Frequently Asked Questions for Applicants
About the Scholarship
The Truman Scholarship is the premier graduate scholarship for students interested in public service. The scholarship provides $30,000 for the graduate school of the Scholar's choice, extensive programming and mentorship opportunities, a direct hiring authority with the federal government and the ability to apply for additional matching funds with our graduate school partners.
The institution first selections its nominees in a procedure determined by the Advisor. Once an application is submitted, it is reviewed by the Truman Finalist Selection Committee. This committee will select approximately 200 students as Finalists. These Finalists are interviewed by Regional Review Committees across the country. These committees are asked to choose one Scholar from each state and can forward the name of an additional Scholar from the region.
Occasionally, a Regional Review Committee may not feel any of the Finalists meet the criteria for selection as a Truman Scholar. In those situations, the scholarship will be rolled over into the next year when two may be awarded from that state.
Competitive applications should have:
- An extensive record of campus and community service;
- Steadfast commitment to a career in government or elsewhere in public service;
- A well-articulated vision of how to create change in their area of interest; and,
- An academic record likely to lead to acceptance in the graduate program of the candidate's choice.
Very few candidates are strong in all areas. Each year we select a number of Scholars who have gaps in their application. In general, the record of campus and community service and the commitment to a career in public service are the most important criteria. We generally do not advance candidates with strong grades who lack leadership or a commitment to public service.
Grades are less important than the leadership or public service record. The Foundation is much more interested in a student's transcript than their GPA. A challenging selection of coursework, even with a lower GPA, will be rated higher than a perfect GPA in less challenging courses. Additionally, the Foundation views a student's academic performance in light of the graduate school plan they propose.
While most Truman applicants have outstanding academic credentials, an application with outstanding academics, but little public service or leadership, will not be successful.
Most nominees who make a commitment to the competition and accept guidance from their Truman Advisor will:
- Clarify their career goals;
- Get a better sense of the most appropriate graduate degree program for their interests;
- Become more aware of their strengths, interests, and ways to prepare for their career;
- Improve their writing skills and, if they become Finalists, enhance their interviewing skills;
- Get a head start in preparing applications for graduate education and scholarship competitions in the senior year; and
- Have an experience for learning and personal growth that is not normally possible in the classroom.
Candidates must be US Citizens, currently engaged in study at an accredited US-based institution, graduating within the time established by the Foundation and planning on a career in public service.
Unfortunately, no. We can only accept applications from US Citizens and "non-citizen residents" of American Samoa. Students in the process of being awarded U.S. citizenship will need to become citizens prior to the date of the award (usually in late May of the year of selection).
If you are graduating in three or fewer years, you would apply in your final year. If you are graduating in four or more years, you would apply in your penultimate year.
The Foundation defines public service as employment government at any level, uniformed services, public interest organizations, nongovernmental research and/or education organizations, public and private schools, and public-service orientated nonprofit organizations such as those whose primary purposes are to help needy or disadvantaged persons or to protect the environment.
Generally, we consider public service to be anywhere whose website ends in .org, .gov, .mil or .edu.
We are willing to fund any degree so long as it is likely to lead to a public service career. We have many Truman Scholars who seek juris doctors or master's and doctoral degrees in public administration, public policy, public health, international relations, government, economics, social services, education, urban planning, conservation and environmental protection. Some Scholars have pursued degrees in the medical or physical science.
We rarely support MBAs as these degrees are usually not likely to lead to careers in public service and are often not the best option for the path suggested by the applicant. There are, of course, exceptions. If you believe that you fall into that category, you must make the connection between the MBA and your future career in public service very clear to the committee.
Yes. We have funded degrees in a number of countries. We do not prioritize either domestic or international degrees. We are looking for the degree that makes the most sense for the path you propose in your application.
The Foundation seeks Scholars who plan to have an impact on a particular issue or community. Whether this impact would best be felt via policy change, direct services, or advocacy is up to the individual Scholar
Yes, provided your school is willing to nominate you. If you are off campus in a study abroad program, you will still be required to attend the interview in person if you are selected as a Finalist. We also recommend that you work closely with your Advisor in the spring of your sophomore year to prepare for the interview and application process.
Truman Scholars Leadership Week (TSLW) is a required part of the scholarship. If you do not attend, you will not be named a Truman Scholar.
You may defer the Truman or use it in conjunction with another scholarship. However, you may not receive more funds than the cost of education as stipulated by the institution. Truman funds can only be used to cover tuition, room and board, books up to $1000 and mandatory fees. Some other scholarships have conditions on whether they can be used with Truman - please check with them for details.
How to Apply
In order to formally apply, students must be nominated by their institution in a process conducted by the Truman Advisor. The process may vary from institution to institution. Please contact the Advisor at your institution as soon as possible as several schools have early deadlines. A listing of Advisors is available under Find an Advisor.
Your Advisor will need to register you to use the on-line system. You can also see sample forms in the Advice and Guidance section.
Applications must include:
- The application form and policy proposal;
- A nomination letter from your institution;
- Three additional letters of recommendation; and
- A transcript.
All of these materials will be submitted on line. Your Advisor will be responsible for uploading your letters and transcript.
So long as a transcript is legible and your Advisor believes it to be authentic, we are happy to receive either official or unofficial transcripts. We strongly suggest using whichever transcript results in no cost to the student.
If the transcript from your nominating institution includes the dates, name and grades from your prior course work or study abroad, we do not need a separate transcript from those institutions. If you cannot get a transcript from a study abroad program in time for the deadline, your Advisor can file a letter listing your coursework and provide a copy to the Foundation after the deadline.
Candidates compete by their state of permanent residence. Residence is determined by two of the following three things:
- Home address for school registration;
- Parent's home address; and,
- Place of registration to vote.
Most students are eligible to apply either through their parent's home address or through their school address, depending on where the student is registered to vote. If a student is unable to meet two of these three criteria, we will consider other factors. The Advisor should contact the Foundation for clarification.
Some applicants will be able to apply from two states as most schools have both a local and family address on file. Selection criteria are the same in every state, so selecting one location over another will not increase the likelihood of your receiving a scholarship. Instead, you may select based on either the date of the interview or your connections to or likelihood of staying in one state over another.
Yes. Unlike TSLW, Summer Institute is optional. If you are electing not to come, however, you will need to provide information on what you plan to do instead.
The application is not binding. Many Scholars change their plans after being selected. In fact, we spend a good deal of time asking Scholars to reconsider their plans for graduate school and beyond.
You are fine so long as you still plan to pursue a career in public service.
Absolutely. We encourage all Truman Scholars to defer the award for at least one year. Scholars have four years of automatic deferral and may have additional years of deferral upon request.
Deadlines and Other Important Numbers
Applications are due, by 11:59 pm in your time zone, on the first Tuesday in February. Your school may have an earlier deadline; please consult with your Advisor.
Approximately 800 applications are forwarded to the Truman Foundation.
We select between 55 and 65 Scholars.