Faculty members play many critical roles in a successful program of identifying and mentoring potential nominees for nationally competitive scholarships.
Identifying potential scholarship candidates
- When you encounter exceptional students in your classes or elsewhere at the university, please encourage them to make an appointment with the National Scholarship Office.
- Some students are so modest about their accomplishments and capabilities that they will not put themselves forward for such awards without the strong encouragement of faculty that they know and respect.
Mentoring scholarship candidates
- Encourage students to take challenging classes from your colleagues who you think will be able to inspire the best work from the students.
- Invite and encourage top students to attend lectures and other events that will broaden and deepen their education.
- If you are hosting a visiting scholar, consider inviting two or three top students to join you when you take the speaker out for lunch or dinner. These informal settings are wonderful opportunities for these students to learn and practice interview skills.
- If students you know are applying for national scholarships, offer to review their application materials several times throughout the application process as they make changes and get feedback from different sources.
- Seek out information about the scholarship for which the student is applying so you can effectively tailor your feedback to address the criteria that will be used to judge the student's application.
- Be frank and honest in your feedback. If the applicant does not get critical feedback, their application will not likely rise to the level that will make them competitive.
Writing letters of recommendation
- Offer to write letters of recommendation for national scholarships only if you have the time to write a detailed, thoughtful letter that will clearly set the student apart from his or her classmates.
- Seek out information about the scholarship for which the student is applying, so you can effectively tailor your letter to address the criteria that will be used to judge the student's application.
- Write a draft of the letter and ask a colleague — or two — or the National Scholarship Coordinator to give you feedback on the letter. Use the feedback you receive to fine tune your letter.
- Make sure that the letter has no spelling or grammatical errors, that the formatting is appropriate for a letter of recommendation and that the letter is properly addressed to the committee that will be reviewing the student's application.
- Have the letter done at least a day or two before the deadline that the student has shared with you. The students have enough issues that they stress out about when applying for these nationally competitive awards don't make getting your letter done on time another issue about which they need to worry.
Serving on campus nominating committees
- If you are asked to serve on a campus nominating committee, consider it an honor that someone recommended you to the National Scholarship Office.
- Take the time to review the application materials carefully and provide careful feedback and comments to the student if they are nominated to represent VCU in the national competition.
- Remember that most students who apply are going to be inexperienced in interview situations. Try to make them comfortable and create a pleasant and memorable experience. There will be time later on to critique their personal interview styles and approaches.
Serving on mock interview panels
- Mock interviews are arranged to prepare VCU's nominees for the possibility of being interviewed as national finalists. Several of these are held during the time the student is working on their application and then after the application has been submitted.
- Follow the directions from the national scholarship coordinator for any particular mock interview. Some are more scripted than others. Some mock interviews are designed to expose the applicant to as many questions as possible that they might expect to get in a national interview; others are designed to poke holes in the candidate's application that can be fixed before it is submitted to the national competition.
- As appropriate, suggest additional resources that might help the candidate to improve his or her application or preparation for a potential interview.