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Goldwater Essay Prompt

The Goldwater Scholarship (honoring Senator Barry M. Goldwater) awards sophomore and junior students up to a maximum of $7500 annually for tuition, books, fees, and room and board. Its aim is to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scholars to work as scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. Students are chosen based on their commitment and potential to make significant future contributions in their fields, and it is expected that Goldwater Scholars will pursue graduate degrees.

The Goldwater Scholarship Selection Criteria

Goldwater applications are reviewed by an independent committee appointed by the Goldwater Foundation, and the committee’s selection criteria include:

  • potential for a commitment to a career in the sciences, engineering, or mathematics, as demonstrated by the student’s overall application;
  • excellence in academic performance.

As with many other national scholarships, candidates for the Goldwater are nominated by their institutions, and final selection of Goldwater Scholars is made by the Goldwater Board of Trustees, which reviews the assessment made by both the nominating institution and the independent selection committee.

Answering the Goldwater Essay Questions and Writing the Nominee’s Essay

The last few questions of the Goldwater application invite narrative responses, with approximate length dictated by the size of the space available to answer the questions. These three questions involve the applicant’s professional aspirations, personal motivations, and diversity (broadly defined). Clearly, a lot of flexibility is built into answering such questions, and students tend to approach these questions accordingly, narrating personal anecdotes and information about their families to let the selectors know what kind of people they are. While still emphasizing science and research, past applicants have shared information about a childhood or other formative experience, the desire to become a professor or write a textbook, their ethnic background, and even information about hardships of their parents. In answering these questions—especially the question inviting comments on diversity—it is important to be genuine and sound natural in your examples. Readers tend to sniff out and suspect aspirations that reach too high, or motivations that are insincere, or diversity that is forced.

For the nominee’s essay (limited to two pages), you must describe an issue or problem associated with your field and describe any related ongoing or intended research. Most writers document any sources cited in APA Style (click here to visit the University of Wisconsin-Madison pages on APA Style), and they are especially careful to credit sources of information and graphics as well as clarify their exact role in the research project. Your aim is to show how you can excel in a research environment, or work as part of a design team, or contribute to the understanding of a technical problem. Remember, too, that members of the selection panel will have the expertise to understand a complex problem in your field, and be certain to present detail accordingly.

Evaluation of Two Sample Sets of Goldwater Application Essays

In the pdf link below, two sample Goldwater essay sets are provided. Note how both writers show a facility with presenting themselves as budding scientists.

In answering the narrative questions, the first writer stresses his aspiration to lead a team of researchers studying pollution control in industrial chemical processes, and cites specific problems he has encountered in his current research on bacteria growth. His tone is almost philosophical at times, discussing the rewards of both achievement and failure in the sciences, and he notes that he is the first in his family to pursue a technical degree. His nominee’s essay stresses the long-term goal of his research in bacterial adhesion, and he carefully describes his team’s use of video microscopy to record particles as they adhere to bacteria.

The second writer addresses the narrative questions by outlining her participation in programs related to women in science and her personal aspirations, ranging from serving as part of a NASA research team to working as a glass blower at a Renaissance Faire. Her diversity background is grounded in her hailing from a highly rural area (even her influential father is a “senior bank auditor but country man at heart”). Finally, her nominee’s essay, addressing the goal to improve the durability of window glass, offers precisely detailed information even to the extent of giving exact nanometer depths that yielded different data points. Such an approach closely resembles a technical abstract that would appear in a journal. Significantly, this student did receive a Goldwater Scholarship.

Click here to download a pdf of two sets of Goldwater Scholarship application essays by former students.

Self-Study

When you apply for the Goldwater Scholarship program, the process begins at the Goldwater website, which includes a transcript request form for your secondary school, a supporting documents checklist, and candidacy information and instructions.

Visit the Goldwater Scholarship website.

 

About the Goldwater Scholarship
Eligibility
Application Instructions for University Nomination
Campus Deadline & National Deadline
Applicant Resources
Recent USC Goldwater Recipients


About the Goldwater Scholarship

Barry Goldwater Scholarships are awarded to outstanding undergraduates who are studying mathematics, natural sciences or engineering and who intend to pursue a research career. The scholarship awards up to $7,500 for the remaining year(s) of study at USC. Desired qualities of applicants include a highly competitive grade point average, demonstrated research experience and commitment and potential to make a significant contribution to the fields of mathematics, natural sciences or engineering.  Applicants interested in pursuing medicine must demonstrate a desire for medical research, rather than medical practice.  USC may nominate a maximum of four candidates, dividing the nominations between the Viterbi School of Engineering and Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences.

USC may nominate up to four applicants each year for the Goldwater Scholarship.

