Office of Merit Scholarships, Fellowships & Awards


Finding Scholarships

Can you give me a scholarship?

The Office of Merit Scholarships, Fellowships & Awards does have a few scholarship programs that we manage which are open to UW undergraduate students through competitive application processes. Those scholarships are: UW Class of 1954 Endowed Scholarship, UW Class of 1957 Scholar Award, UW Class of 1962 Endowed Scholarship, UW Class of 1968 Reunion Scholarship, Eleanor Davis Pinkham Scholarship, Thomas Sedlock Icon Scholarship and the Martin Family Foundation Scholarships. However, our main mission is to gather and disseminate information about scholarships available to UW undergraduates broadly, well beyond just those few scholarships we administer. The best way to stay informed about scholarships is to visit our online scholarship database.

I need financial assistance right now, can this office help me with that?

UW has an emergency aid program that can assist students who are experiencing unexpected financial hardships that may disrupt their education or prevent them from earning their UW degree, including:

  • Emergency medical/dental costs
  • Housing and living expenses
  • Family emergencies
  • Natural disasters
  • Loss of income
  • And more…

Exploring options available through the Office of Student Financial Aid is likely to be the quickest way to get support, depending on your circumstances and eligibility for financial aid programs.

Scholarships can help fill financial gaps for students, but tend to require longer timeframes for planning and application. Most scholarships are offered on specific schedules each year, the application and selection processes take time (often several months), and there is no guarantee of selection. If selected, the funds are often disbursed in the following academic year, rather than the current one (although there are exceptions). So while you do want to apply for scholarships that fit for your goals and interests, scholarships often aren’t able to provide emergency funds or quick fixes for immediate financial hardships.

Does your office provide scholarship information for graduate students?

The primary mission of the Office of Merit Scholarships, Fellowships & Awards is to serve undergraduate students at the University of Washington. However, a select number of national scholarships require nomination from your undergraduate institution. If you are a graduate student who received your undergraduate degree at the UW, you must contact us to learn how to apply for national scholarships, such as the Marshall, Mitchell, Rhodes etc.

Graduate students seeking funding information should contact the Fellowships & Awards Division of the UW Graduate School. In addition, the Graduate Funding Information Service (GFIS) helps identify resources for external funding for graduate students (masters and doctoral level).

What scholarships are available for out-of-state residents?

As an out-of-state student, it is more difficult to find local funding sources, but scholarships available nationally offer great opportunities. There are also some internal UW scholarships and local scholarships that are open to all undergraduate students regardless of residency or citizenship status. Departmental scholarships for students in a specific major don’t usually require in-state residency. Mary Gates Endowment Scholarships are open to all UW undergraduates. Please see our pages on searching for scholarships for further information.

How do I get funding as an international student?

If you are a current UW student, please use our database, which includes a filter for citizenship status. Please also see our Scholarship Lists by Category page for further information and additional resources specifically for international students. International students at UW do have access to limited institutional funding options. Though not exhaustive, this list includes merit-based scholarships available through academic departments, other scholarships open to all UW students, grants that support specific experiences (such as the research and leadership scholarships available through the Mary Gates Endowment for Students), and on-campus student employment.

If you are a prospective student, please see our Prospective Students page for further information.

What research scholarships are available?

There are a number of research scholarships available to undergraduates at UW. The Undergraduate Research Program (URP) is probably the best place to begin your search. You should also contact your department for information about resources for research scholarships.

Please see our page on Research Scholarships for a selected listing.

I am not currently a student at the University of Washington, but would like a scholarship. Is this possible?

The UW Admissions Office is the best resource for students considering applying to UW. Unfortunately, the Office of Merit Scholarships, Fellowships & Awards does not offer scholarships to incoming freshmen, nor are we involved in the awarding of scholarships to incoming freshmen. Instead, we serve as a clearinghouse of scholarship information. In this capacity, we gather information on funding opportunities (from both local and national sources) for which University of Washington students could apply. Please see our Prospective Students page for further information.

How do I get an athletic scholarship to play for a UW team?

Athletic scholarships for UW’s sports teams are handled by the UW Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. Please visit their page for Recruits to learn more, and contact the coaches for your sport directly to inquire about scholarships.

