Goldwater Scholarship Overview

Jea Adams '21 Goldwater Scholar History and Purpose
The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry M. Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years of service in the U.S. Senate. The purpose of the Foundation is to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue careers in these fields. The Foundation is supported by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Fund, which has been established in the Treasury of the United States. Funding for awards and administrative expenses derives from interest on the Trust Fund, invested in U.S. securities.

Award description & funding details: The Foundation awards up to 300 undergraduate scholarships annually on the basis of merit to sophomores and juniors who have outstanding potential and intend to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences, or engineering. Each scholarship covers eligible expenses for undergraduate tuition, fees, books, and room and board, up to a maximum of $7,500.00 annually (non-transferable between years). Rising junior scholarship recipients are eligible for a maximum of two years of scholarship support; rising seniors for a maximum of one year. Scholars may opt to study abroad, but their Goldwater funding will be based on their US institution’s budget. Scholars must consult with the Foundation prior to signing up for an overseas program. In addition to the funding, Goldwater Scholars join a network of Scholars and may participate in regional meetups, and informational webinars on grad school, careers, and fellowships.

COVID-19 Note: The Goldwater Foundation has made these provisions for changes to students' GPAs and research opportunities due to COVID-19. 

Eligibility: Applicants must have/be

  • a United States citizen, a permanent resident, or, in the case of nominees from American Samoa or the Commonwealth of the Mariana Islands, a United States national.  Nominations from permanent residents must include a letter of the nominee's intent to obtain U.S. citizenship and a photocopy of the Permanent Resident Card (formerly known as the Alien Registration Card)
  • a full-time matriculated sophomore or junior (two years or one year of study remaining).
  • at least a “B” average or the equivalent and be in the top quarter of the class; GPA 3.7+ recommended

Strong candidates will

  • have had the opportunity to participate in research, have independently investigated theory, or an issue related to their field of interest
  • typically have been awarded internships in research facilities or worked as lab assistants
  • have been involved in mathematics/science/engineering related student organizations or employment; have participated early in graduate courses; or have other related accomplishments outside the classroom
  • typically be planning to pursue doctoral degrees; those interested in medicine are only eligible if planning to do research; students planning a career in teaching science/math are not strong candidates

How to Apply

Candidates must apply through a campus process which includes submitting the Goldwater online application (which opens on Sept. 1st) by the internal deadline, and request that recommendation letters be submitted to the Office of Fellowships by that deadline as well.  There are no interviews for the Goldwater. All applications are reviewed by a faculty committee, and endorsement decisions are made based on the application materials. Endorsed candidates have the opportunity to make any advised revisions to their applications before the final deadline. The Director of fellowships will upload the recommendations, the transcript(s), and the nomination letter, then submit the application. Read further details about the application components here. Amherst may nominate up to four candidates, plus one additional if that person has transferred to Amherst from a community college.

Internal deadline: JANUARY 5, 2021; Deadline for nominees: JAN 22, 2021

Application materials: The Goldwater application includes a main essay in which the candidate describes a research project, as well as several other components. Read about the application components here.

National Review Process

In the past, Goldwater candidates were evaluated in pools by state of residence. As of 2020, candidates will be evaluated by discipline in order to identify and support the strongest students in each disciplinary area. Nevertheless, reviewers will be broadly trained in the sciences, engineering and mathematics but not necessarily subject matter experts in the applicant's discipline. Formerly the Foundation awarded Honorable Mentions as well as Scholars. As of 2020, they will name 450-460 applicants as Scholars,with no Honorable Mentions. They expect 35-40% of applicants to be named Scholars.

Guidelines for Recommenders

Content: The mission of the Goldwater Foundation and its scholarship program is to help develop the nation’s next generation of researchers in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering. Your letter should discuss the candidate's overall potential and, in particular, his potential to become a successful research scientist, mathematician or engineer. It is important, of course, for you to describe the context in which you know the student and for how long you have known the student. Do you see in this student the motivation, creative thought, stamina and the ability to collaborate that are characteristics of those successfully practicing in these areas? Particularly helpful to the reviewers are your comparisons of the nominee to other students you have known and worked with who have successfully pursued doctoral degrees and/or have previously won Goldwater Scholarships or other nationally competitive awards. If there are any special circumstances or challenges the student has had to face that have negatively affected the student’s performance or that the student has faced and has successfully addressed and performed well in spite of these challenges, please discuss these in your letter. See further advice from the Goldwater Foundation.

Format and submission: Goldwater letters are REQUIRED (by the Foundation) to be no more than TWO pages, have one-inch margins on all sides, be single spaced, use 12 pt font (typeface is unspecified), and be printed on letterhead. Please save your signed letter as a PDF file and send it via email attachment to Christine Overstreet ( by JANUARY 5, 2021. Our office will upload your letter to the Goldwater portal. 

Christine Overstreet, Director of Fellowships
212 Converse Hall, 413-542-2536,                         
Mailing address: Office of Fellowships, Amherst College, 212 Converse Hall, Amherst, MA 01002; Fax: 413-542-8555

Winners and Honorable Mentions
The most recent Amherst College students to be awarded the Goldwater Scholarship are Jea Adams '21 (pictured above), Ryan McMillan '20, Alexander Frenett '18, and Donna Leet '15. Recently, Xialing Yu '15, and Kai Isaak-Ellers '18  were awarded honorable mentions in the competition.

Image icon 2020.Adams,Jea21.GoldwaterScholar.jpg109.03 KB