How to Complete a Truman Scholarship Application


The Truman Scholarship Foundation advocates that you think of the application process as an opportunity to explore and refine past experiences and future goals. This process will hopefully make you a better graduate school applicant and someone who is prepared to handle difficult situations (like an interview). 

Applying for the Truman Scholarship will take planning and time. It will typically require you to start thinking about an application in the spring of your sophomore year (don't worry if you're late to the process). You'll work on the application materials in the summer between your sophomore and junior years and during the fall semester of your junior year. You will submit your materials by our internal deadline.

Step 1: Explore if Truman is right for you, with us

There are two big factors in your decision to apply for a Truman Scholarship.

  1. Do you have an interest in pursuing a career in public service?
  2. Do you intend to go to graduate school?

Don't have the answers to those questions right off the bat? Don't worry! While it's totally okay to change your plans during (and even after) the application, you will want to have a pretty solid foundation to build your application on. We'll be asking you to think about what you want to do once you leave Amherst College, but we don't anticipate that you'll have everything pinned down right from the start. 

That's where we come in. Talk with us to discuss your educational and career goals by requesting an appointment.

Once you've decided if Truman is the right fit for you, you're ready for Step 2!

Step 2: Open an application

Ask Eric to register you in the Truman online application portal and begin to complete each question. The portal will require the following:

  1. biographical information
  2. details about your attendance at higher education institution(s) and study abroad programs (question 1)
  3. college and high school activities (question 2)
  4. public service and communitiy activities (question 3) 
  5. government activites (question 4)
  6. employment history (question 5)
  7. awards, scholarships, or specifcal recognition you've recevied or items you've published (question 6)

As you can see, there is a lot of information that is required. You do not need to input everything at once, and you do not need to complete all of this to start working on your essays. You should think of these questions as equally important as the essays, because they help reviewers to get a better idea of you. So, you should draft and revise your responses to these questions. Once you have a good set of answers, you should let Eric know so he can provide you some feedback. 

You'll work on  this step throughout the summer and early fall. Once you've started, you can move on to Step 3!

Step 3: Reach out to recommendation writers

You should reach out to three potential recommendation writers to explain your intentions and ask if they'd be willing to write on your behalf. You can do this in person, over email, or on the phone. Ask early - at the end of the spring semester or beginning of the summer, if possible. They don't have to write it immediately, but knowing they've already agreed will reduce your stress when the deadline draws near. 

You should choose recommenders who can address three specific aspects of your qualifications -- Leadership, Commitment to a Career in Public Service, and Academic Success. Each letter should address one of these areas, but it is okay for a letter to discuss more than one. Ask recommenders to read the instructions "For Recommenders" on the Truman Overview page. Ask your recommenders to send a pdf of their letter via email attachment to the Eric who will upload their letters into the online Truman portal. 

  1. Leadership Abilities and Potential: This letter should confirm the leadership example in your application. The letter writer need not have witnessed the example first hand, but he or she should be able to discuss the example and how it fits within the context of your leadership.
  2. Commitment to a Career in Public Service: This letter should confirm the public service example in your application.  The letter writer need not have witnessed the activity first hand, but he or she should be able to discuss the example and how it fits within your commitment to a career in public service.
  3. Intellect and Prospects for Continuing Academic Success: This letter should discuss your overall academic background in context of your future plans for career and graduate school. Amherst candidates should ask an AC faculty member unless otherwise approved by the Office of Fellowships.

Step 4: Develop your leadership essay

Question 7 asks you to describe one specific example of your leadership that is supported by your leadership recommender. The Truman Scholarship website provides examples that applicants have used to discuss their leadership. You can also review previous Amherst College applications to see how other students have tackled this question. Keep in mind, leadership doesn't always look the same, and your display of leadership will probably be different than another applicant.

Once you have a good draft response for this question, upload it in the Truman portal and let Eric know. He'll reveiw it and provide some feedback.

After you've got something crafted discussing your leadership, it's time to move onto the public service component. 

Step 5: Showcase your public service commitment

The Truman Scholarship Foundation defines public service as "employment in: government at any level, the uniformed services, public interest organizations, non-governmental research and/or educational organizations, public and private schools, and public service oriented non-profit organizations such as those whose primary purposes are to help needy or disadvantaged persons or to protect the environment." So, that means a lot of things count as public service. 

To gauge your committment to public service, you will need to answer a couple of questions. First, you'll want to address a recent and satisfying experience with public service (question 8). This shouldn't be the same experience as you noted in your leadership response. Also, you'll want to make sure the person who is providing your public service recommendation can address what you'll be writing about in this section. You should check out some examples of public service

Truman Scholars are invited to do a 10-week summer internship following graduation at a government agency or non-profit in Washington DC. Applicants are required to name a Participating Agency where they would like to work, and to briefly explain the issues they would like to address there in the Summer Institute Question. This isn't one of the numbered questions, but it's still important to your application; Truman even gives you 900 characters to address the question. 

You should upload your drafts to the Truman portal, and let Eric know to review your public service answers.

