Cornell University

Truman Scholarship

Cornell endorsement is required.

Campus Deadline:  January 7, 2020


The Harry S. Truman Scholarship provides funding for graduate school as preparation for a career in government or public service. Truman Scholars receive up to $30,000 for graduate studies. In addition, they participate in leadership development programs and have special opportunities for internships and employment with the federal government. About 60 scholarships are awarded each year.


U.S. citizens and nationals who are full-time students in the junior class with a GPA of 3.5 or higher.

Eligible Fields

A wide variety of fields can lead to public service careers: traditional fields such as education, economics, or public policy as well as less obvious ones such as engineering, environmental management, or agriculture. However, some priority is given to candidates proposing to enroll in graduate programs specifically oriented to careers in public service such as public administration, public health, government, or education and human resource development.


Applicants first submit their materials to a campus committee for review in early January. Cornell chooses up to four students as nominees to the national Truman Scholarship competition. Students’ applications must be processed and endorsed through the CCS fellowships office to be eligible for the competition at the regional and/or national level. Endorsement decisions are final and not subject to appeal.

In late January nominees submit the final version of their applications.

Selection decisions (both on-campus and at the national level) are based on the following criteria:

  • Academic record: Students should have a GPA of 3.5 or higher, and should have excellent analytic and communication skills.
  • Extensive, sustained record of public and community service: Students are asked to list public and community service for both high school and college. This list should show sustained commitment to serving others and a progression of leadership and initiative.
  • Evidence of leadership: Leadership can be shown through classwork, participation in student or community organizations, and through work experience. The Truman looks for "agents of change." Activities and letters of recommendation should both provide evidence of your leadership potential.
  • Commitment to a career in government or public service: Applicants should express a clear commitment to a career in public service and should be able to show how that commitment has developed over time through volunteer and work experiences. Students should be able to state what sort of position they hope to have upon completion of their graduate studies, and five to seven years later.
  • Proposed program of study: Applicants must know which graduate degree they plan to pursue and which schools they prefer. The application asks for some detail on this point; students should be able to describe specific courses, faculty, and facilities at the schools they wish to attend, and be able to explain how the particular degree they have chosen will further them in their chosen career path.
  • Public Policy Analysis (Policy Proposal): The 500-word essay should analyze a significant public policy issue or problem in your intended area of public service in the form of a memo to the government official with the most direct authority to resolve the issue. It should define the issue, lay out a proposed solution, identify major obstacles to the implementation of that solution, and recommend a specific course of action. It should use statistical data to put the issue in context and to support the recommendation. Major sources should be cited. Any references, footnotes, and exhibits must be presented in the space available, but do not count against the 500-word limit.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Letters should be accompanied by the form provided in the application. Three letters are requested. One should speak to your commitment to a career in public service; one should address your leadership abilities and potential; one should focus on your intellect and prospects for continuing academic success. Recommenders are asked to discuss the student's values, interests, goals, and ambitions, and to offer specific examples as evidence of the candidate's asserted qualities.

Read carefully the Truman foundation website for further information.


Beth Fiori, Fellowship Coordinator
103 Barnes Hall