FAQ - Faculty Reps

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On Campus:

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.  Some schools conduct a truncated version of our application process while others are more informal.

Where can I find good Truman candidates?

Most good Truman candidates are the sort who are unlikely to sing their own praises - you will need to find them in their natural habitat.  Service-learning initiatives, campus religious groups, student government, advocacy groups and community outreach groups are often good audiences for the Truman message.

A student approached me about being a Truman Faculty Rep.  Now what?

Please consult How to Become a Faculty Rep for more information.

I'm not sure that one of our campus nominees is a particularly strong candidate.  Should I put them forward?

If you feel comfortable nominating the student, we are happy to accept the application.  We understand that a variety of factors may influence a school's decision to nominate an individual candidate - we would never allow our perception of an individual candidate to color our evaluation of other candidates from an institution.  If you feel the experience will be valuable to the student, please feel free to nominate them.

Deadlines and Requirements:

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 are free to set 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 student will submit the application and policy proposal for you to approve via our on-line system.  The nomination letter will be part of the form that you complete as part of the application itself.  The remaining materials - the three letters and transcript  -will be uploaded via our on-line system.

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 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.

My candidate has limited government experience, is this a problem?

That depends on the student's interests.  While politics or policy touches most aspects of public service, students who plan careers removed from this sphere might be successful even without government experience.  Students who plan to run for elected office or plan careers on the Hill should have commensurate government experience in order to be successful.

Is financial need a consideration?


Must candidates be U.S. Citizens?

Yes, except for persons from the Pacific Islands who are eligible only if they are U.S. nationals or permanent residents of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.  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).

My student will be off campus during the fall/spring semester.  Can I still nominate them?

Generally, if you are comfortable nominating the student you may do so.  In instances where a student is cross-registered at another institution or on leave, you may nominate so long as you are willing to certify that the student plans to return to your institution to complete their degree.  Please keep in mind that Finalists will be required to attend their interviews in person, regardless of where they are sending the semester.

My student is a senior by credits or participating in a five-year program.  Are they still eligible?

Yes.  We go by graduation date, not credit hours.  Students in their third or subsequent year would be eligible if they are graduating between December of the application year and August of the following year are eligible.  For example:  A student who plans to graduate in December 2020 or May 2021 would be eligible for the 2020 Truman application cycle.

My student is graduating early.  Are they still eligible?

Yes.  Students who are graduating in three (or fewer) years are eligible in their final year of study.

Public Service & Degree Selection:

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? 

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.  Scholars who are proposing multiple degrees will need to clearly state the case for why all degrees are needed to pursue their career in public service.

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

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.

The Selection Process:

How are Truman Scholars selected?

First, the institution chooses its nominees in a procedure determined by you.  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.

The Application:

My student doesn't think they can attend Truman Scholars Leadership Week.  Can my student still apply?

No.  This program is required of all Truman Scholars.

My student isn't planning to attend Summer Institute.  Will that harm their application?

No.  Your student should explain what their plans are in lieu of Summer Institution, but we expressly tell our readers not to penalize those students who elect not to attend Summer Institute.

My student is unsure about their graduate plan.  What if their mind changes?

Scholars can change their graduate school plan so long as they still plan to further a career in public service.

My student is planning to take time between undergraduate and graduate school.  Should they discuss this in the application?

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.

My student has a lot of partisan political activities.  Is that a problem?

No.  The Foundation is only concerned that the student is working for political causes or candidates in whom they believe.