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Gilman Scholarship

The Gilman International Scholarship is funded by the U.S. Department of State and aims to broaden the participation in programs abroad by supporting undergraduates who might not otherwise participate due to financial constraints.

The Gilman supports students who have been traditionally under-represented in education abroad, including but not limited to: students with high financial need, students with diverse ethnic backgrounds, first-generation college students, students with disabilities, and students in underrepresented fields such as the sciences, engineering, and fine arts.

The program also aims to encourage students to choose non-traditional study and internship destinations, especially those outside of Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, but is available for programs in nearly every country.

Attend an Application Workshop!

Get Help with Your Application

Northwestern students are welcome and encouraged to schedule an appointment through ConnectNU with Amy Kehoe in the Office of Fellowships to:

  • brainstorm ideas
  • edit your essay draft
  • review successful proposals from previous Gilman applicants

Schedule An Appointment with Amy Kehoe


Gilman FAQ

Am I eligible to apply?

Yes, if:

  • You are a U.S. citizen
  • You are a Federal Pell Grant recipient, either currently or during your study abroad program
    • If eligible, you can find the Pell Grant on your Northwestern current financial aid award letter, which you can access in CAESAR: Main Menu > Student Financial Services > View Financial Aid > [Year] > Print Award Letter
  • You will study abroad for academic credit, for at least three weeks in one country
    • Although your program must be eligible for credit, you are not required to transfer the credit back to Northwestern. See But what if I want to go on a non-credit basis?
  • You will study in a country with an overall Travel Advisory Level 1 or 2, according to the U.S. Department of State’s Travel Advisory System.
    • Certain areas within these countries may be designated within the Travel Advisory as either “Do not travel” (Level 4) or “Reconsider travel” (Level 3) locations, as such; you will not be allowed to travel to these areas.
    • You are not eligible to apply for programs in a country with an overall Level 3 or 4 Travel Advisory.

Who should apply?

The Gilman Scholarship Program aims to support a diverse range of students who have been traditionally under-represented in education abroad, including but not limited to:

  • Students with high financial need
  • First-generation college students
  • Students studying in non-traditional countries, especially those outside of Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand
  • Students studying critical languages
  • Students with diverse racial and/or ethnic backgrounds
  • Students with disabilities
  • Students who identify as LGBTQIA*
  • Students with a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) major
  • Children of active duty military personnel or veterans

What is the Statement of Purpose essay?

The Statement of Purpose essay is your chance to introduce yourself to the selection committee and personalize your application – your chance to tell your story. Everyone applying for the Gilman is a Pell recipient, which means nearly everyone has financial need for the scholarship. Your Statement of Purpose essay should explain to the reviewers why you stand out from other applicants. It is important to address the impact that your study abroad or internship program will have on your academic, professional, and personal goals, and the impact that receiving the Gilman Scholarship would have on your achievement of these goals. This essay has a 7,000-character limit.

What are the Community Impact Essays?

The community impact essays are the Building Mutual Understanding Essay and the Follow-on Service Project Proposal. These are equally important in the selection process. Gilman Scholars represent the United States as citizen diplomats in their host communities; they reflect a diversity of values, beliefs, and opinions that is fundamental to providing a balanced representation of the United States abroad. Gilman Scholars are expected to contribute to the goal of building mutual understanding by sharing what it means to be an American, learning about the host culture, and building meaningful relationships. Both of these essays have a 3,000-character limit.

What is the Follow-On Project Proposal?

All Gilman Scholars are required to carry out a Follow-On Service Project upon their return from abroad that helps to promote international education and the Gilman Scholarship. This project can be done on your home campus or in your local community and must be completed within six months of your return to the United States. It is important that your proposal be realistic and feasible.

How can I put together a competitive application?

