The Basics

Here are some "do’s and don’ts": the basics of the application process.

Police yourself

  • Do what is asked of you exactly.
  • Follow up to make sure materials are not just requested but received.
  • If there is an item you can’t supply, be sure to include a separate explanatory statement.
  • If your application is not absolutely complete you won’t make it past the first gatekeeper, and the selection committee will never see it.


  • Getting something, anything, on the computer can be the hardest part.
  • Stream thoughts from your brain onto the page without judging or filtering.

Be absolutely honest

  • Don’t overstate accomplishments, claim credit for what should be shared, etc.
  • Don’t propose a study and career plan only to conform to this scholarship.  Scholarship readers are good at spotting this!

It’s okay to toot your own horn 

(In fact, it’s mandatory!)

  • What may feel like “bragging” is a part of building your case. Where it fits, mention awards, accomplishments, involvement, or even worthy compliments and what is behind themthese facts are evidence that you are the right kind of person with the right kind of goals to meet the scholarship's criteria. You may wish to add what these accomplishments have meant to you and how they have helped shape your plans and goals.

Think strategically

  • Write to the organization's criteria for selection. Think strategically as you choose your words, anecdotes, and examples.
  • Whatever the criteria for selection, your application as a whole should demonstrate that you have ALL of these attributes.
  • Use every essay to demonstrate one or more facets of how you meet the criteria.
  • Make your answers work for you on all possible levels.

Don’t quit halfway!

If you have read everything you can get your hands on about this scholarship, and you truly believe you are the kind of person the organization wants to fund, then:

  • Don’t get busy and decide the pressures of the moment are more important than your future, and
  • Don’t second-guess the selection committee and decide for them that you’ll never get it.

Involve others

  • Seeking feedback from one or more knowledgeable people in your discipline before submitting your application is not only allowed, but encouraged by most funding organizations.  Prepare your application early to have plenty of time to rewrite in response to feedback.
  • Also ask  friends, parents, or others you respect to weigh in on the application.
  • Don't hesitate to contact the Writing Center to help you with punctuation, grammar, style, and/or organization if needed.
  • The scholarship coordinator is available for additional advice, especially on national or international scholarships/fellowships.  If you plan to apply for a scholarship requiring NAU nomination, be sure to notify and work with the scholarship coordinator or other designated NAU representative.

Play it safe

  • Back up your files frequently.
  • Keep a copy of all your drafts and especially your final application/essays. 
  • Don't push the deadline. Allow time for the website to be overcrowded, FedEx to run late due to a hurricane, or the scholarship coordinator to suggest last-minute changes. Plan to have everything done a week in advance.