Harry S. Truman Scholarship

About the Harry S. Truman Scholarship
Basic Eligibility & Selection Criteria
Campus Endorsement Process
Application Components
Application Timeline
Applicant Resources
USC Recipients
AHF Advising


University Endorsement Required

About the Harry S. Truman Scholarship

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship is a highly competitive and prestigious scholarship for college juniors who have outstanding leadership potential, plan to pursue careers in public service, and wish to attend graduate school in the U.S. or abroad to prepare for their careers. The scholarship carries an award of $30,000 plus a variety of educational and leadership development opportunities.

As many as 65 Truman Scholarships will be awarded nationally each year.

Basic Eligibility

Applicants must:

  • be a current junior or have senior-level standing during their third year of college enrollment at the time of application.
  • be a U.S. citizen (or U.S. national); or expect to receive U.S. citizenship by date scholarship is awarded.

Selection Criteria

USC juniors who demonstrate the following traits are invited to apply for campus endorsement:

  • Outstanding leadership potential as demonstrated by elected positions in student government and clubs, organizing and implementing special programs or group projects.
  • Extensive records of public and community service which include volunteer efforts, community organizing, and/or local political involvement.
  • Commitment to careers in government or in the public or not-for-profit sector as demonstrated by previous internship or work experience.
  • Strong desire to influence public policy.
  • Possess intellectual strength in their written, analytical and communication skills.
  • Clear intent to pursue a graduate degree program. Most Truman Scholars seek juris doctors or master’s and doctoral degrees in public administration, public policy, public health, international relations, government, economics, social services, education, urban planning, conservation and environmental protection. Scholars who are proposing multiple degrees need to state the case for why all degrees are needed to pursue public service career.

Learn more about eligibility and selection criteria

Campus Endorsement Process

Campus endorsement is a competitive process and not guaranteed. Students seeking USC nomination must submit all application components by the campus endorsement deadline. USC may nominate up to (4) USC juniors who matriculated as freshman and (2) transfer juniors per application cycle.

Click here to access the USC Campus Endorsement application

Additional Guidelines
Applicants are evaluated by a committee panel of USC faculty. The panel has endorsed students from a wide range of majors, career goals and leadership experiences. While there is no standard portfolio for a successful candidate, there are some general evaluation guidelines that the faculty committee typically follows:

  • Leadership: Formal leadership positions, such as elected office in student government or another organization, are one way to demonstrate leadership. The committee also values leadership in less formal roles, such as organizing community action efforts, spearheading a voter awareness drive, or lobbying for legislation or policy changes. You must demonstrate your ability to be a future “change agent.”
  • Public Service: The faculty committee look for evidence of sustained interest in community or public service. This may be demonstrated by volunteer or paid activity, either on- or off-campus. Examples include government internships, political campaigns, student government, or volunteer work. Successful candidates have been involved in a specific activity or area of interest over a period of several years.
  • Academic Success: Though it is not a strict requirement, the typical USC nominee has a GPA of 3.7 or higher. Your current major need not be directly related to public service, but it is important that your graduate school plans can be clearly connected to your public service career interests.

Application Components

You must receive campus endorsement from the university before you can start the Truman Scholarship application. Click here to access the USC Campus Endorsement application.

The application includes the following components:

  • Background information
  • List of leadership activities and public service experiences
  • Transcript(s) or Academic Records
  • Short Response Essays
    • 1) LeadershipDescribe one specific example of your leadership which shows the type of leader you are, how you make decisions, and how you get others to follow you.
    • 2) Public Service: Describe a recent particularly satisfying public service activity (separate from leadership example) which demonstrates your ability to be a change agent and how you organized others in the process.
    • 3) Social ProblemDescribe a social problem you want to address when you enter public service using statistical data to define the magnitude of the problem. Think critically to examine the problem from divergent perspectives.
    • 4) Relevant Courses: What are the three most significant courses you have taken in preparation for your career?
    • 5) Graduate Education and Future Goals: Describe one or two graduate programs to which you intend to apply if selected for the Truman Scholarship, and explain what makes them uniquely a good fit for you.  Relate the program(s) to your public service short and long term goals and career aspirations.
    • 6) Policy Proposal: Prepare a policy proposal on an important and controversial topic in your field which has significance to the US government, a substantial segment of the population, your state, the environment, or an international community. Discuss feasible policy solutions which are supported by statistical data.
  • Letters of recommendation (3) (Read more)
    • Each of the letters should address one of the three main selection criteria. Letter writers, or referees, need not have witnessed the example(s) of your achievements described in your essays, but they should be able to discuss the example(s) in detail and how it fits within your overall profile as an applicant.
      • Leadership Abilities and Potential: At least one letter should confirm the experience described in your leadership essay.
      • Commitment to a Career in Public Service:  At least one letter should confirm the experience described for the public service essay.
      • Intellect and Prospects for Continuing Academic Success:  At least one letter should discuss your overall academic background in the context of your future plans for career and graduate school. It is highly recommended that the referee has taught you at some point.

View Sample Application

Application Timeline

USC Campus Endorsement Application 

  • September 1, 2020: USC Campus Endorsement application opens
  • November 4, 2020: Campus Endorsement application deadline  
  • November 10-11, 2020: Campus Endorsement interview for competitive applicants
  • November 16, 2020: Interviewed candidates are notified of the University’s nomination decision.

Truman Scholarship National Application 

  • December 2020 – February 2021: Endorsed USC candidates collaborate with AHF staff to develop and finalize application materials.
  • February 2, 2021: Truman Scholarship national deadline
  • Mid-Late February 2021: Finalists notified
  • March – April 2021: Regional review panels for selected finalists
  • April 2021: Truman Scholars announced
  • May 2021 Truman Scholars Leadership Week and Awards Ceremony in Kansas City, MO.

Applicant Resources

USC Recipients

View more USC recipients

AHF Advising

Open Advising: August – Mid-October
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