Amy is available to help you brainstorm essay ideas, review your draft essays, and provide overall direction. The Office of Fellowships maintains a hardcopy binder of successful proposals from previous NU applicants. Current students can access our online library of past winning essays with their NetID and password. Finally, Amy can help you identify other external sources of funding to support your future goals. You may make an appointment with Amy through ConnectNU. If you have trouble doing so, email her directly at

One of the most important things is to have your essays read either by anyone- an adviser, professor, the Writing Center, and even a friend. A good proofreader will find things that your word processing software's spell check and grammar check won't pick up. For example, "study abroad" is often spelled incorrectly in essays as "study aboard." Spell check won't catch this error, since "aboard" is an actual word. In addition, a good proofreader can make suggestions on how to clarify a point that made sense to you but may not make sense to someone else.

Remember, this is a competitive scholarship program, and the selection panelists' only chance to get to know you is through your essays. Do not assume the reader knows anything about you – they don't know anything you don't tell them! One of the primary criteria for consideration is increasing the diversity of study abroad, but the reader only knows your "diversity" if you tell them.

  • "Diversity" in international education is defined very broadly and can mean identifying as any of the following: racial or ethnic minority, first-generation college student, first-generation American, STEM or fine arts major, male, LGBTQ+, physically or learning disabled, non-traditional undergraduate age (over 24), community college transfer student, single parent, married, etc.
  • You will also want to address why you need the money. Everyone applying has high financial need, so you will want to talk about any specific circumstances that you'd like the panelists to take into consideration (e.g., siblings in college, lack of income from job while abroad, self-supporting/independent student, etc.).

You only have 7,000 characters (less than 2 pages) for the statement of purpose essay and 3,000 characters for each of the other essays, and you need to include a lot of information about yourself, your program, and what you hope to get out of your study abroad experience. Your essays are not the place to talk about shopping, sightseeing, or traveling. Remember, this is study abroad, so you will want to talk about why you chose your program and country (there should be a good reason for both), especially if you plan to study in Western Europe or Oceania. Be sure to include things like: what classes you are going to take and in what language; where you will be living (apartment, homestay, dorm); and how your program will help you achieve your academic and professional goals.

If you are going on a short-term program, explain why. Reasons can range from your personal circumstances (e.g., non-traditional students, students with children, family or work responsibilities, etc.) to the demands of your major (e.g., STEM fields, double majors, fine arts, education, or any fields with academic year sequences that you can't miss). If applicable, you'll want to point out that you could actually receive more credits than might be expected. Many NU summer programs offer 3-4 course credits, which is as many as a full quarter on campus!

Although the format of the application is a narrative essay, there are a number of questions that must be answered within your personal statement. Failing to address everything because you spend too much time on a certain topic can be detrimental to the success of your application. 

The most important things are that you have a clearly stated target audience, that the project meets the goals of promoting study abroad and the Gilman, and that it seems feasible to complete within six months of your return.

  • The target audience should not be too broad or too narrow. For example, "all students at NU" is too broad, but "my 300-level, 10-person Spanish class" is too narrow. Similarly, you'll want to target students who still have the opportunity to study abroad, so junior and senior level courses wouldn't make sense.
  • Consider your involvement on campus or in your community: Are you already part of any student groups that you could talk to about study abroad and the Gilman, especially with underclassmen, low-income or first-gen students, or under-represented academic fields? Do you still keep in touch with your high school Spanish teacher, and could present to some classes about study abroad and the Gilman?
  • You are encouraged to seek permission in advance for any presentations you plan to give, articles you plan to write, etc., and you should explicitly say in your proposal if anything has already been approved.
  • Try to be creative, especially if you're planning to do something that's probably been done before – try to find a new spin on an old idea – but it's usually more important to be realistic than to shoot for the moon and end up with something that doesn't sound feasible. "I'm going to write a musical about study abroad!" is super creative but not very likely.
  • Blogging is fine, but don't overestimate how much time you will want to commit to this while abroad and when you return. You would also want to be very specific about how often you would post, how you will publicize your blog, and who will read it – if just your mom and your aunt will read it, that doesn't satisfy the goals of promoting study abroad to future students.

What kind of financial information will I need to provide?

