What it takes: Tips from CSU Boettcher Scholars

If you’ve heard of the prestigious Boettcher Scholarship, you probably know what a big accomplishment it is to receive it. Boettcher scholars are at the tops of their classes, actively involved in their communities, and passionate about everything from art to engineering to solving global hunger. We tracked down some of CSU’s Boettcher scholars and got the inside scoop on how they made it through the process — all the way from pre-application to finalist to award recipient.

Before you apply

“You definitely need to keep your GPA up there in high school, but it’s about more than being in the top of your class. Get involved with the community, do volunteer work. Find a service project you love, and commit to it. Start a club in your school. ” –Eric

“I learned of the Boettcher scholarship when I was a junior in high school. I’d always done well in school, so I made sure to keep my grades up, but I also took challenging courses. AP classes and honors classes in high school will show the Boettcher foundation that you’re not just a good student, but you’re a student who challenges yourself.” –Leah

“In high school, I focused a lot of my extra time at a horse rescue facility and an equine therapy facility, and I loved every second of it. Choose a volunteer job that you’re passionate about; it will show people that you’re not just doing it to check off a box. You’re doing it because you believe in it and you want to use your passion to help make the world better.” –Leah

Use your time in high school to really explore. What interests you? Find out, then pursue it. Go out of your comfort zone to really discover yourself, and then connect your passions to your studies and your extracurriculars.” –Kori

“Be consistent with the organizations you’re volunteering for. Make sure your extracurriculars and/or service work have a focus and speak to your interests. Don’t just volunteer for anything and everything; show them your heart is in the work you do.” -Janaye

“I loved books and reading as a kid. I knew there were communities nearby who didn’t have access to literature the way I had as a kid, so I started a book drive. I ended up donating over 3,000 books to children in low-income situations. Connect what you love to your service projects, and it won’t feel like work, it’ll just feel right.” –Kori

Tips for the application

The essay is your chance to shine. Your academics are important, but they already know you’re a high achiever. Talk about how you got there, where you’ve struggled, how you’ve made it happen when things don’t go exactly how you want. Talk about your favorite subjects and how you’ve explored them beyond the classroom. Talk about your work outside school, and how it’s changed you. Be raw and real and genuine.” –Jonathan

“Your application is your first chance to be authentically you — and that’s what Boettcher wants. Be honest about your passions, your interests, and your struggles. Talk about any adversity you’ve overcome. There is no “perfect candidate.” Talk about your academic achievements, but also talk about your personal explorations, your dreams. Be you.” –Janaye

“Use your essay as a chance to tell a story. Whether that’s about a personal event you overcame, or an inspiring moment that changed the course of your studies, go there. Tell them who you are and how you’ve grown. It’s as much about being real as it is about being outstanding and driven. Show them the whole picture of you.” –Eric

“Be honest about your passions  and what you’re good at in the application. Pick out things to highlight that have helped you grow. Then have people read your essay. Revise it. Have others read your essay, then revise it. You’ll know when it’s right.” –Kori

Tips for semifinalists

“Your letters of recommendation are the entire semifinal round. That means you need to be really thoughtful about who you choose to write letters for you. Choose wisely, choose early, and let your letter writers know very early — months in advance if possible!” –Eric

“Show your letter writers your application and talk to them about the Boettcher scholarship. Go over your resume with them. Talk through your passions, your academic achievements, and any areas you’d like them to speak specifically about in their letter.” –Leah

Send thank-yous or get appreciation gifts for your letter writers. If you make it through the next round, it’s because of them.” –Janaye

Get people from different areas of your life to write letters of recommendation for you. If you’ve already got a teacher in mind, ask someone who knows you outside of school, like a member of your church or a community member who knows you well. You want people who can speak authentically about who you are in different venues.” –Jonathan 

“Send your letter writers points about you to help guide them. Ask them to write about impactful things that have defined your relationship with them.” –Kori

“You want to choose people who will hype you up, but also be real and honest about who you are. Their letter of recommendation doesn’t have to be all dazzle; you want them to paint the whole picture of who they know you to be — your highest and lowest points, the good things and the bad, and the way you made it through all of it.” –Janaye

Tips for finalists

“Before your interview, you’ll have a quick, five-minute pre-interview with the program director. This is Boettcher’s way of helping you relax and get comfortable before the real interview. Take it as an opportunity to work out some nerves. They’re there to help you calm down.” –Janaye

Practice! Practice! Practice! Mock interviews are crucial to your success in the big panel interview. Practice with family, but also with people who don’t know you well. Ask for honest feedback.” –Leah

Do mock interviews with community members, your principal, counselors, teachers. Ask them to bring questions you might not expect. And, when you ask them for feedback, tell them to be mindful of your content as well as your body language, eye contact, and volume. Every detail counts.” –Leah

“You need to really know your application, essay, and resume well. They’re going to ask you questions that are very specific to you as a person. They might take the smallest detail from your resume and ask you to expand on it. Be ready to tell meaningful stories.” –Eric

“It’s OK to get emotional. They want to hear your story, your struggles, what you care about — all of it. Practice telling those stories enough so that they won’t derail you, but don’t be afraid to feel them while you’re interviewing. In the end, they want to know who you are, struggles and scars and accomplishments alike.” –Eric

It’s not as scary as you think it’ll be.” –Leah

Take our advice

“Don’t try to be anyone other than who you are every step of the way. If you start authentically, you’ll end authentically. – Janaye

“It’s not all seriousness. I had so much fun attending semifinalist and finalist events for Boettcher scholars at CSU. I got to meet other applicants, and realized they’re going through the same thing I was going through. That’s where you make lifelong connections, and connections with students you’ll be attending CSU with. You’ll also meet CSU Boettcher scholars and get to ask them anything you want before you interview.” – Jonathan

Take advantage of the CSU Boettcher semifinalist visit and finalist visit. You’ll get to meet other Boettcher applicants, talk to current Boettcher scholars, and you’ll get an inside track on the entire process, along with endless tips. I met my roommate at a finalist event, and we’re still hanging out together.” – Eric

Trust yourself. Know that you’re really qualified for this, and making it even to semifinals is a huge accomplishment.” – Leah

The scholarship will never define you. You are already killing it. Know that. – Janaye