Goldwater Scholarship

History   |   Description   |   Eligibility   |    How to   |   Application   |    Recommendation   |   Checklist

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 engineersby 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.

Description of the Goldwater Scholarship

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.

Eligibility Requirements and Rules for Nomination

Applicants must have/be:

  • a United States citizen, a permanent resident, or, in the case of nominees from Puerto Rico, Guam, Virgin Islands, American Samoa or the Commonwealth of the Northern 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 know as the Alien Registration Card or Green Card)
  • a full-time matriculated sophomore or junior (two years or one year of study remaining)
  • intend to pursue a research career in a natural science, mathematics, or engineering (refer to Fields of Study for specific areas)
  • at least a “B” average or the equivalent and be in the top quarter of her 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 secondary math/science education are not strong candidates
  • Mount Holyoke may nominate up to four candidates

How to Apply

Applications are available online beginning in early September. Students must complete the Student Profile and Goldwater Pre-Application.  When you submit your completed Goldwater Pre-Application, it will be sent to the National Fellowships Advisor at MHC.  Upon review of your Goldwater Pre-Application, the National Fellowships Advisor will determine whether or not you are eligible for the award and whether or not you would make a good candidate based on the information you provided.  The National Fellowships Advisor will provide you with access to the Goldwater online application, then establish an appointment with you to discuss your candidacy and work toward preparing your application for submission to the Committee on Fellowships.  The Committee, made up of four faculty members and chaired by the Dean of Studies, reviews applications, and decides which candidates to nominate. Nominees will then revise their materials as recommended and submit them online, and notify their recommenders to upload letters. The National Fellowships Advisor completes the application process by nominating the student in the system.

Application Components

  • Online application including biographical data; statement of career goals; educational background; list of coursework in major; awards; research & other activities; short essay questions on professional aspirations, motivation for a math/science/engineering career; personal information; recommenders’ contact information
  • Research Essay (typed, single or double-spaced, not more than three pages, one-sided and use 12 point Arial or Times New Roman font) discussing a significant issue or problem in the student’s field of study that is of particular interest to the student.  The essay must describe the issue or problem, discuss an idea for research that would have significant impact on it, describe an aspect of the research in which the student would be involved, and explain the relevance of the issue or problem to the student as a mathematician, scientist, or engineer.  The student should assume that the reader is knowledgeable in mathematics, science, and engineering, and will have the expertise to read, review, and understand the complexities of the student's field of specialty.  Please follow the specific formatting guidelines provided.
  • Three recommendations – those who have served as mentors for you on a research project are your most important references (if you have been involved in research); two should be from faculty members who can discuss the student’s potential for a career in your field; and another individual/faculty member who can attest to the student’s overall potential.   Recommendation letters should be no more than three pages, have one-inch margins, be single or double spaced and use either Arial or Times New Roman font that is no smaller than 12 point (pdf files are preferred).
  • Official transcripts for all undergraduate work, including summer study and study abroad; unofficial MHC transcripts are acceptable and the National Fellowships Advisor will sign, date and upload the unofficial MHC transcript to your online application
  • for Permanent Residents only – a copy of your Permanent Resident card and a letter of intent to become a US citizen

Recommendation Letters

Goldwater requests the following of 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, their 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.

We would appreciate your candid opinion for each requested item for evaluation. Your evaluation will be confidential, intended for use only by the Goldwater Scholarship Review Committee. Your evaluation will not be released to the applicant. Please evaluate the applicant's personal characteristics, motivation, and potential for a research career in mathematics, the natural sciences, or engineering. Your evaluation must address the criteria on which you base your judgments and how the applicant meets your criteria. Provide specific examples of the applicant’s performance and any particular incidents that illustrate the applicant’s maturity, initiative, and potential.

Note that Goldwater is mainly concerned with a student’s ability to participate in research in her field as evidenced by course and lab work, independent investigation and research, and early participation in graduate-level courses.  The foundation is not concerned with leadership or service in the same way that other fellowships are. Nevertheless, the foundation recognizes that abilities and potential are shown not only in academic course or lab work, but also by a candidate’s meeting significant responsibilities, involvement in mathematics/science/engineering related or student organizations, employment, and accomplishments outside the classroom. Recommenders who can comment on these involvements as well as the student’s academics are encouraged to do so. Read more about MHC recommendation letters for national fellowships.

Format and submission: Goldwater letters should be no more than three pages, have one-inch margins on all sides, be single or double spaced and use either Arial or Times New Roman font that is no smaller than 12 point. Please save your signed letter as a PDF file and send your completed Letter of Recommendation to the National Fellowships Advisor, Mary Lyon Hall, 3rd floor, room 309A. If the candidate is endorsed by the College, our office will upload your letter to the Goldwater portal.

Format and submission: Letters of recommendation for the Goldwater Scholarship may be up to two pages long.  For the campus initial deadline, recommenders are asked to send their letters to the National Fellowships Advisor as an email attachment. Once nominees are selected by the campus Committee on Fellowships, applicants will tell their recommenders of their status, revise their application materials, and submit them in the online application system by the Goldwater applicant deadline. Recommenders for nominees will then receive an email from the online application system with instructions for uploading their letters.

Campus Process and Checklist

Please note that for all deadlines, submission time is 12:00 noon

Timeframe Task(s) to Complete
Summer/early Fall
  • make appointment to discuss candidacy and application with National Fellowships Advisor
  • solicit potential faculty/research supervisor recommenders
  • order study abroad and summer study transcripts-have sent to National Fellowships Advisor (Fellowships office can procure unofficial MHC transcript for Nov deadline)
September Goldwater online application opens; complete the Student Profile and Pre-Application
Late Oct/early Nov send short essay answers to National Fellowships Advisor for feedback; draft research essay; seek feedback from faculty in field as well as from National Fellowships Advisor (faculty feedback is critical!)
By Dec 2
  • Candidate should print online application (but do not submit in system!) and essay and deliver to National Fellowships Advisor (one-sided) or send electronically
  • recommenders send letters to National Fellowships Advisor (may be sent electronically)
Dec 5-9
  • Campus Goldwater Committee reviews applications; decides on nominations
  • National Fellowships Advisor notifies candidates of decisions; nominees revise applications
By Jan 27
  • Nominees submit revised application in Goldwater system; notify National Fellowships Advisor when you have done so
  • Nominees send National Fellowships Advisor pdf or printed version of revised essay with your name, the name of the college, and your signature on each page
By Jan 27 Recommenders upload letters to Goldwater site
By Jan 31

National Fellowships Advisor submits online application including official/unofficial transcripts, with nomination, to Goldwater & sends supporting materials by Goldwater deadline

Late March notification is sent to students by mail; please notify National Fellowships Advisor; announcements made after individual notices sent