UPDATE

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Spring 2020 application cycle has moved to Fall 2020. Mr. Jared Diener will direct the scholarship process. 

How to Apply

Eligibility: Ideal applicants will be second- or third-year students as of Fall 2020. First year students and seniors who propose exceptional projects and submit excellent applications may be considered on a limited basis.

Faculty mentor: Applicants must select a faculty mentor to support and guide them through this process. The faculty mentor’s role includes helping the applicant develop a feasible project and writing a letter of recommendation.

To apply: Submit an application that includes the following materials to Mr. Jared Diener by the stated deadline. See below for more information about these individual components.

  1. Application form
  2. Project proposal
  3. Personal statement
  4. Resume
  5. Unofficial Transcript
  6. Letter of recommendation from the faculty mentor
  7. Letters of affirmation from individuals and/or organizations included in the project proposal
  8. Budget for the project

Project proposal and personal statement should be written in 12 pt. Times New Roman font, single-spaced, 1-inch margins.

Project proposal (2 pages)

This document details the proposed experience, your preparation for it, and how it fits into your academic/professional trajectory. This is the most important component of a successful Hillcrest application. You want to present a project that is intellectually-compelling, has the potential to be transformative for you and others, and is logistically feasible. (See below for selection criteria.) You should strive to find the balance between aiming high in terms of ambition and impact and keeping it grounded in realistic expectations for viability. Convince your readers that it is transformative and feasible.

You might address some of the following questions:

  • Where do you propose to go?
  • What do you propose to do?
  • Why this particular project in this particular location?
  • What makes this project interesting or unique?
  • How does this project advance, challenge, or support current scholarship in your chosen field?
  • What are your specific goals?
  • If your project is related to your Honors thesis, how will the project impact or enhance progress on your thesis?
  • What is the timeline for carrying out your project?
  • How are you qualified academically or professionally for undertaking this project?
  • Have you made contact with relevant people or institutions at the proposed location of your project? If the project involves a formal application, what stage of the process are you currently in?
  • Are there any possible feasibility concerns with your project?
  • How will this project further your educational and/or professional development?

If your project involves travel abroad, consider the following questions:

  • Are language skills important in your host country? If so, what is your level of proficiency?
  • If your language skills are not currently adequate, what are your plans for improving them?
  • Are there security or safety risks associated with travel in your host country? How will you work through or around these concerns?
  • Given the uncertainties during COVID-19, what domestically-based activities could you pursue as a backup in case you are unable to travel abroad?

Try to provide as many details as you can while also writing clearly and concisely. Successful Hillcrest applicants revise their proposals multiple times prior to submission. Successful applicants also have their materials critiqued by others: your faculty mentor, Mr. Diener, Dr. Malburne-Wade (Director of Student Fellowships Advising) and the University Writing Center are all excellent places to start receiving feedback.

Personal statement (1 page)

This document should be a narrative statement that gives the application readers an opportunity to get to know you better. Where the proposal focuses solely on the project, the personal statement presents a broader view of you as a person: who you are, what makes you unique, and what you aspire to do in life. Think of this as an intellectual autobiography: what has shaped you getting to this point personally and professionally and what do you hope to shape moving forward?  You can share your personal history, family background, influences, opportunities, skills, experiences, and goals. Do not repeat information from your project proposal unless absolutely necessary.

Visit the University Writing Center website for helpful information about writing personal statements. Much like the project proposal, compelling personal statements often require multiple revisions and critical feedback from others.

Letter of recommendation from faculty mentor

The letter should specify how the applicant meets the selection criteria and discusses the feasibility and merit of the applicant’s proposed project. The letter must be on institutional letterhead and submitted by the faculty mentor to dienerjl@jmu.edu to maintain confidentiality. Give your faculty mentor at least 3 weeks to complete the letter.

Letters of affirmation

It is important to demonstrate that you have made the necessary arrangements—or at least established contact—with the people, institutions, or programs that will support your proposed experience on site. The letter(s) should come from individuals or institutions with whom you are proposing to work and should indicate (1) their willingness to work with you and support you while on location, and (2) the feasibility of the project you are proposing. For example, if you are proposing to conduct archival research abroad, a letter verifying you have access to the archives would be essential. If you propose to work with an NGO domestically or abroad, a letter stating you would be welcome to join would be helpful. These letters assure your application readers that your project is well thought out and feasible.

If your proposed experience involves a separate application that has not yet been approved at the time of your Hillcrest application (such as for summer internships, research positions, or non-JMU study abroad programs), please provide email correspondence from the organization confirming that they will support your Hillcrest experience should you receive the award.

Selection Process

Hillcrest Scholars are selected on the following basis:

  1. The quality of the proposed enrichment experience: The selection committee will look for a specific and feasible project proposal that clearly articulates how the proposed activity fits into the applicant’s academic and career plans and indicates why the applicant plans to carry out this activity in the proposed location. The proposal should clearly discuss how the project contributes to future academic endeavors, such as the Honors Capstone Project. 
  2. Academic achievements and intellectual promise: The selection committee will look at the applicant’s academic record, scholarly awards and honors, and potential to excel in his/her field of study.
  3. Leadership experience and community engagement: The committee is looking for applicants who are engaged in the university and wider community and who have demonstrated leadership in their field of interest. Community engagement may include active participation in sports, arts, student government, voluntary associations, and other extracurricular activities.
  4. Potential for the proposed project to have a transformational impact on the student and society: The committee is interested in projects that make a meaningful impact on the student’s academic experience and promote the public good.
Application Timeline

August 20 & 21: Information sessions for interested students.

Late August to mid-October: Meet with Mr. Diener to discuss your application, ask questions, and receive guidance.

Monday, October 26: The final application is due. Applications should be submitted to Mr. Diener by 4PM. Applicants are strongly encouraged to submit a draft application to Mr. Diener well in advance of this date.

Monday/Tuesday, November 2-3: Preliminary interviews held remotely on Zoom. 

Saturday, November 14:  Final interviews held in the morning on Zoom. 

Other application suggestions

The application process is a marathon, not a sprint. Plan well in advance. Most successful applications are the result of many weeks of planning, correspondence, development, and writing.

It is important to discuss your project ideas and your Hillcrest application with Mr. Diener well in advance of the application deadline so that he can provide guidance and feedback on your application. 

Expect your application materials to undergo several rounds of revisions—especially the project proposal and personal statement. This is normal for a scholarship application of this kind. Multiple revisions will make your application stronger and more compelling and your writing will be clearer and more concise. 

The selection committee is comprised of faculty members from different academic units as well as members of the Honors Advisory Council, who provide the funding for these awards. Keep in mind that committee members will almost certainly not be experts in your field and you will need to describe your proposed experience in a manner that resonates with people from a variety of disciplinary and professional backgrounds. Do not assume deep knowledge of your discipline. If there are specific concepts, problems, or issues related to your field that are important to cover in your project proposal, explain them to your audience.

Remember that the committee is as interested in the transformational impact of your project on society as on you, the student. Try and address the questions, “Why does this matter?” or “Who will this help?”

Contact

Jared Diener
Email: dienerjl@jmu.edu 
Phone: 540-568-6503

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