Attending a PLEN seminar can be a life-changing experience, but Washington DC is also an expensive city, and budgets are tight in college. Because of this, PLEN offers scholarships for each of the six seminars offered. PLEN scholarships normally cover registration, seminar, and hotel fees, but regardless of how much you may receive if your application is accepted, it’s important to have a clear idea of the amount you will need budgeted for your seminar. Additionally, PLEN scholarships can be competitive, so you should be very familiar with application due dates and all of the materials needed to submit a completed application.
When reviewing a scholarship application, PLEN staff reviews 5 items: the application cover sheet, a current resume, 2 short essays, a letter of recommendation and proof of financial need. While the letter of recommendation and proof of financial need may come separately from the rest of your application, every item in the application must be submitted to PLEN staff before the scholarship deadline. In order to have a great scholarship application, follow the steps below!
Decide which seminar you're going to attend -- and put the scholarship deadline on your calendar
This step is simple: decide on the PLEN seminar you want to attend (remember, you can always come to another one later!) and put the scholarship application deadline on your calendar. The scholarship applications are accepted on a rolling basis, so PLEN has a September deadline, November deadline, and February deadline. The scholarship deadline for the Women, Law, and Legal Advocacy seminar and Women in Health Policy seminar are in September; the scholarship deadline for the Women in STEM Policy seminar and Women in Public Policy seminar are in November; and the scholarship deadline for the Women and Congress seminar and Women in Global Policy seminar are in February. Mark these dates on your calendar, and make sure your recommender and financial aid office is also aware of the date they should send in your application materials. We know that you have a lot going on during these times of the year, so we sometimes extend the scholarship deadlines to give you more time to apply; make sure you check the PLEN website for deadline updates.
Create a budget plan for the seminar
Receiving a PLEN scholarship can greatly help your ability to attend a seminar, but creating a detailed budget will help you understand the money you need to raise in case you don’t get a PLEN scholarship, or need to look for additional funding elsewhere. PLEN has put together seminar fees, estimated hotel fees, transportation fees, and costs of meals during the seminar in our student portal. This is not an exhaustive list, but it can help you when setting an initial budget plan for your time in DC.
Ask someone for a recommendation
One item in your scholarship application is a letter of recommendation from someone who can attest to your deservingness of a PLEN scholarship. Professors, coaches, internship and workstudy supervisors, and academic or organization advisors are all great options for letters of recommendations. When you have someone in mind, ask them as soon as possible. If possible, sit down with your recommender and tell them about PLEN, why you’re interested in this opportunity, and the experiences that you’ve had or learned from them that make you a great fit for this scholarship. While you may feel that your recommender knows you well, you should still make sure they know about PLEN so that they can personalize your letter. Once they agree, make sure to send them the Letter of Recommendation Form so that they can fill it out and submit it with your letter.
Find your proof of financial need
If you receive financial aid, you can access your FAFSA account online and download your Student Aid Report. Attach this document to your online application. If you do not receive any sort of financial aid, you'll need to contact your financial aid office. Like asking for a letter of recommendation, asking your financial aid office for this letter as soon as possible is best. When you find a contact, send them the Proof of Financial Need Form and state in the email why you’re requesting this information from their office. Once they get back to you, you can send the email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Write your resume
At every PLEN seminar, there is a resume review session, where PLEN mentors will provide resume writing advice and review students’ resumes one-on-one. We don’t expect your resume to be perfect, but we do want to get a sense of who you are, and that includes looking at your resume. A great resume is no more than a page long, easy to read, and includes your name and contact information, and your most relevant work, volunteer, leadership, and academic experience, with short descriptions of what you did in that position. If you have additional questions about resume writing, visit your university’s career services office and set up an appointment to review your resume.
Plan out your essays
There are two short answer essays included in the scholarship application. The first question asks about your career goals. Like the resume, we don’t expect your career plan to be perfect, but we do want you to get the most out of a PLEN seminar as possible. When answering this item, ask yourself the following questions: what is a career I’m interested in pursuing? What do I know about policy, and what more do I want to learn? How can I apply what I learned in my coursework to this seminar? With this question, PLEN staff wants to see how you see yourself and your future. You’ll learn a lot at a PLEN seminar that you never even thought of learning, and also having an idea of the types of questions you want to ask or career paths you want to learn more about will make your seminar experience even better.
The second question in the scholarship application refers to how you will use your PLEN experience to enrich your community or campus. Your PLEN experience doesn’t end when you step back onto the plane in DCA to go home, it doesn’t end when you graduate college, and it still won’t end even if you never come back to Washington, DC. PLEN is a family; it’s a network of over 6,000 alumnae that live all over the United States and the world that are here as a support system in every step on your career path. When you finish a PLEN seminar, you are immediately part of the PLEN Alumnae Network, and will be added to our growing Facebook and LinkedIn groups, and receive exclusive invitations to events. One requirement of receiving a PLEN scholarship is to write a post about your experience for our blog The Plenary, and you also have the opportunity to become a PLEN Ambassador. Think about the answers to your first short answer question, and tell us how you can share this leadership experience with your friends, colleagues, and greater community.
Submit your application!
The scholarship application is now fully online! Once you have completed the first four items on in your scholarship application packet, you can follow step by step directions and submit all materials to the scholarship application form, which you can find on the Scholarships page. The letter of recommendation and proof of financial need can be sent separately. When your application is submitted, you will receive a copy of everything that you submitted. If any part of your application is missing, it is your responsibility to follow up. The PLEN Scholarship Committee will not read any incomplete applications.
PLEN seminars enrich your coursework, introduce you to the policy world in DC, and connect you with a lifelong network of strong women leaders from around the country. When applying for a PLEN scholarship, planning ahead is essential for budgeting, writing effective resumes and essays, and ensuring that each item of your application is submitted on time. Are you ready to take the first step towards your policy career? Apply for a PLEN scholarship today!
Hayley Humiston is a Program Coordinator for PLEN, where her main focus is to plan the logistics of each seminar. She is also responsible for marketing, communications, and social media outreach.