could I apply for the campus nomination my junior year instead?
  15. How are Truman Scholars selected?
  16. How hard is it to get Willamette's nomination?
  17. Are off-campus students who are participating in junior year abroad programs or who have transferred from their community colleges ever elected Truman Scholars?
  18. How should I prepare for the Truman competition?
  19. How much time and effort does it take to become a Truman Finalist and advance to the interview?
  20. Are there any features on the Truman competition that I might find unusual?
  21. What is the interview like?
  22. What does the interview panel look for?
  23. Why is the interview challenging and sometimes confrontational rather than conversational?

1. Who are Truman Scholars and who can receive Truman Scholarships?

Truman Scholars are future "change agents." They have the passion, intellect, and leadership potential to, in time, improve the ways that public entities - government agencies, nonprofit organizations, public and private primary and secondary schools, or advocacy organizations - serve the public good. Their personal "bottom line" is making a difference, not making a dollar.

Those eligible and selected for Truman Scholarships are U.S. citizens or U.S. nationals who are college or university students with junior-level academic standing and who wish to attend professional or graduate school to prepare for careers in government or the nonprofit and advocacy sectors. (Residents of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the North Marianas must have senior-level standing.)

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2. What are the primary criteria for selection?

The primary criteria necessary for selection as a Truman Scholar are:

  • An extensive record of campus and community service;
  • Commitment to a career in government or the nonprofit and advocacy sectors;
  • Communication skills and a high probability of becoming a "change agent";
  • Strong academic record with likely acceptance by a first-rate graduate school.

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3. What does winning a Truman Scholarship mean?

The Truman is a highly competitive, merit-based award offered to U.S. citizens and U.S. nationals from Pacific Islands who want to go to graduate school in preparation for a career in public service. This scholarship offers:

  • Recognition of outstanding potential as a leader in public service;
  • Membership in a community of persons devoted to helping others and improving the environment;
  • A $30,000 grant for graduate study of the U.S. or abroad in a wide variety of fields, as well as the following benefits:
    • Friendships with scholars from all across the nation who possess similar interests and passions;
    • Affirmation of values and ideals;
    • Enhanced access to highly competitive graduate institutions;
    • Participation in Truman Scholars Leadership Week and the Washington Summer Institute following graduation from college

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4. What are Truman Scholars Leadership Week and the Washington Summer Institute?

The Truman Scholars Leadership Week is a week-long training and orientation program held each May for new Scholars at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri. It focuses on building a community among Truman Scholars, helping them make wise choices about graduate study, and preparing them to take advantage of opportunities available to Truman Scholars. The Foundation provides for transportation, lodging, and meals. Scholars must attend the entire week unless excused for serious medical emergencies or to attend their own graduation exercises.

The Washington Summer Institute is a 10-week community-building and graduate-level "public policy lab" for Truman Scholars following their graduation from college. The Foundation arranges an 8-week internship - usually a paid one - for each participant. Transportation to and from Washington is provided. Subsidized housing that allows all participants to live together is arranged in a convenient and safe neighborhood accessible to Metro subway service.

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5. Are there any benefits for nominees even if they are not selected as Truman Scholars?

If you make a commitment to the competition and accept guidance from your Truman Faculty Representative and faculty mentors, you will:

  • Clarify your career goals;
  • Get a better sense of the most appropriate graduate studies for you;
  • Become more aware of your strengths, interests, and ways to prepare for your career;
  • Improve your writing skills and, if you become a Finalist, enhance your interviewing skills;
  • Get a head start in preparing applications for graduate education and scholarship competitions in the senior year;
  • Have an experience for learning and personal grown that is not normally possible in the classroom.

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6. How important are grades?

They are less important than the public service and leadership record, but still significant. NOminees generally should be in the top 10-15% of their class. Some Truman Scholars have GPAs in the range of 3.4-3.6 but have received outstanding grades in upper-division courses in their field of interest.

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7. What if my profile has one or two gaps, such as no government internship or limited campus activities?

You should still apply. Fewer than 2% of the nominees are strong in all respects.

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8. How does the Foundation define "public service"?

As employment in the government at any level, uniformed services, public interest organizations, nongovernmental research and/or educational organizations, public and private schools, and public service-oriented nonprofit organizations such as those whose primary purposes are to help needy or disadvantaged persons or to protect the environment.

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9. Are there any degrees or fields of graduate study given priority?

Yes. They are juris doctorate degrees and master's and doctoral degrees in public administration, public policy, public health, international relations, government, economics, social services, delivery, education and human resource development, and conservation and environmental protection.

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10. What if I intend to obtain graduate degrees in medicine, business administration, engineering or physical science?

You would still be eligible; however, you need to demonstrate a strong likelihood of a career in the public sector and an intention to structure your graduate training toward policy-oriented positions. Many Scholars undertake joint degree programs combining graduate study in one of these fields with study in a field given priority by the Foundation.

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11. Does the Foundation care about the political party or the individual candidates I support?

