Gilman Scholarship, Preparing for Study Abroad

Special Blog: How to Get Gilman Scholarship

August 30, 2016


gilman-scholarship-logoHi there!

I am writing this special blog to help you with writing an essay for Gilman Scholarship. As you might know, Gilman Scholarship is a well-respected program that is open for U.S. citizens who are currently attending a two-year or four-year institution, receiving Pell Grant, and in need of financial assistance for study abroad. However, Gilman scholarship is very competitive and selective.

Below are some tips that I can give you to get a Gilman Scholarship. Note that this is based on my personal experience of writing a Gilman Scholarship essay.

Start Writing:

In the beginning, just like any other academic essays you wrote, it can be intimidating and stressful, as you have no idea how to start writing a paper. But one word you jotted down in the paper makes a difference and will inspire you to write more in great details – and it’s true. That happens to me all the time.

Make it Personal:

Okay, this one is kind of long. In the essay, you should genuinely mention who you are and your academic background, and tie it with a question “why do you want to study abroad?” It’s your chance to tell about yourself in great details and “connect the dots” with study abroad – explain how your personal self and study abroad relates to each other and your future. In other words, in case you don’t understand my previous statement, explain why you are interested in your selected country to pursue study abroad and connect it with your personal experience that has something to do with your selected country of study abroad and your future (career). Tell Gilman what makes yourself unique that nobody realizes it.

Gilman  Scholarship always prefers to select someone who has a strong interest in studying one of the critical languages listed (Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Hindi, etc.). You may find the list on the website. So if you are currently studying one of Gilman’s critical languages, that’s a great news. But, make sure you prove it with your experience that you are studying the critical language and you want to improve it by studying abroad (again, connecting the dots). There is a chance that you will get Gilman Scholarship if you commit to studying one of the critical languages listed.

However, that does not mean that students who study non-critical language have less likely to get the scholarship because the scholarship is eligible to whoever needs financial assistance. In fact, there are a number of Gilman recipients who actually studied in non-critical-language countries. It’s just that studying critical language is preferred. But you have to mention and convince Gilman Scholarship how study abroad makes an impact to yourself and your future.

Follow the steps and guidelines from Gilman website:

It is my suggestion to take a look at the Gilman Scholarship’s website and do a little bit of research about the program and the guidance to write the essay. Not only that the website provides you guidance, but also it helps you to narrow down the wide topic and write it into more specific. Make sure that the essay is not too broad and vague because Gilman Scholarship wants you to have a solid, specific piece of your plan for your future. Note that the word limit is based on character counts (instead of word counts).

Talk to the Expert:

The OIP office is really helpful in guiding you to write Gilman essay. It’s important for you to have a one-on-one conversation with the study abroad advisors in OIP. Again, they are extremely helpful and experienced.


Have someone (I strongly recommend advisors from the OIP) proofread your paper before you write the second draft — and yes, I did not say “before you submit the final draft.” That means, you should not write a final draft until you fix major issues in your essay that you might not notice it (perhaps it could be a vague sentence in one paragraph, no connection or transition between paragraphs, missing some important keywords, off topic, or even grammar and spelling mistakes).

And Tell the truth:

Don’t lie.


My Personal Advice (Bonus):

Attend the Gilman Workshop in OIP. They will give you a list of days of workshop that hopefully would fit with your schedule.

If Gilman question seems hard to understand, interpret the question that you answered in Horizon. You may pick a chunk of sentence or paragraph from your Horizon essay. Ohh. Never submit the Horizon essay for Gilman Scholarship.

Gilman loves the word “impact.” Use it and elaborate it. But do not overuse it.

Your first draft should be completely written three weeks before the deadline and should look like a final draft. So when you need assistance in reviewing your essay, you still have a lot of time to fix it with a minimum effort to put in.

Do not submit in the last minutes of the deadline. Trust me. It is a terrible idea. My laptop froze and shut down when I tried to submit my essay in the very last minutes. I did not even save my latest draft so I had to rewrite it again. I hope this experience inspires you to not submit the essay in the last minutes.

You are unique. So you know how to write a unique essay.


Good Luck

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