You will need to indicate the total cost of your study abroad program. Keep in mind that this doesn't just include your program's tuition; be sure to include all of your program-related expenses. This includes your housing, meals, books, the NU study abroad fee (if applicable), international airfare, student visa, international health insurance, and local commuting costs (NOT personal travel/vacation/tourism while abroad). You can find cost estimates at the bottom of your program brochure, or ask your program for this information. If you need to obtain or renew your passport, you can also include that expense.

You will also need to provide the total scholarships/grants you have already been awarded or know you will have for your study abroad program. This includes any scholarships you have already been awarded at time of application, as well as any financial aid that will transfer to your program. If you're not sure, contact the financial aid office for help calculating these figures.

Who is my certifying adviser?

You will need to select both a FINANCIAL AID ADVISER and a STUDY ABROAD ADVISER to certify your application. All of the advisers below are already in the Gilman system.

Financial Aid Adviser: Elaine Chu or Christine Charles – all programs & terms

Study Abroad Advisers (by location):

  • Miranda Goosby – Denmark, Sweden, GESI Vietnam, & GESI Uganda
  • Carmen Hernandez – Americas, Portugal, & Spain
  • Sara McGuinn – GESI Latin America, Serbia/Bosnia, & Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Ryan Rounds – Belgium & France
  • Jacob Schoofs – Austria, Germany, & Switzerland
  • Kevin Tribe – England, Ireland, & Scotland 
  • Aline Vivirito-Valais – Australia, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Middle East, North Africa, Turkey, & Unaffiliated Summer Programs 
  • Norvell Watts – Asia, Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, & Poland

What if I want to go on a non-credit basis?

You may still be eligible to apply for Gilman even if you will not seek to transfer the credit back to Northwestern upon completion of your program; however, note that you cannot petition retroactively for credit for study abroad undertaken while at Northwestern. All students who wish to earn credit for coursework completed outside the United States must apply through the Northwestern Study Abroad Application by the appropriate deadline.

 Please contact Jessica Fetridge ( if interested in this option.

When is the deadline?

Visit the Gilman website for specific timelines and deadlines.

  • Summer, Fall, and Full Year: First Tuesday in March
  • Winter/Spring: First Tuesday in October

How do I apply?

Visit the Gilman Scholarship website to apply.

Gilman Supplemental Awards

Critical Need Language Award (Additional $3,000)

Students studying a critical need language while abroad in a country in which the language is predominantly spoken have the option to be considered for the Critical Need Language Award. To be considered for the Critical Need Language Award, a brief supplemental essay is required and can be submitted in the same Gilman application. Some key points to keep in mind are:

  • Be sure that the language you are studying while abroad is considered a Critical Need Language by the U.S. Department of State.
  • Be sure that you are studying the Critical Need Language in a country where it is predominately spoken. List provided on Gilman website.
  • Explain how you intend to improve your language skills, your motivations for doing so, and how this particular language study will further your academic and career goals.

Gilman-McCain Scholarship

 The Gilman-McCain Scholarship is a congressionally funded initiative of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and named after the late senator John S. McCain from Arizona.

 The Gilman-McCain Scholarship provides awards of $5,000 for child dependents of active duty service members to study or intern abroad on credit-bearing programs.

Pell & Gilman Matching Scholarships

Some programs offer their own scholarships for students who receive the Pell Grant and/or who are awarded a Gilman Scholarship. This currently includes affiliated programs through Arcadia, CIEE, IES, and SIT.

Contact your program directly for details and to apply.

Need essay help?

Contact Amy Kehoe in Northwestern's Office of Fellowships

Related Links

Additional Fellowships to Support Study Abroad

  • Critical Language Scholarship is a fully funded overseas summer language and cultural immersion program for American students.
  • Boren Awards provide unique funding opportunities for students to study less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to US interests and underrepresented in study abroad.
  • Freeman-Asia is designed to support US undergraduates, with demonstrated financial need, who are planning to study abroad in East or Southeast Asia.