Udall Scholarship Essay Format

The Udall Scholarship is a merit award from the Udall Foundation that provides leadership, public service, internship, and networking opportunities, in addition to up to $7,000 for eligible academic expenses, to 60 second and third year students with leadership and public service who have demonstrated a commitment to issues related to American Indian nations or to the environment.

Scholarships are awarded on the basis of merit to two groups of students:

  • Those engaged in environmental issues through perspectives of (but not limited to) policy, engineering, science, education, urban planning and renewal, business, health, justice, and economics
  • Those with American Indian or Alaska Natives backgrounds who engaged in tribal policy or Native health care

The Udall Scholarship honors the legacies of Morris Udall and Stewart Udall, whose careers had a significant impact on American Indian self-governance, health care, and the stewardship of public lands and natural resources.

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You must meet the following eligibility requirements to apply for the Udall Scholarship:

Deadline to Apply for UNC Endorsement

Wednesday, January 24, 2018 (5:00 pm ET)

Tips & Advice

Students interested in applying for the Udall Scholarship should:

  • Be a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national, or a U.S. resident.
  • Be a second or third year student during the 2017-18 academic year and plan to complete full-time study during the 2018-19 academic year. There is no age limit.
  • Be interested in environmental issues, or be American Indian or Alaska Native and interested in tribal public policy or Native health care.
  • GPA: There is no GPA requirement.
  • Receive UNC’s endorsement through the Office of Distinguished Scholarships.

Deadline for Email Nomination (Optional)

Thursday, November 9, 2017 (11:59 pm ET)

Recent Udall Scholarship Recipients and Honorable Mentions

Joseph Locklear ’17 (Scholarship, 2014-15; Honorable Mention, 2015-16)

Chelsea Barnes ’15 (Honorable Mention, 2013-14)

Sangeetha Kumar ’15 (Honorable Mention, 2013-14)

The Udall Scholarship honors Morris K. Udall, an Arizona Congressman who authored legislation to protect wilderness areas and demonstrated commitment to the Native American and Alaska Native populations. Sophomores and juniors are eligible for the scholarship, which covers educational expenses for one year up to a maximum of $5,000. Udall Scholars come from various fields, ranging from environmental science to engineering to political science, and share in common a commitment to preserving or improving the environment. Udall Scholarships also include special categories for nominees who are Native American or Alaska Native with a commitment to the areas of tribal policy and health care.

The Udall Scholarship Selection Criteria

Udall Scholarship applications are reviewed by at least two readers, ranging from professors of environmental science to scholarship directors to representatives from the EPA. Four principal categories are used to rank each applicant:

  • commitment to the environment, health care, or tribal public policy;
  • academic achievements;
  • nominee’s personal essay;
  • personal characteristics as revealed by such evidence as volunteerism and testimonials in letters of reference.

Answering the Udall Application Essay Questions

The Udall application is extensive, including short essays written in response to a series of questions. These questions invite detail in such areas as your professional aspirations, career goals, research experience, leadership, personal motivation, and service, and there’s even an open-ended question asking what additional information you wish to share. In answering these questions, former Udall applicants have described active membership in professional service organizations, a spring break Habitat for Humanity project, a life-changing semester of study in Ecuador, and a project using bird counts as a marker to assess the biological integrity of a local landscape. To answer the open-ended question, which the selection committee uses to sometimes award discretionary points, former applicants have emphasized an interest in environmental education outreach, discussed their role as the first member of their family to attend college, or noted their struggles as a single parent on financial aid.

Most important in answering these application questions is that you read the questions carefully to discern the desired criteria, that you use specifics and avoid unnecessary redundancy with other parts of the application, and that you avoid leaving any of the questions blank or providing answers that are out of proportion to your other answers in length or intent. Seek a balanced, efficient presentation.

Evaluation of Two Sample Sets of Udall Application Materials

The two sample sets of Udall application materials in the pdf below are richly detailed, with both writers thoroughly discussing research and field experiences. In discussing his environmental commitment, the first writer, an environmental engineering student, focuses on a field trip to a Superfund site where he witnessed remediation in action, while the second writer, studying mathematics and ecology, discusses a course she is taking on environmental issues in South Africa and a sailing adventure in the Florida Keys. Of note in the first writer’s essay is his creative answer to question #4, about leadership in his campus community, where he discusses his participation in an outreach service project. The first writer was put forth as a finalist but did not receive a Udall. The second writer did receive a scholarship, after winning honorable mention in the previous year.

The final application question is especially challenging, requiring you to compose an 800-word essay discussing Udall’s ideas and connect them to your own interests. Through the detail of the two samples, we sense that these writers are genuine rather than simply parroting back answers they anticipate the committee wants to hear, and that they studied Udall’s work carefully to inform their essays. The first writer focuses on Udall’s contributions to “the philosophical evolution of the environmental movement,” while the second writer takes the gutsy approach of discussing legislation that Udall fought hard for but later came to regret because of some of its impacts. This writer also draws an interesting case for simpatico views she has with Udall regarding her current environmental project.

Click here to download a pdf of two sets of Udall application essays by former students.


To apply for the Udall Scholarship, you must start the process online, where you’ll find everything from application materials to a video featuring former Udall winners.

Visit the Morris K. Udall Scholarship website.

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