Tips from a Grant Reviewer

My job involves reading more than 300 study abroad grant applications each year.

Your job is to convince me and other grant reviewers that we should award you thousands of dollars instead of giving it to someone else.

Here are some tips that may help:

  • This is the first thing the reviewers see, so make yourself look good with a professional, academic résumé.
  • Skip high school detail, unless it’s relevant to your study abroad application.
  • Review the online resume resources provided by the Career Development Center.

This is probably the most important part of the application, and it’s the section where many students blow it! Think it through, and remember, Honors College grants are for study abroad, not vacation abroad.

You need to:

  • Thoroughly describe the intended study abroad program and tell us specifically which courses you plan on taking.
  • Justify the academic caliber of the program.
  • Tell us how this program is relevant to your field of study and/or professional goals.
  • You need to make the case for the program’s educational/professional value beyond, “I can get courses that count toward my degree while getting more well-rounded by experiencing a different culture.”

You will need one letter of recommendation or a recommendation form from a University of Arkansas faculty member (NOT UA staff members, your boss, your youth minister, your state representative or Aunt Ethel).

Without strong faculty letters, chances of funding are very slim, so be sure to:

  • Discuss your selected program and how it fits in your curriculum and professional goals.
  • Take your study abroad essay with you when you request a letter, and share the  Recommendation Guidelines with your faculty recommender.
  • Faculty members are busy! Give them at least 3 weeks’ notice.
  • For some solid, general advice on letters of recommendation, check out Rec Letters Count: Tips from Two Pros.


Questions about Honors College study abroad grants should be directed to Chelsea Hodge at or 479-575-3127. Questions about specific study abroad programs should go to an advisor with the Office of Study Abroad.


Scenario 1
"I will select 4 courses to take from the 35 courses in the catalog. I have attached a copy of the catalog for your convenience. One class will be an engineering course and the others will serve as humanities electives."

You need to specify the courses you intend to take and why they are important to you. Be sure to give us course names and numbers.

Scenario 2
"I'm going to China to take an intensive Chinese language program, and I can't tell you yet what courses I'll be taking."

Tell us how the program will determine your placement, and what types of courses will be available to you.

Scenario 3
"I have always dreamed of going to Florence, Italy and this is my big chance with your funding. The main thing this program will do for me is to help me become more well-rounded and I will understand people from other cultures better."

Beware of sounding like you're planning your dream vacation! Start by looking for a program that meets your goals, and then look to countries that offer programs that will help you meet them. Remember that it's a given that foreign travel will help you become more well rounded. In your application, focus on how this specific program will further your educational and professional goals.

Scenario 4
"As a nurse, I want to work with pregnant Hispanic women in Northwest Arkansas on prenatal health. This study abroad in Spain will help me become fluent and understand the Hispanic culture of the women I will be working with."

The culture in Spain is very different from U. S. Latino culture. Studying Spanish in a Latin American country would better prepare you for working with Spanish speakers in Northwest Arkansas.

Scenario 5
"My selected program is the university's Belize study abroad. I don't know what material the class will cover or what we will be doing, but I know that it will be a great experience and it is a good program."

In the event that your selected program has not yet defined the project, check with the professor and ask her/him to share past projects that were completed, which you can provide as examples. An outline of topics to be covered and program objectives would be helpful, as well.

Scenario 6
"You can't find a better candidate to fund."

This comes across very poorly to our grant reviewers. Tell us why you are a strong candidate.

Scenario 7
"I want to go to the Newcastle program in Australia because they have the exact same classes that I can get here at the U of A."

The reviewer will wonder, why go to Australia?

Scenario 8
"I chose the summer study abroad in Costa Rica because I didn't want to go somewhere with cold weather, I didn't want to go during the regular semester, I didn't want to go to Europe like everyone else, and I don't want to go somewhere that I won't know anybody going."

A reviewer reading this statement would conclude that the student is choosing a program for the wrong reasons. You need to make the case that this particular program will help you meet your educational and professional goals.

Scenario 9
"I will be interning with BMW in Germany and I will be getting 6 hours of U of A credit for it from Dr. Smith, my thesis advisor."

You cannot use a study abroad grant to fund internships or thesis research. These grants are intended to fund a true study abroad experience. Check out the new Honors College International Internship Grant instead.

Scenario 10

"I will be taking classes that teach me how to share my faith with others."

Honors College funding cannot be used for religious mission work. 

Scenario 11

"My great grandfather was an immigrant from Ireland, and I have always wanted to visit my ancestral homeland. This study abroad program is an opportunity to do so."

This statement does not explain the academic or professional benefits of the study abroad program.

Scenario 12
"Mrs. Gattis,
I am extremely displeased that you sent me an email saying that you weren't giving me my study abroad grant money. I spent a lot of time putting my application together and I am a 4.0 student and I deserved this money and I shouldn't have to pay for this on my own. You need to tell me who I need to talk to so that I can appeal this bad and unjust decision This is not the end of this issue."

We realize that it can be disappointing to hear that your grant application was not successful. Take reviewer comments to heart and keep them in mind next time you apply.

Be sure to address people appropriately. Don't use Mrs., Ms. or Mr. if Dr. is the appropriate title.

And, very important: wait 24 hours before sending an email questioning a grant decision. You always want to be professional in email communications.