Harry S. Truman Scholarship

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

History and Purpose

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship is the official federal memorial to the 33rd president of the United States. Dedicated to education and public service, President Truman often spoke about the importance of promoting young leaders, and envisioned a program for students that would encourage educated citizenship and political responsibility. Therefore, after his death in 1972, a bill for this memorial was proposed and authorized to allow the Foundation to “award scholarships to persons who demonstrate outstanding potential for and who plan to pursue a career in public service,” and to conduct a nationwide competition to select Truman scholars. The Foundation awarded its first Scholarships in the 1977-78 academic year.

Each year hundreds of college juniors and seniors compete for up to 65 awards. The rigorous selection process requires that good candidates have a strong record of public service and submit a policy proposal that addresses a particular issue in society.  The Foundation defines public service as employment in government at any level, uniformed services, public-interest organizations, non-governmental research and/or educational organizations, public and private schools, and public service-oriented nonprofit organizations such as those whose primary purposes are to help needy or disadvantaged persons or to protect the environment. The Truman Scholarship is committed to encouraging future “change agents” in America. Many of those chosen as scholars go on to serve in public office as public defenders, leaders of non-profit organizations, and educators.

Description of the Truman Scholarship

The Truman Scholarship offers financial support for graduate study, leadership training, and fellowship with other students who are committed to making a difference through public service. Truman Scholars receive up to $30,000 for graduate or professional school, participate in leadership development activities, and have special opportunities for internships and employment with the federal government. Leadership development activities begin with the Truman Scholars Leadership Week immediately following Scholars’ junior year of college. This event, held at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, introduces new Scholars to the services provided by the Foundation and the many pathways to public service.  Scholars participate in seminars and workshops with distinguished Truman alumni and other public service leaders, a policy analysis project, a graduate school and career fair with representatives from the schools and programs most attended by Truman Scholars, and community service events in the Kansas City area. Additional opportunities include an eight-week long Summer Institute in Washington, DC where Scholars participate in internships with government agencies and nonprofit organizations, seminars and workshops, meetings with Washington policymakers and Truman alumni, and opportunities for community building among Scholars. Following the Summer Institute, Scholars may elect to stay on in Washington, DC for a full year in the Truman-Albright Fellows Program.  Truman-Albright Fellows are placed in public service jobs while participating in workshops, seminars, and mentoring opportunities. Additional fellowship opportunities, outlined on the Truman website, are available for Scholars as they move through the early stages of their careers in public service.  Truman Scholarships may be applied to graduate study in the US or abroad.

Eligibility requirements & Rules for Nomination

Applicants must be/have:

  • a full-time junior or a senior who will complete her undergraduate degree in three years
  • U.S. citizenship or a U.S. national from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
  • a 3.7 minimum GPA
  • pursuing a graduate degree in any discipline (need NOT be politics or history) in the US or abroad
  • have an extensive record of public and community service
  • have outstanding leadership potential and communication skills
  • be committed to a career in government or elsewhere in public service as defined above
  • Scholars are required to work in public service for three of the seven years following completion of a Foundation-funded graduate degree program as a condition of receiving funding; scholarship can be deferred up to 4 years
  • nominated by their undergraduate institution (MHC may nominate up to 4 students plus 3 transfer students)

How to Apply

All applicants must apply through a campus process, facilitated by the National Fellowships Advisor and be selected as a Truman nominee by the College (represented by the Committee on Fellowships, chaired by the Dean of Studies). Interested students should attend an information session or meet with the National Fellowships Advisor to discuss candidacy.  Should the National Fellowships Advisor decide to nominate the student, they will log into the Foundation website and complete a Nomination Form. The student candidate will then receive an email from the Foundation with the instructions on how to access the online application.  The National Fellowships Advisor works with students on essay drafts and other application materials for submission to the Committee. The Committee interviews candidates and following nomination decisions, applicants will further revise their materials for submission to the Truman Foundation.  Note that deadlines for the campus process are earlier than the Truman Scholarship application deadline.

Application components

  • A completed online application form where the candidate enters biographical information as well as past work, education, extracurricular activities and awards (some sections request high school as well as college activities); future educational and career plans; and answers short essay questions about leadership and service record as well as policy concerns.  
  • A Policy Proposal (guidelines and an example are supplied by the Foundation)
  • Three recommendations – one specific to public service; one to leadership potential and abilities; and one to intellectual capability and suitability for graduate level work
  • Official Transcripts – from all undergraduate study sources; request and have sent directly to the National Fellowships Advisor
  • A Nomination Letter (submitted by the National Fellowships Advisor)


Truman seeks the following in recommendation letters: Each of the three recommendation letters for a Truman candidate focuses on one of three qualities – leadership, service, or academic achievement. Be sure before agreeing to write a letter that you are able to amply address the quality that should be the focus of your letter. There is a prompt for each letter as follows:

  • Leadership - Please address the candidate’s personal characteristics (confidence, persuasiveness, diligence, conviction, vitality, poise, and so forth) which you feel contribute to the candidate’s leadership abilities.
  • Commitment to a career in public service: Describe a significant contribution made by the candidate through one or more public service, community or government-related activities.  Please address the candidate’s values, interests, goals, and/or ambitions which represent commitment to a career in government or elsewhere in the public service.
  • Intellect and prospects for continuing academic success: Discuss the candidate’s intelligence, academic performance, analytical abilities, and other characteristics which you think contribute to success in graduate school.

Read more about recommendation letters for national fellowships.

Format and submission: Please print your letter on institutional letterhead, including your contact information, and sign it. Then please send either a hard copy by USPS or inter-department mail, or scan the letter and send by e-mail attachment to the National Fellowships Advisor by January 13, 2016. (Address: National Fellowships Advisor, 300C Mary Lyon Hall, Mount Holyoke College, 50 College Street, South Hadley, MA 01075).   The National Fellowships Advisor will upload your recommendation letter to the Truman Scholarship online site by the final deadline.

Campus Process and Checklist

For all deadlines, submission time is 12:00 noon - please note that Truman Dates for 2016-2017 will be updated here when posted

Timeframe Task(s) to Complete
Early fall           Attend Truman Information Session; meet with National Fellowships Advisor to discuss candidacy; discuss interest with faculty and other potential recommenders and give potential recommenders Truman guidelines for recommendation (specific to leadership, intellectual capability, or service); research graduate study programs
Mid-Fall Order transcripts from all study abroad to be sent to National Fellowships Advisor (we will use unofficial MHC transcripts for internal review, which National Fellowships Advisor can obtain)

Begin online application; draft short essays and policy proposal and send to National Fellowships Advisor for feedback

Solicit recommendation letters: one each on your academic work, leadership potential, and public service

by Nov 22
Online application and recommendations due to National Fellowships Advisor - Letterhead, signed, format; may be sent electronically

Dec 2 - Dec 10

  • Committee on Fellowships interviews candidates
  • National Fellowships Advisor notifies candidates of status once all interviews are completed
  • after December 5th, nominees order official MHC transcripts to be sent to National Fellowships Advisor
  • candidates revise application materials according to Committee feedback
by Jan 24
  • Nominees submit final version of application in system
  • if recommendation letters not in proper format, must be received by this date
by Feb 4
National Fellowships Advisor submits applications with nomination letter in online Truman application system
by Feb 20 Finalists notified and confirmation form due
Feb 24 Finalist list posted on Truman website
Late Feb - End March Regional Review Panels interview candidates
April 15 Scholarship winners posted