Crafting a Competitive Gilman Essay: Tips


Okay, so, I see that you have decided to apply for Gilman! GREAT! Let’s get started on crafting an essay that will give you a better chance of winning a scholarship to study abroad. As a Gilman recipient I remember being stressed! I had other assignments to do, exams etc you name it, and to make matters worse, my classes clashed with the work shops provided by the Study Abroad Office.  So, I thought all hope was lost. I didn’t have anyone to help truly guide me in this part of applying. So, here are a few tips to help if you run into the same circumstances I faced!

Step One: Don’t fall into pessimistic thinking! Speak it into existence! Claim it and it will be yours.

If you cant attend the workshops which I highly recommend, pull up good ol Dr. Google and begin searchin’ and readin’. There are SO MANY resources available online to help you craft a competitive essay. Even the Gilman website gives tips. Youtube is also a great place to go if you do not have time to read through various articles explaining how to write this essay. I will post a link for the example essay I used to craft my essay.

Step 2: Set aside enough time so that you can REVISE, REVISE and REVISE some more.

This is really something that can’t be written in one night! I would advise to not revise so much that your personal voice is gone and it sounds like a robot wrote your essay. It is okay to use “I” unlike in the academic writing we are used to. Make sure that there aren’t any grammatical errors or if you choose to provide intimate details about your life don’t cut it short, DETAIL IS GOOD. Use all of the characters and words they give you! They want to know who you are and why they should give you money. TAKE THIS VERY SERIOUSLY! Here are a few tips I would give you when it comes to the actual content.

  • Be yourself and I mean really yourself, The people reviewing your essay will read a thousand other ones, STAND OUT 
  • Tell them how studying abroad will help you life/career  goals and or your community
  • STRESS the need for financial assistance, everyone applying receives a Pell Grant, so they know money is the issue
  • DETAIL, the paper is the only representation they have of you, this is a time when you can tell your whole life story and someone will actually want to hear it
  • Get Personal
  • Let them know why you choose a specific study abroad program
  • Make your opening sentence intriguing and your opening paragraph concise like a thesis statement.
  • Give a timeline! It’s okay to talk about past experiences, but make sure you make them relevant to you present and future.
  • Talk about the city you will be in

Step 3:  Email me and I’ll give you feedback []       

If you ever get stuck, as a Gilman recipient/Alumni and a UMKC graduate, I am here to help anyone who wants to study abroad. It was one of the best experiences of my life and if I can help someone get abroad it would be my honor.

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Gabrielle Hull is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Sociology, Psychology and French.  Gabrielle is a Gilman Scholar who studied abroad with the UMKC French Summer Program in Lyon, France. Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Gabrielle is active on campus, participating in the multi-cultural sorority Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority, Inc. Gabrielle hopes to use her French language ability to advocate for those who can’t speak for themselves after graduation.