Your application is starting to feel a little more complete, but it's not done yet. Now, you need to talk about your grad school plans. 

Step 6: Discuss your academic and career goals

You will first want to answer the significant courses question (10). You'll have 150 characters to list and describe the three most significant courses you have taken in preparation for your career, explaining why they were most significant.

Next, you'll have 1700 characters to provide a graudate education essay (question 11). You will want to describe the graduate education program you intend to pursue; include both the degree you wish to receive as well as the school you plan to attend. The Truman Scholarship will support both domestic and international study. If you plan to take time off before attending graduate school, you may also include those plans here. See Truman advice on graduate school essay.

The Truman Scholarship foundation also cares about your future and they want to know your plans. So, they ask about your future plans (question 12) immediately following the completion of graduate school. This 1500 character response should describe what you hope to do and what position you hope to have upon completing graduate study.

Thinking a little further down the road, they will want to you address your plans 5-7 years after graduating from grad school (question 13). In this response, you'll have 1500 characters to describe what you hope to do and the position you hope to have. 

All of this may seem a little daunting, but trust us, Truman is just trying to ascertain your committment to public service. You should think of these responses as a way for you to display your well-reasoned plans for the future, even if those plans change down the road. 

As with the other sections, you should upload your drafts to the Truman portal, and let Eric know to review your public service answers.

Now that you've done an exercise in time travel (c'mon, we don't even know what we'll be eating for lunch tomorrow!), you should think about your personal story. 

Step 7: Think about your personal story

In your response to question 14, you should offer any information that may help you application readers better understand either your application or your motivations. This question is designed to get a fuller picture of you as a person. Do not include general pleas for the scholarship or information that is found elsewhere in your application. See Truman advice on the personal information essay.

Just one more (really important) piece remains! 

Step 8: Create a policy proposal

You've made it this far in the process; now comes the fun part. First, question 9 asks you to describe a problem or need of society you want to address when you enter public service. Your response is limited to to 1500 characters, so you'll want to pick something that you can introduce AND explain. Check out the Truman advice on societal problem essay.

Now that you've identified a problem, you will want to think about a policy proposal pertaining to that issue. Your proposal should be addressed to someone who has authority over the policy. For instance, you wouldn't address your public school loan forgiveness to the Secretary of Labor; you might not even write it to the Secretary of Education. Instead, you would research who oversees the public student loan program (e.g. a deputy secretary or under secretary) 

Within the policy proposal, you will have 500 words for the entire proposal (2000 characters in each section). You will describe a problem related to the needs of society you say you wish to address in question 9; propose a solution; and discuss obstacles or challenges to implementation that you foresee. The Truman Foundation provides some great guidance on this. 

Step 9: Gather supporting documents

Request your official AC transcript and study abroad or transfer college transcripts prior to the internal deadline. To aid you in this process, complete an “Electronic Transcript Request” and enter Eric Myers ( as the recipient. Eric will upload your transcript(s) into the Truman portal on your behalf. The numerical GPA you enter in the application should be the one listed within Workday or on your transcript (using your AC grades only). 

Step 10: Check for accuracy and completion, then submit

  • Proofread everything you've written for the application - short entries, small paragraphs, and essays for typos. We suggest you print the app and read it out loud to yourself, word for word. (We promise you won't catch errors if you review the app on your phone.) Upload all edits within the Truman Portal. 
  • Confirm with Eric to see if your recs and transcripts are in. If not, send gentle, polite reminders. 
  • Submit by the internal deadline! 

What happens next?

After the internal deadline, the Office of Fellowships staff will distribute the applications to the faculty Committee on Student Fellowships. A subset of applicants (about 10) will be invited to interview with the committee. In the 20-minute interview, you will have a chance to say more about your committment to public service, leadership experiences, and policy proposal. Following the interviews, you will be notified by email as to whether or not you have been selected as one of Amherst's FOUR Truman nominees. Then what?


We get it. Not being endorsed is a situation that none of us want to be in. However, that doesn't mean you are not amazing! Sometimes students apply for 2 or 3 fellowships before winning one; and almost all applicants say that the application process made them understand themselves and their goals more! This isn't the end of your journey with fellowships (unless you want it to be!). So, you can either:

Explore Other Fellowship Opportunities

Meet with Christine or Eric to discuss your plans


You will receive feedback on your application from those individuals who interviewed you and the Office of Fellowships. 

You should make revisions and submit your finalized application in the Truman portal by JAN 25, 2024. This will give us enough time to write the College endorsement letter. 

The Truman Scholarship Foundation will notify you by the middle of February if you are selected for a regional panel interview (in MAR or APR). If selected for a national interview, we will set up practice interviews with you.

Truman Scholars are announced in the middle of April. 

Have questions? Please contact us.

Christine Overstreet, Director of Fellowships
212 Converse Hall


Physical address: 100 Boltwood Avenue, Amherst, MA 01002

Mailing Address: AC #2214, PO Box 5000, Amherst, MA 01002