Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program: Information for Students

About the Scholarship

The U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program enables students of limited financial means to study or intern abroad, providing them with skills critical to our national security and economic prosperity. The Institute of International Education has administered the program since its inception in 2001.

  • For students at 2 and 4 year academic institutions
  • Open to all academic majors
  • Summer & Fall online applications are due March
  • Summer Early Cycle and Spring online applications are due in October

Scholarship Encourages


  • from diverse backgrounds
  • going to non-traditional study abroad destinations, especially those outside of Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand
  • with disabilities
  • in fields of study underrepresented in study abroad (such as STEM & Engineering)
  • studying abroad for longer periods of time
Photo of a silhouette of a person holding a suitcase handle with their right hand looking out a window at an airplane, by Yousef Alfuhigi

Eligibility Requirements

Must be:

  • Enrolled as an undergraduate student at a two or four-year U.S. institution.
  • A United States citizen.
  • Receiving a Federal Pell Grant at the time of application or provide proof of receiving a Pell Grant during the term of the study abroad program or internship.
  • Participating in a credit bearing, University approved study abroad or internship program. Remote/Virtual programs are eligible through Summer 2022.
  • Applying to a program in a country or area with an overall Travel Advisory Level 1 or 2, according to the U.S. Department of State’s Travel Advisory System. If a recipient of a Gilman award, the destination must be at a Travel Advisory Level 1 or 2 before the program starts or recipient will be required to change their program location.
Photo of various currencies of paper money by Jason Leung

Award Information

Semester/Year Awards:

  • Fall/Academic Year/Early Summer cycle: One in four students are awarded
  • Fall and Academic Year award notifications in Mid-July
  • Winter/Spring/Summer cycle: One in five students are awarded
  • Spring award notifications in November
  • Average award: $4,000, award amounts vary based on the length of study and student need.

Summer Awards:

  • Early Summer award notifications in February, Summer award notifications in late April
  • Limited number of summer scholarships so Early Summer applications are recommended!
  • Average summer award offered: $3,000

Critical Need Language Award:

  • Up to $3,000 additional funds for combined award of up to $8,000
  • Languages Include: Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bahasa Indonesian, Bangla, Chinese (Mandarin), Hebrew, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Swahili, Turkish, Urdu

Programs with Pell Grant/Gilman Funds Match

Photo of various currencies of paper money by John McArthur

Application Tips

Personal Statement Essay Tips

  • Answer all parts of the essay question/prompt
  • Acknowledge who will be reading/reviewing your essay (Study Abroad Advisors, Fellowship Advisors across the USA, Language Faculty, US Higher Education Administrators) and speak to your audience
  • Proof your essay and utilize your resources: previous scholarship applications, Hacherl Research & Writing Studio, Scholarship Center, Education Abroad advisors
  • Use an active voice, write what you will do versus what you could or might do
  • Emphasize the academic benefits of your program, not travel opportunities
  • Tips for the Building Mutual Understanding prompt: 
    • Think about how you are engaged in your home communities (on and off campus) and if those types of opportunities will exist in your host program?
    • Think about what *parts* of America you feel you represent, as no one expects students to represent every facet of the entire country, or all aspects of the US, but to feature how you might represent aspects or parts of what make up the US.

Essay Don'ts

  • Don’t talk about being excited about travelling, feature program excursions, or additional travel during your study abroad. Remember, this is an academic experience, not a travel opportunity.
  • Disclose former travel opportunities extensively
  • Ignore the questions/prompts or only partially answer them
  • Ignore your conclusion
  • Over-explain things. Stick to your point (better to have a short essay that is well-written than a long essay where the main points are lost)
  • Disclose or feature other significant scholarships you may have received. Panel readers to want to “spread the wealth” and award money to students who haven’t been as fortunate with funding.
  • Avoid lengthy descriptions or flowery language. Reviewers read hundreds of essays, what will make them remember you in a positive way?