I am thinking about coming to the University of Washington. How do I find more information about and apply for scholarships?

As a prospective freshman, we suggest that you begin with the UW Admissions Office. They will provide you with important information about the University of Washington’s admissions process.

The Office of Student Financial Aid provides information for prospective freshman on the various scholarships offered through the Office of Admissions, academic departments and programs, and private foundations/programs.

Please see our Prospective Students page for further information.

Applying for Scholarships

What can I do to make myself a more competitive applicant?

This is a multifaceted question with a multitude of answers. In general, most scholarships highly value sincere and significant engagement from students. What that might look like for you will depend on your interests and circumstances, but using your resources and being willing to try things is critical. Consider getting engaged in your areas of interest through: research opportunities, summer programs, campus clubs, volunteering, and other ways to learn and gain experience outside the classroom. Taking the time to build connections with mentors and supporters, including faculty, supervisors, advisers, and others, who know your academic and non-academic work and interests, and will be well-positioned to write detailed and compelling recommendation letters is also important.

Join us for a Getting Started with Scholarships workshop to explore further, and review the information on our Applying for Scholarships page for more ideas.

Can I reuse my personal statement for multiple scholarships?

Yes, but expect to make changes for every application. Each scholarship has a unique mission and unique selection criteria. So things you highlight in a personal statement for one application may be different for the next. There are some pieces of your experiences that you will likely want to write about in any personal statement, but take the time and care to look carefully at each scholarship’s mission, purpose, selection criteria and other information to tailor your personal statement to demonstrate how you fit with those points.

Our advisers are here to help! For current UW students and alumni, we are available to review drafts and offer feedback on essays, CVs, project proposals, or other application components to help make sure you’re making your strongest application possible! Check for upcoming workshops and consider scheduling an advising appointment.

Who should I ask to write my letter of recommendation?

Who you should ask depends on the nature of the scholarship you are applying for and what their expectations might be for recommendation letters. Sometimes this is spelled out clearly, more often there are not specific requirements. Base your decisions on the selection criteria, mission and purpose of the scholarship. Also consider who can support and add to what you are writing about yourself in the application materials.

Sometimes, you need to have recommendation letters from faculty members in your field of study, but not always and not always exclusively. Some scholarships may be focused more on supporting students who are doing significant community work, in which case a volunteer supervisor or community leader likely should be included as a recommender.

So it depends, and taking the time to develop a solid team of potential recommenders, and then thinking carefully about which of those to ask, is ideal. Read more about asking for recommendation letters.

What if I don’t have anyone to write my letter of recommendation?

For most students who have this fear, it’s almost never the case that there isn’t anyone to ask. But you may instead have a fear of asking. Consider who has seen your work–in class, in advising, at work, even if not directly connected to your specific major or area of interest.

It takes time and concerted effort to build connections with mentors and supporters, including faculty, supervisors, advisers, and others, who know your academic and non-academic work and interests, and will be well-positioned to write detailed and compelling recommendation letters is also important. And this is something you can work on and build over time. So start now if you haven’t already. Read more about asking for recommendation letters.

How strict are the GPA requirements some scholarships have?

It varies. Some scholarships have a minimum GPA requirement listed within their eligibility requirements. If that’s the case, then that is a strict cut-off. If you don’t meet that eligibility requirement, then the scholarship program simply wouldn’t be able to even consider your application. You’d be best served by moving on and finding other scholarships to invest your time into.

There are other scholarships that have “suggested” minimum GPA requirements. In that case, there is flexibility. If you’re not meeting that suggested GPA, but have other strengths you can highlight that fit with the program’s mission or selection criteria, then it would likely be worth applying and highlighting those other strengths as clearly as possible.

And there are many other scholarships that don’t have any GPA requirements at all!

If I have not yet received any scholarships, does this mean I am not a competitive applicant for scholarships and should give up?

No! Absolutely not. Remember: every scholarship recipient has a “first.”

Applying for scholarships does take a commitment of time and energy, and there is no guarantee of selection, which can be frustrating. But your eligibility and competitiveness changes over time as you gain knowledge, experience, choose your focus areas and identify goals. Each application process can be seen as a learning experience in itself. Even if you’re not ultimately selected to receive the scholarship, you can come away from the process with a greater sense of your motivations, goals, and next steps.

