How to Apply

Eligibility: Ideal applicants will be second- or third-year students.

Preparation: It is strongly recommended that students begin the application process well in advance of the deadline. Ideal applicants will use the summer to develop their ideas and application materials. See timeline below for more information.

Faculty mentor: If applicable, applicants should 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.

Apply through Madison Scholarship Hub, which is available in MyMadison under the student tab. In the Hub, select the Hillcrest Scholarship Fund. You must complete a General Scholarship Application before applying to Hillcrest.

The application includes the following materials, which you will upload to Madison Scholarship Hub.

  1. Cover sheet
  2. Project proposal
  3. Resume
  4. Unofficial Transcript
  5. Letter of recommendation from the faculty mentor (if applicable)
  6. 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, Dr. Wang, the Office of Fellowships and Awards, and the University Writing Center are all excellent places to start receiving feedback.

Letter of recommendation from faculty mentor (if applicable)

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. Give your faculty mentor at least 3 weeks to complete the letter.

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.

April/May 2022: Information sessions for interested students. Meet individually with Dr. Wang to discuss your ideas, ask questions, and receive guidance.

Summer 2022: Begin developing application materials, especially project proposal and personal statement. Submit drafts for revision to Dr. Wang. Confirm faculty mentor.

November 15, 2022: The final application is due. Applicants are strongly encouraged to submit a draft application to Dr. Wang well in advance of this date. 

January 21, 2023: Final interviews.

Summer 2023: If awarded scholarship, embark on your Hillcrest experience.

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 Dr. Wang 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?”


Felix Wang

Back to Top