Application Assistance

Applying to Boren Awards

We know that applying to anything can be a nerve-racking experience. There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of things to ask for, edit, and turn in, and with familial, professional, and academic obligations, we know it can be difficult to keep track of everything or even know where to begin.

Please keep in mind, the application materials and review process are considered and conducted completely by Boren representatives. Therefore, you should reference their specific guidelines and rules.

The space below will provide some general tips and additional clarity to the components of an application:

Completing Any Application

You might find the following information useful for the Boren application, as well as wherever else life takes you, be it a job application, further academic studies, scholarship applications, etc.

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Understanding Transcripts

Official Transcripts are printed on security paper or encrypted as a secure PDF.

Unofficial Transcripts are typically plain PDF’s that can be easily attained and shared.

Transcripts for the Boren application may be unofficial. Unofficial transcripts are often easier to request, obtain, and distribute. Because of those reasons, many institutions will ask for an unofficial transcript. However, you will find times when you are given the opportunity to provide either an unofficial or official copy of your transcripts.

Before choosing which type of transcript to send with your application, be sure to check if there are any limits to how many times you can request a transcript type. For example, many institutions only allow a set number of official transcript requests. In this circumstance, submitting an unofficial transcript may be more beneficial.

Do’s and Don’ts for requesting and submitting your transcript:

  • Do submit all of your most recent transcripts. If you have attended different institutions in the last two/three years include transcripts from both institutions.
  • Do submit your transcripts all at once. If you have to submit transcripts from different institutions, be sure to compile and send them, electronically if possible, at the same time. This reduces the potential of misplacing pieces of your application.
  • Do not submit a screenshot or other screen capture of your grades. Many times a screenshot will not include the same information as found in your transcript, such as when you took your courses, what grades you received, at what institution (s), etc. Without this information, in general, your transcript will not be accepted by the institution you are sending it to.
  • Do contact your institution early, especially if planning to request an official copy of your transcript. Transcripts can take time to receive. Official transcripts that are mailed can, at times, take weeks to arrive at the program/institution’s office you are sending it to. Be sure to know in advance of applying how long it might take for your transcript to be ordered and received.
  • Let the institution know if your transcript is taking longer than usual and you are worried about missing the deadline. Likely, they will understand that things happen. Just let them know and allow them the chance to work with you. Communication is key!

Asking for Recommendation Letters

Whether you’re applying to one of the Boren Awards programs, graduate programs, scholarships, etc., learning how to ask for a recommendation is an unavoidable skill. It may be uncomfortable to ask those you look up to to take time to talk about you, but know that those who you care about likely care about you too (and for many of them, it is an expected part of the job).

**Please reference the Boren recommendation guidelines, preferences, and recommender prompts.

The information below is a quick guide to finding recommenders and asking them for a letter.

Select someone who knows who you are. 
There is a misconception that you should ask a professor with a “big name” to write your letter of recommendation. While having someone well known in the field of your choice write you a recommendation can be beneficial, if the individual does not know you, their letter is going to come out unoriginal. You want to choose someone who knows you well enough to be able to talk about your strengths, weaknesses, and accomplishments. Now, if you truly want that “big name,” then you’re going to have to put in the work. Actually, with anyone you want to write a recommendation letter for you, you need to put in the work. Show up at office hours, volunteer or acquire a job helping with research, ask questions, be a person!

Ask in advance of your application deadlines.
Be sure to ask your recommenders – AT MINIMUM – three weeks prior to the application deadline. If possible, bring up the idea as you are in the early stages of the application process. The more you offer them in way of your goals and direction of the application, the better they will be able to tailor their recommendation to you and your goals.

How do you ask someone? If possible, doing so in person is a great option, though this can sometimes be difficult to arrange. You can also send them an email. Regardless of how you ask, be upfront and honest: explain your goals, what you are applying for, why you need a recommendation, and why you chose them.

You will receive one of two answers. Either they will say yes, in which you can celebrate and continue on reading. Or, they will say no. If this is the case, do not be angry. Thank them for their consideration and move on to finding another individual. A variety of situations can cause someone to say no to a recommendation, from being too busy, to being unavailable, to simply not feeling like they know you well enough. It does not matter why someone said no, what matters is finding individuals who are willing, but also available to provide you with a letter. These are the people who will write the best recommendation.

Give your recommenders your materials.
Once you have your faculty, advisors, employers, etc. who have agreed to write you your letters, provide them with a copy of your application materials. Include your statement (or if you don’t have that ready, your outline), any application essays or summaries of your goals, a list of activities, volunteer work, organizations you’re apart of, etc., relevant work or research experience, your transcript, class papers, etc.

You do not have to include all of these, but whatever you can provide will be incredibly helpful for your recommender to not only gain a sense of where you have been, but how they can assist you to get you to where you want to be.

Stay on top of application deadlines. 
Tell your recommenders in advance their deadline and how to submit their materials. Many places prefer recommenders to submit their letters themselves, however, this is not always the case. Know which institutions require them to directly submit their letter and which require you to submit the letter, and notify your recommenders what is required of them when submitting their letter.

What to do if your recommender has yet to submit their recommendation? If you notice that the deadline is quickly approaching or has passed but your letter has yet to be uploaded/received, send a kindly worded email to your recommender reminding them of the deadline and inquiring about the status of your letter. This is where asking your recommenders as early in advance as possible is helpful, as it gives them more time to submit your letter.

If you do miss a deadline, however, contact the place you are applying to. Simply restate your situation and ask if there is anything you can do in the meantime.

Always say thank you.
You’ve finally submitted your application! Congratulations! As one last step, send your recommenders a thank you note expressing your appreciation for their help and support throughout the application process.

As you begin receiving your responses, keep them in the loop. Let them know how you are doing and where you are going. Maintaining this relationship is going to be helpful in the future, regardless of where you go next.

If you do have any additional questions, the following resources might prove beneficial:


Writing a Personal Statement

The Personal Statement is one of the most important pieces of an application, but don’t let that scare you! Yes, it’s important, but it’s also the one time in your application to really show who you are.

**Boren has it’s own guidelines regarding Boren Essays, which you should most definitely review and follow.

Below are a few things to keep in mind as you write and polish your personal statement for various applications:

Before you even start writing, look at the guidelines. Usually, applications will have a list of expectations for their applicants personal statements. This could come in a variety of forms, such as length, questions that need to be answered, or academic or professional goals, to name a few. While some of these may seem like recommendations, stick to them as if they are rules.

If you’re not provided any sort of a guideline, here a few common rules to stick to:

  1. Keep your statement between 1 and 2 pages.
  2. Talk about what you’re applying for. If it’s a grad school program (or other program) address why you chose this program over others. Think about the location, the instructors, anything that drew you to this program and why. If it’s a scholarship, talk about why this scholarship? What makes you qualified? And explain it!
  3. Pick a memory or moment that showcases the values, experiences, and lessons that you want to discuss in your personal statement and talk about it. Did you have a really influential class that changed how you thought about a subject? Talk about that class and your experience! Did something happen in your personal life that was difficult and relevant to your academic and career past and future? If comfortable, talk about that. It does not have to be something extravagant. You do not need to have saved the world to tell a compelling and interesting story. You just have to be yourself.
  4. Talk about where you want to go. Why will attending this program help with your academic or professional goals? It’s okay to not have a five-year plan, but think about where you want to go and why this specific thing will help you get there.

Reviewers want to see who you are. The personal statements that succeed are those that do just that, so be honest, be clear, and be yourself. Good luck!

If you do need more help, the following resources have some really great information, and always, do not hesitate to reach out to SAFLI staff with any concerns: