Truman Scholarship for Public Service
Location: United States Experience Type: Fellowships / Graduate School Fellowship / Junior Fellowship / Public Service Fellowship / Sophomore Fellowship
The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation – the federal memorial to our thirty-third President – awards merit-based scholarships to college students who plan to pursue careers in government or elsewhere in public service. Truman Scholars receive up to $30,000 for graduate or professional school, participate in leadership development activities, and have special opportunities for internships and employment with the federal government.
Truman seeks to fund “change agents” who, in time, plan to improve the ways that government agencies, nonprofit organizations, or educational institutions serve the public.
Each nominee for the Truman Scholarship must be:
- a full-time junior-level student. For undergraduates applying in the 2022-23 academic year, ‘Junior’ here means a student who plans to continue full-time undergraduate study and who expects to receive a baccalaureate degree between December 2023 and August 2024, or a student in their third year of collegiate study who expects to graduate during the 2023-2024 academic year;
- in the upper quarter of their class*; and
- a United States citizen or a United States national from American Samoa. Permanent Residents (green card holders) are not eligible.
*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.
A good candidate for the Truman Scholarship meets the above eligibility requirements and also:
- has an extensive record of public and community service;
- has outstanding leadership potential and communication skills; and
- is committed to a career in government or elsewhere in public service, as defined by the Foundation.
The Foundation defines public service as employment in government at any level, uniformed services, public-interest organizations, nongovernmental research and/or educational organizations, public and private schools, and public service-oriented nonprofit organizations.
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.
Prior Service and Leadership Experience
Truman candidates should have participated extensively (usually for six months or more) in two or more of the following types of service activities:
- Student government and/or campus-based extracurricular activities;
- Community service-related activities that were not organized by my school or by my fraternity/sorority;
- Government internships, commissions or boards, advocacy or interest groups, nonpartisan political activities, or military/ROTC ;
- Partisan political activities and campaigns.
Most Truman Scholars also have a strong leadership track record, including developing new high-impact service programs and projects, founding on- and off-campus organizations, and/or serving as representatives on university or local committees tasked with reforming policy.
Whatever roles they may have held, and in whatever organizations, Truman Scholars can articulate how they have gone beyond the basic role and led teams to advance positive change. Each Truman Scholar has a unique model of leadership and high ambitions. For inspiration, see recent Truman Scholar bios, including UNL’s most recent Truman Scholar, Emily Johnson.
Research is not a requirement for Truman candidates; some have engaged in research (often focused on policy) or have plans to conduct honors thesis or other capstone projects before graduating.
Truman candidates must identify three reference writers. One must primarily address their leadership experience; one must primarily address commitment to public service, and one must primarily address academic success and preparedness for graduate study. These individuals should have observed related experiences and be able to confirm what the student writes in application short answers on these topics. More details about Truman references are here.
Endorsement (Nomination) Requirements
UNL may nominate up to four students annually. We may nominate up to 3 additional transfer students. No direct student applications will be considered. Nomination is often internally competitive.
The Foundation provides:
- Up to $30,000 toward a public service-related graduate degree. The Foundation has supported Truman Scholars in many fields of study, from agriculture, biology, engineering, technology, medicine, and environmental management, to fields such as economics, education, government, history, international relations, law, political science, public administration, nonprofit management, public health, and public policy.
- Truman Scholars Leadership Week. This event, held at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, introduces new Scholars to the services provided by the Foundation and the many pathways to public service. Scholars participate in seminars and workshops with distinguished Truman alumni and other public service leaders, a group exercise about policy implementation, a graduate school and career fair with representatives from the schools and programs most attended by Truman Scholars, and community service events in the Kansas City area; this event is required of all Scholars.
- Summer Institute. Immediately after college graduation, Scholars have the opportunity to participate in an eight-week Summer Institute in Washington, DC. The Foundation helps to arrange internships with government agencies and nonprofit organizations, seminars and workshops, meetings with Washington policymakers and Truman alumni, and opportunities for community building among Scholars.
- Truman-Albright and Other Fellows Program. After Summer Institute, Scholars may elect to stay in Washington, DC, for a full year in the Truman-Albright Fellows Program; Truman-Albright Fellows are placed in public service jobs while participating in workshops, seminars, and mentoring opportunities. Additional fellowship opportunities, outlined on the Truman website, are available for Scholars as they move through the early stages of their careers in public service.
Scholars are required to work in public service for three of the seven years following completion of a Foundation-funded graduate degree program as a condition of receiving funding. Scholars who are not employed in public service for a total of three years, or who fail to provide proof to the Foundation of such employment, will be required to repay any funds received along with interest.
Campus Deadline: Early November 2022
(for 2023-24 grant applicants)
Truman Applicant Advising & Endorsement Services
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Office of National & International Fellowships (NIF) promotes the Truman Scholarship on campus and provides advising and endorsement services to enrolled undergraduate applicants.
Truman applicants may email Ms. Courtney Santos, Director of National & International Fellowships (firstname.lastname@example.org) by early November for access to the online application.
After contacting NIF, eligible applicants will receive access to a Canvas course with resources for preparing an effective Truman application. Those who meet our internal draft deadlines also receive personalized, detailed feedback on their application drafts.
The campus endorsement (nomination) deadline is in mid-December each year. An internal committee, composed of faculty and/or staff from various disciplines, reviews the application to determine endorsement and provide feedback for the final revision to the candidate. The candidate then prepares and submits the final draft by our internal deadline, in mid-January, allowing our staff to upload the endorsement form and submit the complete application by the Truman national deadline.
Prospective Truman applicants are encouraged to make an appointment to meet with NIF advisors to discuss application strategy during the process of preparing the application.
Reference writers with questions may also email Ms. Courtney Santos, Director of National & International Fellowships (email@example.com).