Tips to funding your study abroad with a Gilman Scholarship

October 26th, 2021   |   Scholarships, SIT Study Abroad

By Tiffany Padilla

Study abroad experiences can be expensive endeavors to undertake, and sometimes it’s hard to find thousands of dollars lying around. Thankfully, there is an option for funding that is not only feasible and available for anyone to apply, but it can cover anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 of your study abroad costs, depending on your financial need.

Focus on finding a program you will genuinely enjoy, and the application will come naturally to you.

The Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship helped me attend a study abroad program of my own this past summer! If you’d like to read more about my experience, I wrote a blog post about it here

Some info about the Gilman:

  • The Gilman is a U.S. State Department scholarship that wants you to go out into the world, sharing your values, traditions, and culture with others, all while exploring the values, traditions, and culture all around you in your host country. Doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?
  • A huge part of this scholarship is completing a project of your choice following your study abroad experience (due six months afterward, to be precise). This can be anything from blog posts (like this one!), to presentations, to community outreach, to a documentary of your time abroad. Feel free to get creative, or explore the Gilman website for examples of previous projects.
  • To apply, you need to write three essays: one about your personal motivations for applying to this study abroad program and this scholarship; the second about how you will build mutual understanding abroad (see the first bullet point to understand that better); the third detailing your follow-on project (see the second bullet point to understand that better). Easy peasy! Just kidding. But you can do it. I know you can!
  • The Gilman is a need-based scholarship more than merit-based. Yes, you need to be in good academic standing with your university to apply. But do you need a 4.0 GPA to get one? Take it from me: Nope. However, you do need proof of Pell eligibility to apply.

Talk to your friends, your family, your mentors, and your study abroad advisors. These people might tell you things about yourself that you never even thought of.

Now that I’ve surely convinced you to apply, here are some tips for your Gilman Application.

  • Take baby steps. I know that three essays and a follow-on project can feel like a lot to take on, and it is. But I know you’ve written three essays, all while cramming for two exams, participating in classes, and leading your intramural Powderpuff team (Go Baker!) because college is just like that. Take it easy. You have time. There are two cycles every year for Gilman programs, so if one deadline seems too close, you might be able to wait for the next one. Or, do what you always do and pull one or two all-nighters. (I’m kidding, please don’t do that. Even though this one’s worth it!) In all seriousness, though. 
  • Start as early as you’re able. Your application will be better, you will have more time for people to look at it, more time to think through your study abroad program choice, and less stress overall.
  • Pick the right program for you. I can’t stress this enough. I didn’t get the Gilman on my first try, and my hunch is that it was because I picked a study abroad program that didn’t fit my interests. (I just really wanted to go to Belgium with my best friend.) I tried to force my essays to seem interested in whatever subject that program offered, and that was obvious in my application. And, it was miserable to write those essays, let’s not forget that. Just focus on finding a program you will genuinely enjoy, and the application will come naturally to you.
  • Lastly, talk to other people about your Gilman ideas. Talk to your friends, your family, your mentors, and your study abroad advisors. These people might tell you things about yourself that you never even thought of. Your people can tell you if you’re actually a good fit for the program you’re applying for (“You’ve never even mentioned an interest in sustainability before. Are you sure you’re applying to the right program?” – My mother). Every new perspective you get on your essays, your program, and your project will help you along in some way or another.

I hope this has helped get the gears whirring about funding your program with the help of the Gilman Scholarship. Just apply. There’s nothing to lose, and priceless experiences to gain.

Good luck with your next adventure!

Tiffany Padilla was enrolled in the SIT Tibetan language program in summer 2021.