For additional information, visit the Goldwater website here.


Eligibility

Goldwater applicants must:

  • Be a full-time matriculated sophomore or junior pursuing a degree at an accredited 2- or 4-year institution of higher education during the 2017-2018 academic year,
    • **If you are a current PDP student, you must enroll in at least 12 units of undergraduate coursework each semester following grant receipt (In other words, recipients need to be classified as an undergraduate rather than a graduate student while receiving the Goldwater Scholarship.)
  • Intend to pursue a research career in a natural science, mathematics or engineering,*
  • Have a college grade point average of at least a 3.00 on a 4.00 scale (Please note Goldwater is very competitive and the average GPA of 2017 recipients was 3.96)
  • Be a U.S. citizen from the 50 states or the District of Columbia; a U.S. national for those students nominated by institutions in Puerto Rico, Guam, Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands; or a permanent resident. A permanent resident nominated for the scholarship must include a letter stating his/her intent to become a U.S. citizen. A photocopy of the nominee’s Permanent Resident Card, also known as the Alien Registration Card or Green Card, must also be submitted.

* The natural sciences, engineering and mathematics fields and sub-fields used by the Goldwater Foundation to determine eligibility are those used by the National Science Foundation for its Graduate Research Fellowship Program. These include: Chemistry, Computer and Information Sciences and Engineering, Engineering, Geosciences, Life Sciences, Materials Research, Mathematical Sciences, Physics and Astronomy, and Psychology. View all fields and sub-fields. 

While research in medicine is not supported by the National Science Foundation, students interested in pursuing careers in medicine or veterinary medicine are eligible for a Goldwater Scholarship IF RESEARCH IS A CENTRAL PART OF THE STUDENT’S CAREER GOALS.


Applicant Instructions for University Nomination

Phase 1:

  1. Thoroughly review the Goldwater Scholarship website to understand eligibility and application criteria.
  2. Schedule an appointment with Katie Capra to review the requirements of the Goldwater Scholarship by November 10, 2017.
  3. Complete a Goldwater Scholarship Student Profile and Pre-Application.

Phase 2:

Students seeking the University’s nomination will submit the following materials via email to Erica Lovano McCann lovano@usc.edu by Sunday, December 10, 2017 by 11:59pm. Please submit materials #1-7 compiled together as as one PDF in the order below.  Be sure to include the prompts of the essays for questions #1-2.

1. What are your career goals and professional aspirations? Indicate which area(s) of mathematics, science or engineering you are considering pursuing in your research career and specify how your current academic program and your overall educational plans will assist you in achieving your career goals and professional aspirations. (3,000 characters max)

2. Describe an activity or experience that has been important in helping shape or reinforce your desire to pursue a research career in science, mathematics or engineering. (1,500 characters max)

3. Research essay (See instructions here)

4. Resume (include all research activities)

5. OASIS Grade Report or official USC transcript(s)

6. Transcripts from previous institutions (if you are a transfer student)

7. Permanent Residents: 1 copy of your Permanent Resident card, and letter of intent to become a U.S. citizen.

8. Three Letters of Recommendation – Recommenders should email letters directly to Erica Lovano McCann lovano@usc.edu and title letter, “Dear Goldwater Scholarship Review Committee”

PLEASE NOTE the Goldwater Campus Representative will not reach out to your recommenders on your behalf.  It is your responsibility to request the three letters of recommendation and provide faculty the following instructions:

The mission of the Goldwater Foundation and its scholarship program is to help develop the nation’s next generation of researchers in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering. Your letter should discuss the nominees overall potential and, in particular, the nominee’s potential to become a successful research scientist, mathematician or engineer. It is important, of course, for you to describe the context in which you know the student and for how long you have known the student. Do you see in this student the motivation, creative thought, stamina and ability to collaborate that are characteristics of those successfully practicing in these areas? Particularly helpful to the reviewers are your comparisons of the nominee to other students you have known and worked with who have successfully pursued doctoral degrees and/or have previously won Goldwater Scholarships or other nationally competitive awards. If there are any special circumstances or challenges the student has had to face that have negatively affected the student’s performance or that the student has faced and has successfully addressed and performed well in spite of these challenges, please discuss these in your letter.  Tips for writing a Letter of Recommendation for Goldwater Scholarship nominees can be found on the Goldwater website at: https://goldwater.scholarsapply.org/application-tips-for-references/

NOTE: If selected as a USC Goldwater nominee, you will be given access to the complete Goldwater application.


Important Deadlines

Campus Deadline

Sunday, December 10, 2017 by 11:59pm

National Deadline

Friday, January 26, 2018 by 5pm CST


USC Applicant Resources


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