The Udall Scholarship honors Morris K. Udall, an Arizona Congressman who authored legislation to protect wilderness areas and demonstrated commitment to the Native American and Alaska Native populations. Sophomores and juniors are eligible for the scholarship, which covers educational expenses for one year up to a maximum of $5,000. Udall Scholars come from various fields, ranging from environmental science to engineering to political science, and share in common a commitment to preserving or improving the environment. Udall Scholarships also include special categories for nominees who are Native American or Alaska Native with a commitment to the areas of tribal policy and health care.
The Udall Scholarship Selection Criteria
Udall Scholarship applications are reviewed by at least two readers, ranging from professors of environmental science to scholarship directors to representatives from the EPA. Four principal categories are used to rank each applicant:
- commitment to the environment, health care, or tribal public policy;
- academic achievements;
- nominee’s personal essay;
- personal characteristics as revealed by such evidence as volunteerism and testimonials in letters of reference.
Answering the Udall Application Essay Questions
The Udall application is extensive, including short essays written in response to a series of questions. These questions invite detail in such areas as your professional aspirations, career goals, research experience, leadership, personal motivation, and service, and there’s even an open-ended question asking what additional information you wish to share. In answering these questions, former Udall applicants have described active membership in professional service organizations, a spring break Habitat for Humanity project, a life-changing semester of study in Ecuador, and a project using bird counts as a marker to assess the biological integrity of a local landscape. To answer the open-ended question, which the selection committee uses to sometimes award discretionary points, former applicants have emphasized an interest in environmental education outreach, discussed their role as the first member of their family to attend college, or noted their struggles as a single parent on financial aid.
Most important in answering these application questions is that you read the questions carefully to discern the desired criteria, that you use specifics and avoid unnecessary redundancy with other parts of the application, and that you avoid leaving any of the questions blank or providing answers that are out of proportion to your other answers in length or intent. Seek a balanced, efficient presentation.
Evaluation of Two Sample Sets of Udall Application Materials
The two sample sets of Udall application materials in the pdf below are richly detailed, with both writers thoroughly discussing research and field experiences. In discussing his environmental commitment, the first writer, an environmental engineering student, focuses on a field trip to a Superfund site where he witnessed remediation in action, while the second writer, studying mathematics and ecology, discusses a course she is taking on environmental issues in South Africa and a sailing adventure in the Florida Keys. Of note in the first writer’s essay is his creative answer to question #4, about leadership in his campus community, where he discusses his participation in an outreach service project. The first writer was put forth as a finalist but did not receive a Udall. The second writer did receive a scholarship, after winning honorable mention in the previous year.
The final application question is especially challenging, requiring you to compose an 800-word essay discussing Udall’s ideas and connect them to your own interests. Through the detail of the two samples, we sense that these writers are genuine rather than simply parroting back answers they anticipate the committee wants to hear, and that they studied Udall’s work carefully to inform their essays. The first writer focuses on Udall’s contributions to “the philosophical evolution of the environmental movement,” while the second writer takes the gutsy approach of discussing legislation that Udall fought hard for but later came to regret because of some of its impacts. This writer also draws an interesting case for simpatico views she has with Udall regarding her current environmental project.
To apply for the Udall Scholarship, you must start the process online, where you’ll find everything from application materials to a video featuring former Udall winners.