FAQ - Candidates

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How do students apply for the Truman Scholarship?

Students must be nominated by their institution in a process conducted by the Truman Scholarship Faculty Representative.  The process may vary from institution to institution.  Please contact the Faculty Representative at your institution as soon as possible as several schools have early deadlines.  A listing of Faculty Representatives is available in our Faculty Rep Locator.

What if my school doesn't have a Faculty Rep?

You will need to find a faculty or staff member willing to serve in this capacity.  Please have them consult How to Become a Faculty Rep for more information.

What is the deadline for the annual Truman competition?

Applications are due, by 11:59 pm in your time zone, on the first Tuesday in February.  Your school may have an earlier deadline.

What must each application include?

Applications must include:  

  1. The application form and policy proposal;
  2. A nomination letter from your institution;
  3. Three additional letters of recommendation; and 
  4. A transcript.

All of these materials will be submitted on line.  Your Faculty Rep will be responsible for uploading your letters and transcript.

How many students are nominated each year?

Approximately 600 applications are forwarded to the Truman Foundation.  

How many Scholars are selected each year?

Between 55 and 65.

How are Truman Scholars selected?

First, the institution chooses its nominees in a procedure determined by the Faculty Rep.  Second, the Truman Finalist Selection Committee will review all writing applications and select approximately 200 students as Finalists.  Finally, a series of Regional Review Panels will conduct interviews and select the Truman Scholars.


How are the scholarships distributed?

The Foundation tries to have at least one Truman Scholar each year from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Islands (American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Virgin Islands).  The Foundation will also award more than one scholarship per state or territory if the selection committee agrees that two candidates are equally worthy.

The Foundation has high standards for the selection of Truman Scholars.  When an interview panel judges that no Finalist from a given state satisfactorily meets the selection criteria, no scholarship is awarded.  The scholarship will be carried over to next year when two or more are available.

What are the primary criteria for selection?

  1. Extensive record of campus and community service;
  2. Commitment to a career in government or the nonprofit and advocacy sectors;
  3. Communication skills and a high probability of becoming a "change agent"; and 
  4. Strong academic record with likely acceptance to the graduate school 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 do not select Finalists who have significant gaps in these areas.

How important are grades?

Grades are less important than the leadership or public service record, but are still significant.  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.

Is financial need a consideration?


Must candidates be U.S. Citizens?

Yes, except for persons from American Samoa who would be eliglible if they were born on American Samoa but considered "non-citizen residents."  Resident aliens (green card holders) are not eligible.  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).

What does the Foundation mean by "State of Permanent Residence?"

Candidates compete by their state of permanent residence.  Residence is determined by two of the following three things:  1.  Home address for school registration; 2. Parent's home address; and, 3.  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 Faculty Representative should contact the Foundation for clarification.

How does the Foundation define public service?

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.

Are certain degrees given priority?  Can I apply for the Truman if I am considering a degree in medicine or physical sciences?

Most Truman Scholars 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 medical, physical science or even business degrees - but those Scholars were able to clearly demonstrate how these degrees would further their careers in public service.

Does the Foundation prefer people who plan to do policy work over those who wish to provide direct services?

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.

Does the Foundation prefer people who plan to work on domestic issues over international issues?

The Foundation seeks Scholars who plan to work either domestically or internationally.

I will be off campus during my junior year.  Can I still apply?

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 Faculty Rep in the spring of your sophomore year to prepare for the interview and application process.

I don't think I can attend the Truman Scholars Leadership Week.  Can I still apply?

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.

I'm not sure about my graduate school plan.  What if I change my mind?

You can change your graduate school plan so long as you still wish to pursue a degree to further a career in public service.

I am thinking of taking time between undergraduate and graduate school.  May I still apply?

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.

What if I win the Truman and another graduate fellowship?

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.

Are there any benefits for nominees who are not selected as Truman Scholars?

Most nominees who make a commitment to the competition and accept guidance from the Truman Faculty Representative 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.