No. It cares that you have been willing to work for political causes or for candidates in whom you believe.

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12. What types of jobs do previous Truman Scholarship winners now hold?

Many are professional staff in advocacy and nonprofit institutions, managers of government programs, legislators and aids for legislative bodies, budget and management analysts, foreign service officers, staff members in policy analysis and research organizations, educators and educational institution administrators, professors, and attorneys for government agencies and public defender offices.

The Foundation prefers people who in the long run want to affect policies and redirect programs with a potentially larger effect than that of the solo practitioner. However, it is pleased to see persons who want to start as solo practitioners working directly with people in need.

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13. How do I apply for a Truman Scholarship?

Institutions nominate up to four students each year to apply for the Truman Scholarship. At Willamette, nominations are held i the spring. Interested sophomores apply for the campus nomination; their applications are reviewed by the Grants and Awards committee, which interviews and selects the four nominees. Nominees are then expected to work closely with the Truman Faculty Representative and their faculty advisors over the summer and fall semester. Applications are submitted to the national selection committee in January of the Junior year.

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14. Could I apply for the campus nomination my junior year instead?

No. Truman Scholars are selected during their junior year. Because Willamette selects is nominees in the spring of sophomore year, juniors are not eligible. However, new transfer students may apply their junior year.

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15. How are Truman Scholars selected?

Through a three-stage process:

  1. Willamette chooses four nominees in their sophomore year, based on their records of leadership, service and scholarship, and their performance in a 25-minute interview. Nominees submit final applications the following January.
  2. The Truman Foundation national committee reviews all of the nominations (about 600) and selects 200-230 as Truman Scholarship Finalists.
  3. Eighteen regional selection panels conduct interviews of the Finalists and select 75-80 Truman Scholars.

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16. How hard is it to get Willamette's nomination?

Generally, the campus committee receives 8-12 applications for nomination, and selects up to four nominees.

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17. Are off-campus students who are participating in junior year abroad programs or who have transferred from their community colleges ever elected Truman Scholars?

Yes. Typically, about one-quarter of recent Truman Scholars were off-campus in the fall of their junior year when they prepared their application. Many of Willamette's recent Scholars were abroad during the fall semester, but worked closely with the Faculty Representative in the spring and summer of their sophomore year, then relied on email, fax, phone, and/or regular mail during the fall.

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18. How should I prepare for the Truman competition?

Meet with faculty advisors and Dr. Monique Bourque, Director of Student Academic Grants and Awards, no later than spring of your sophomore year (no later than October of your junior year if you are a new transfer).

  • Read regularly an in-depth national newspaper such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, or the Christian Science Monitor.
  • Take courses in American politics or history.
  • Start work on the application at least two months before it is due.

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19. How much time and effort does it take to become a Truman Finalist and advance to the interview?

Typically, Truman Finalists report spending as much or more time completing the Truman materials, and preparing for the interview, as they spend on a three-hour course. Candidates who are serious about advancing in the competition usually spend a great deal of time planning, writing, and editing their narrative responses and policy proposal to generate a polished, reflective, insightful product that will be among the top quarter or third of all applications received. Persons who advance to the interview spend substantial time and effort having practice interviews, catching up on current events, and reading about Mr. Truman and his presidency.

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20. Are there any features on the Truman competition that I might find unusual?

  • No guarantee of being selected, no matter how much effort is devoted to preparing for the competition.
  • The need to write a policy proposal.
  • The extent of work required to produce written material of sufficient quality to advance to the interview.
  • The challenging and possibly confrontational interview with a 4-6 member selection panel.
  • The newly instituted service requirement: Scholars from 2005 on are required to work in public service for three of the seven years following completion of a Foundation funded graduate degree program as a condition of receiving Truman funds. scholars who do not meet this service requirement, or who fail to provide timely proof to the Foundation of such employment, will be required to repay funds received along with interest. The Foundation will have an appeals process for special circumstances.
  • The new Truman Fellows program, which will allow Scholars to  extend their Summer Institute experience into a year-long paid position to further explore professional opportunities they may wish to pursue after graduate school.

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21. What is the interview like?

Typically, it is an intense, fast-moving, 20-minute experience with a few challenging, if not confrontational, questions on your material and on your general knowledge. The Foundation provides notes to the Finalists to help them prepare for the interview. Willamettes Grants and Awards committee and many additional faculty stage mock interviews for finalists to accustom themselves to the fast pace and confrontational nature of the interview. In addition, past Willamette Scholars and Finalists have reported on their interview experiences on our website.

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22. What does the interview panel look for?

Interview committees look for communications skills, presence and persuasiveness, the ability to analyze issues quickly and to speak clearly in a pressure situation, and an understanding of approaches for dealing with some problems facing society today.

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23. Why is the interview challenging and sometimes confrontational rather than conversational?

Panelists want to assess the ability of candidates to handle pressures that they are likely to face as leaders trying to effect change and to resolve contentious issues supported by individuals and organizations with entrenched interests. (Mr. Truman was noted for saying, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.")

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