Mary Gates Endowment For Students

Guidelines for Writing your Research Application Essay

The following are guidelines for writing your Research Scholarship application essay. These ideas will help you to think about how to structure your essay and what to include in it. They are not meant to be step-by-step instructions, nor are they given in any particular order of importance. If there is anything unusual about your timeline, project, or circumstances, please talk about this as well. In addition to reviewing these tips, you may wish to attend an information session before writing your essay.

Write in your own voice

Write your essay in your own voice

It is very important that reviewers get a sense of your passion and understanding for your project. Do not cut and paste from papers or other proposals – it will be obvious to reviewers if you do and it will not convey your own understanding of your research. Write clearly and in your own voice describing your project and its relationship to research in your field of study.

Balance your essay

Be sure to talk about the project itself as well as the educational benefits of the research. As you are writing the personal side of the essay it may help in your draft to tell the story of your motivations for getting involved. But in your final essay, pull out only those points that are relevant to your current experience.

Show your enthusiasm and commitment to the work

Your essay should convey an interest and commitment to the research. Awards cover either a six or nine month period – be sure that your essay provides evidence that you will stick with the project for that period of time, and that the project has enough depth to keep you engaged during that period. Reviewers will find your interest or passion in the research compelling, so find a way to convey that in your essay.

For previous applicants/recipients

Acknowledge your prior application/award and cite the major learning goals you will set for yourself with this new application. Reviewers will want to know what you have already accomplished, as well as your plans for the new award period.

Be clear about your role in research

Be specific about your role in your proposed research project

It is important that reviewers learn how you are contributing to the research, particularly if you have a role in a larger, ongoing project.

Describe how your faculty mentor guides/supports your role in the research process

If your research is of your own design, be sure to include how your faculty mentor helps you to make progress in your work. How does your mentor guide you so that you gain the perspective of the larger project as you contribute your work to it?

Describe the impact of your research

Describe how your research fits into a bigger picture

Include enough detail to convey your knowledge of the topic and so that reviewers can imagine what you are doing. Reviewers will be from a variety of fields, so it is best to address your essay to an intelligent non-expert. Define field-specific terminology and be sure to give the big picture of your research area. It will also be important to include enough detail that someone in your discipline will have confidence that you understand the field in which you are working well enough to be able to contribute to the project in a meaningful way.

Describe what challenges you currently face, and how this award will help you take the next steps in your education

Be sure to describe your role in the research, and how it may have changed since your prior award. What new challenges do you need to overcome to take your work to a higher level? Will you be taking on additional responsibilities? If you are starting a whole new project and/or working with a new mentor, you may want to address the reason for the change, how the new experience will provide new opportunity for learning, and how your new mentor will contribute to that learning.

Talk about the impact of the research experience on your education

One of the goals of the Mary Gates Endowment is to invest in scholarships that help students to achieve their educational goals. Your essay should describe how the research will help you to further your own goals, and how it may help you address any difficulties you face in achieving those goals.

Follow the provided instructions on formatting, citations, etc.

Adhere to general formatting guidelines provided for the application

Essays should be a maximum of four pages. Do not exceed the maximum page count or your application may not be considered.  Essays should be double-spaced, in 12-point font or equivalent size with standard margins. You may include one additional page for references, images, or figures, if applicable; this one additional page of supplementary material is not included in the page limit.

Properly cite the figures, graphs, and/or images that you refer to in your essay

If you refer to a figure, graph or image in your essay that is not your own, be sure to credit the source. Essays with figures, graphs or images lacking proper citations will be marked down by reviewers. Information on proper citation format can be found at:

Please refrain from citing excessive sources not relevant to your project.

Ask for critical feedback before submitting your application

Ask your faculty research mentor and someone who is not involved with the research to review your essay

Your mentor will provide you with the best feedback on your essay’s representation of the research you are doing and how it fits into a larger framework. Someone else – a peer, another instructor, or adviser – will be able to tell you if your essay is clear to an intelligent non-expert, and if you have conveyed a sense of enthusiasm and commitment for the work you describe. Be sure to leave yourself enough time to get feedback from these key people before submitting your application.

Schedule an advising appointment with us

If you would like to discuss your application/proposed research project with a Mary Gates team member before submitting, we highly encourage you to schedule an advising appointment with us. For first-time applicants, we recommend that you schedule a ‘First-time Applicant Advising Appointment” or a “General Advising Appointment’. For returning applicants/awardees, you are able to discuss your past applications with an MGE team member by scheduling a ‘Feedback Appointment’ with us.

Attend an application workshop

During each application cycle, we host application workshops that applicants are encouraged to attend. These workshops will give applicants more in-depth advice on how to structure their application essay and what to include. Applicants are asked to bring a draft of their application to the workshop as well, as there is allotted time for peer reviews and for applicants to ask specific questions pertaining to their project/application. RSVP here for our application workshops!

Information for previous applicants

We expect that previous awardees have a deeper than average understanding of their research, are working at a high level, and can clearly articulate previous accomplishments as well as opportunities for new learning and achievements during a second award period.  We also expect a strong connection between the research and a student’s longer-term goals.