Year 1 - Freshmen
Imagine being able to conduct research in another country for one year for free, or enrolling in graduate school where you are given $30,000 per year to attend, while having a prestigious award attached to your record that will greatly increase your ability to do whatever you want after graduation. If that sounds good, you should strongly consider applying for such opportunities during your senior year at Loyola. If you are a first-year student, the time to prepare is NOW!
Although applying for fellowships and scholarships for post-graduate work may seem like something to do in your senior year, my goal is to get Loyola students to think about such applications on their first day here. You have the flexibility in your schedule, and the ability to shape your college career, now more than ever. And it doesn’t matter if you don’t quite know where you’re going yet.
If you have yet to declare a major, that’s no problem. You can explore much of what Loyola has to offer while completing your core requirements. I recommend that you make a chart of what you might do during all semesters and summers while at Loyola. This draft will likely need to be altered and modified as you go along, but a tentative plan for the next few years will always help. If you have declared a major, make sure you understand all prerequisites needed, and think about other courses you want to build around that major. Also consider when you might be able to study abroad or take on an internship. Explore possible extra-curricular activities that interest you, and when you can take advantage of the many campus and community service possibilities offered here.
You may also want to change your perspective in some ways. For example, look at the “language requirement” as a great opportunity, not something to get out of the way, because many fellowships require students to possess good foreign language skills. If you “tested out” of Loyola's basic requirement, think of it instead as “testing in” to advanced courses, or consider other languages. In addition, supplement your language knowledge with other courses. As one example, if you are fluent in Spanish, consider interdisciplinary work in Latin American Studies and perhaps a study abroad location that will increase your fluency.
Although this tip may seem obvious, it needs to be said: be a great student. Attend class every day, participate, ask questions, talk to your professors, go beyond the minimum or the average and do your best, regardless if the course is in your major or something you “had to take”. Build a transcript that makes positive impressions, not one that requires excuses. And always remember that you are taking a course to learn, and to increase your learning and research skills, not just to get 3 hours closer to graduation with a respectable GPA.
Along those lines, we often hear about “grade inflation”, and how today’s high grades are easier to get than they were in the old days. However, rarely do we hear about what I call “demand inflation”, or the fact that much more is now expected from students who apply for post-graduate opportunities. A perfect 4.0 GPA as a senior, with no experience outside of the classroom, was golden in my day as an undergraduate, but not anymore, and it is difficult to do all the recommendations I have noted. But a plan does help. Seeking assistance for that plan also helps, from college and major advisors, your professors, and your friends with similar aspirations and ideas. It is common for juniors and seniors to be uncertain about what they want to do after graduation. However, when the light bulb does go on, a good plan that included many of the previous suggestions, implemented right from the start, will work to your advantage. Strong grades, community service work, study abroad experience, foreign language skills, and having professors eager to write strong letters of recommendation for you will always help you make the transition to where you choose to go from here.
If you are already a second or third year student, and haven’t thought about these things, don’t worry, because NOW is the time for you to get started as well. And if you can’t wait for more advice on fellowships and scholarships, please consult this site for advice for sophomores, juniors, and seniors.
Welcome to Loyola, and plan to make Loyola work for you.
Dr. James M. Calcagno, Fellowship Director and Professor of Anthropology