Essay Do's

Make a outline for your essay: 

  • Introduction: personal story about you and your chosen program
    • Lead with a story, rather than the traditional, “My name is X, studying X, in X country”
    • Highlight what makes you unique and how you have overcome any struggles related to your diversity or membership of a non-traditional study abroad category: Ethnic Minority, First Generation College Student, Student with a Disability, LGBTQ, Veteran, STEM major, older than 24, Married, Parent, Adopted, Religious Minority, Mix-Race Family, come from a small community, etc.
  • Main point: why you chose your program and how it will impact degree progress 
  • Supporting paragraphs to address application questions/prompts:
    • How your program fulfills degree requirements, meets academic and personal goals, fits your budget
    • List the class titles you intend to take
    • How your program may lead to future career or educational opportunities
    • Connect your goals with the location you are going to, include research and statistics if possible on your location, program, and host school
    • Include any knowledge or study (independently or for credit) of the host language
    • Express your financial situation, why you need money and if you work part time
  • Closing: Re-state your elevator pitch and thank the reviewers for consideration of your application
  • Explain any poor academic performance or low GPA, but don’t dwell on it

Bonus Essay Tips

Align your Goals to the Mission of the Organization or Scholarship Foundation: Articulate how you can help to further their mission and goals. This will show you have done your research and that you will be a good advocate for the program and scholarship.

Be Specific: The more specific you can be about your long and short-term goals, including courses you plan to take and projects you plan to fulfill, the better you will stand out. 

Utilize the Power of Storytelling: Scholarship reviewers often hear a similar narrative, "My name is x, I am applying for x program, in x location." If you can lead with a personal story, and share aspects of who you are, your identity, journey, and your impact, this will be memorable, and the reviewers will want to invest in you. A willingness to share your unique story can have huge impact!

Address Urgency and Why now? Making the case for this opportunity right now, as the most urgent time for you to be awarded can make a difference in prioritizing your application. Perhaps there is a conference, experience, a summit, or a project happening in your destination that you want to take part in, or you are graduating soon, and this is your only opportunity. This urgency can move you to the top of the list over others that don't make this case.

Speak to Alumni: Connect with alumni from your program, those who studied in that destination, or who have been awarded the scholarship. Alumni can provide insights into the program and experience. They may also have good tips and strategies for involvement pre-departure, onsite, and upon return for the Follow-on Service Project.

Person writing on sticky notes on a corkboard by Jo Szczepanska

Follow-on Service Project

Follow-on Service Project Tips

  • Share information about international education and The Gilman International Scholarship
  • Choose a target audience: ideally clubs/organizations/students you have connections with, and communities that could benefit from the Gilman
  • Be creative: Target community organizations and future outreach rather than campus communities. Target ideal populations not just language classes on campus. How will you pay it forward?
  • Make project realistic and feasible
  • List organizations or people that you have spoken to about getting involved with your projects
  • Connect with the Education Abroad office - they may have ideas or projects for a follow on that they feel would really help education abroad as a field. Collaborating with existing offices on projects could add strength to your proposal
  • Use an active voice: write what you will do versus what you could or might do
  • Create a timeline for your project
  • Upon completion of your project you will be required to submit a two-page final report summarizing your experience abroad and the impact of your Follow-on project.

Follow-on Service Project Ideas

  • Think about your networks, your on-campus job, extracurricular organizations and how can you promote study abroad within those groups
  • Collaborate with your academic department or club to make a resource about study abroad
  • Consider presentation types like Canva, Digital Storytelling, movies, music videos, etc.
  • Create blogs, articles for a school newspaper, journalism topic, public or school radio
  • Present at regional and national student club organization conferences
  • Return to your former community college or high school and work with clubs/departments to present on your experience and the scholarship
  • Work with related offices to put on Scholarship Workshops and feature the Gilman International Scholarship, how to apply, be successful
  • Organize scholarship ceremonies to highlight study abroad scholarship winners 
  • Work with departments to conduct research and polls on interest for study abroad, how to make study abroad more accessible, identify barriers, consider focus groups to gain feedback
  • Host an open mic night, create a cookbook from abroad, or an art piece for public galleries
  • Communicate with the Education Abroad office to work as a Peer Advisor, or identify projects within your academic department to better make study abroad and scholarships more accessible


Visit the Gilman Scholarship website for updated information and to start the application process!

Scrabble tiles that spell out, "GO FOR IT" photo by Brett Jordan