Questions Regarding Eligibility and Essays

Answers to various questions regarding the SMART Scholarship application process. Includes many tips and statistics.

Questions Regarding Eligibility and Essays

Post by Guest52 »

What's up everyone,

I applied for this last year, but didn't make the cut. I just wanted to ask a few questions before I go ahead and apply again this year.

1. Is it too late to apply if I am going to be a junior this upcoming year? What's giving me issue is under eligibility it says "at least 1.5 years of degree funding prior to graduation", so by the time they make their decisions i's only have 1 year remaining. I would gladly do graduate school if I was chosen for the scholarship, but I guess I'm just asking cause I'm nervous I'll put a lot of time into the application and immediately get disqualified for this.

2. Any general tips on writing the essays? I've always been terrible with writing, and great at technical subjects (that is why I'm in a STEM major after all). I did fell like my essays last time around weren't that great. When it comes to these kind of open ended essay questions my mind always goes blank, and I have no idea what to say. Really any tips would be appreciated.


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Joined: Sat Jul 06, 2019 7:41 pm

Re: Questions Regarding Eligibility and Essays

Post by JDetwiler »

  1. I wouldn't recommend it. Unless you're doing a BS/MS, they're going to treat the degree programs separately and won't fund you.
  2. Here's the truth. Any other advice is just wrong. SMART is a program about procuring the future government workforce. Their number one goal is to recruit you into working there for the rest of your life. That's it. So your (persuasive style) essay should reflect that. It should be brimming with patriotic enthusiasm and "I want to work here for the rest of my life" candor. That's really all there is to it. Your job is to convince them to invest in you, and they'll only believe that when they believe that investing in you will improve the retention rate of younger people in the government. In other words, they want to know that they can own you. (And, they really do think like this, speaking from collective experience of speaking to program management.)
To really drive home how big of a problem this is for the government...the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) is a federal government-wide survey that had 42.6% response in the 2019 results I linked. In Appendix F, they report demographics of the 570,000+ respondents. How many are 25 and under? Just 7,269. Even worse, they report generations too: people born 1997 or later (23 and under)? Just 767 (which is 0.1%). It's bad.

And in my opinion, it's to be completely expected. With the way SMART treats their scholars, they're drawing 10% attrition (this figure derives from Sisyphus, one of the forum's mods who oversees debtor issues) from the program---10% who think paying the 5-6 figures of money back is actually better than having to stick it out for the service commitment. Why so many? Because their bottom line is retention and they do not care about us as people or how well we fit into the assigned job and facility. There are so many reasons, but so many of us get thrown into Excel spreadsheets for a full time job when we have degrees in engineering and science.

Anyway, sorry for the derailment of answering your question. I try to inform people of the issues here before they sign the contract, if it can be helped.
I'm a Phase 2 recipient, B.S. in Computer Science, B.S. in Math from Virginia Tech Dec. 2019. I've been with SMART since Spring 2017; Dahlgren is my SF.

Don't walk, run away from SMART (see my first post on this forum).

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Joined: Wed Aug 12, 2020 11:20 pm

Re: Questions Regarding Eligibility and Essays

Post by petzold »

Phase 3 scholar here...

1. I think the 1.5 year requirement is to make sure that everyone gets to do at least one internship. If you’re a junior and only want funding for your senior year, you’re probably too late. (Unless you want to do a joint bs/ms, as was mentioned above.

2. I’ll respectfully disagree with the previous post. Do not make your essay brimming with patriotic enthusiasm. One, evaluators see right through that. Two, to say SMART or the DoD is singularly focused on ‘hiring young people’ without any regard to their success doesn’t make any sense. What would be the point if that?

My suggestion: learn about the work that some of you top choices of sponsoring lab works on, and craft a narrative around how your interests or expertise would be a good match.

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