Monday, April 21, 2014

Guest post: Eva Cohn on winning the Boren Undergraduate Scholarship

Eva Cohn, an Anthropology major at Temple University, won the Boren scholarship and used it to travel to China during this academic year for two semesters of intensive language study. Here, she writes about the award, the application process, and what happens when you win.

Quick Glance:

Boren is a competitive scholarship that gives undergraduates the chance of a lifetime to not only study abroad but also learn a critical language and land a job with the federal government focusing on national security issues.  Through the National Security Education Program (NSEP), Boren will fund up to $20,000 for you to study abroad for one academic year to soak in your country’s language.  Upon graduation, Boren Scholars have up to three years to satisfy the one year NSEP service requirement (finding that federal government job).  Don’t worry, if you plan on attending graduate school or wonder how you can get your foot into the door of the federal government work force, Boren has you covered!  You can extend the three year grace period for fulfilling the NSEP service requirement if you continue on to higher education and there are laws (yes, laws!) that give Boren Scholars advantages over other applicants in securing a job.

Wow, that’s a lot of information.  Are you feeling a bit overwhelmed yet? Don’t fret because there are people at Temple whose job it is to help you through the application process. 

A Helping Hand:

In all honesty, I applied to the Boren to understand what the application process was like for a competitive scholarship.  I worked hard to meet and work with Temple staff to strengthen my application but never did I dream of actually becoming a Boren Scholar.  Therefore, I highly encourage you to meet with all of these people at least once (but you should probably aim for a dozen times) while completing the application.

First and foremost, Temple has a Boren representative located right in the Study Abroad office.  If you have specific questions concerning your application, Maureen Gordon is the expert.  Also talk to your language department chair.  They can provide information about learning your language abroad as well as give advice about specific study abroad programs.  Last but not least, make frequent visits to Dana Dawson, director of Fellowships Advising.  She is the scholarship and fellowship expert at Temple and assisted me every step of the way when it came to brainstorming, writing, and editing my essays. 

The Application Process:

Has the Boren Scholarship peaked your interest?  There are a few details you may want to know about the application process itself.  For me, I began the application process in October to meet the Temple deadline in December/January.  I received a notification that I would have an interview in February then Boren announces winners in April/May.  Therefore, this is not a quick process so you want to be organized.

Temple has its own deadline for applications before the official Boren deadline.  The application has two main parts along with supplemental sections.  Boren requires two statements of purpose: a detailed description of your chosen study abroad program and the significance of your study abroad experience to U.S. national security.  (Hint: You should know what study abroad program you want to apply for before starting the Boren application.)  The second question is quite daunting but think about how learning your critical language and studying abroad in the country of your choice can assist the federal government now and in the future.  Be specific, as specific as possible!  Go on and look up potential careers you may be interested in exploring.  You aren’t locking yourself into the job you described in your essay but it shows you have seriously thought about this aspect of the scholarship. You will also have to submit a budget proposal including tuition, airfare, etc.

The supplemental section contains the following: 2 letters of recommendation, transcript, language self-assessment, and a language proficiency form.  If you win a scholarship, there will also be addition forms you need to complete.

Receiving a Boren Scholarship:

You received the good news and you are now a Boren Scholar!  Here is what comes next!

You will attend a mandatory orientation meeting in Washington DC.  Boren will cover transportation and lodging but you must attend the whole orientation so save the date! Before you leave to go abroad, you will have a language proficiency test over the phone.  (Note: It does not matter what skill level you are at with the language.)  This is to provide a base assessment so when you return Boren can measure your progress.  Lastly, the monetary award will be given to you through a dispersement plan.  You will receive 4-5 checks throughout the academic year so keep that in mind.

That is the Boren Scholarship in a nutshell!  Please read over the official Boren website as well as talk with the staff at Temple.  If you are interested in China or studying Mandarin feel free to check out my blog at

Good luck!