And remember, our advisers are available to support you through any application process by giving feedback on essays and resumes well before the deadline, so you can strengthen final drafts before submission. We can also help you to prepare for a scholarship interview, decide who to ask and how to ask for letters of recommendation, etc.

Can you help prepare for scholarship/fellowship interviews?

Yes! Our advisers are available to support UW undergraduate students and alumni with all stages of scholarship processes. If you are anticipating having an interview as part of your scholarship selection or program admission process, let us know and we can help you to practice and prepare. Get some starting point interview prep information.

How can I get nominated for a scholarship?

Scholarships that require nomination often have different reasons or processes for that requirement. The Office of Merit Scholarships, Fellowships & Awards coordinates nomination processes for many (but not all) of the various scholarships that require applicants to be nominated by their undergraduate institution. For those that we coordinate, we open a campus-level application process for any eligible student interested in being nominated, and set an internal deadline that will be several weeks or several months in advance of the official program deadlines. Students interested in being nominated should complete an application, and we will bring together a selection committee of UW faculty and staff members to review applications and select nominees. See our list of national scholarships for which we have internal UW deadlines or processes.

Receiving Scholarship Funds

Does receiving scholarships affect my financial aid?

Maybe, depending on your financial aid award. There are all kinds of reasons why you might want to apply for scholarships to supplement the financial aid you already receive. Some scholarships provide big benefits beyond just the money. And there are some scholarships that are so directly connected to your career interests that you may want to elect to receive them even if they replace financial aid funds.

Receiving any type of additional financial resource, including scholarships, has the potential to impact your current financial aid award. Whether receiving a scholarship will impact your financial aid depends on your individual circumstances and your specific financial aid package. If you have already received funds to meet your total cost of attendance, some portion of your financial aid package may need to be reduced to allow you to receive new scholarship funds (loans get reduced first). But there are also additional considerations, including documenting increased expenses, so don’t let this question keep you from applying for scholarships!

If you have scholarships or resources in addition to your financial aid, you will need to report the scholarship or resource name and annual award amount in the Resources section of your Award Letter, or by contacting the Office of Student Financial Aid. See OSFA FAQs for more information.

Are scholarships only for tuition?

No. The majority of scholarships offered both by UW and by external organizations are flexible about how their scholarship funds are used, as long as they support educational expenses. Educational expenses can include tuition but also books, equipment, housing, food, etc. There are some scholarships that are limited to funding tuition. Please review the details for each scholarship you are applying to and/or awarded to understand how those funds can be used.

I received a scholarship from a private donor/foundation. Where should they send the check?

The UW Student Fiscal Services Office handles all scholarship payments to students’ accounts. Please see their Private Scholarships page for complete instructions regarding mailing and payment disbursements.

I received a scholarship from a private donor/foundation and they want me to confirm my enrollment. How do I do that?

The UW Registrar’s Office is the office that can officially confirm your enrollment. Please see their Enrollment Verification page for complete instructions.

Am I required to pay taxes on the scholarships and fellowships I receive?

The general IRS rule is: any scholarship or grant income over and above the amount paid during the tax year for tuition/fees and required books/supplies is considered taxable income. For complete information, please see the UW Office of Student Fiscal Services’ tax information page.

Purple & Gold Scholarships

Where can I get information about the Purple & Gold Scholarship?

The UW Admissions Office manages the selection process for the Purple & Gold Scholarship for incoming out-of-state freshmen. Disbursement of funds is managed by Student Fiscal Services. Please contact those offices for additional information.

I was offered a Purple & Gold Scholarship, who can I talk to about it?

The UW Admissions Office manages the selection process for the Purple & Gold Scholarship for incoming out-of-state freshmen. Please contact Admissions for additional information about your award. Please note that award decisions are not negotiable.

If you’ve already accepted your offer of admission to UW and have questions about how the scholarship will be disbursed to you, please contact Student Fiscal Services.

I was not offered a Purple & Gold Scholarship, who can I talk to about it?

The UW Admissions Office manages the selection process for the Purple & Gold Scholarship for incoming out-of-state freshmen. Please contact Admissions for additional questions. Please note that award decisions are not negotiable.