I don’t have ___________? Is that OK?

Fill in this blank with any document we request in the application. The Secretary does not forward the application for review unless there is a complete application form, an official transcript, a FAFSA (or its equivalent) and a recommendation letter. If the document you are missing is something other than what I’ve mentioned, than your application still gets reviewed.  Depending on how impressive your other documents are, the missing document may not matter. If you are publishing in peer-reviewed journals, nobody’s going to care if you can’t find a copy of your SAT score. If you’re just out of high-school, than the copy of your SAT score report is more important.

So don’t ask the Secretary this question.

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May I Submit an Unofficial Transcript to Save Money?

New and renewal applicants are required to submit official transcripts.

Penn State University’s website has a description of official transcripts:

An official transcript is the University’s certified statement of your academic record. The official paper transcript is printed on security sensitive paper and contains the University seal and signature of the University Registrar. The official electronic transcript is a PDF secured by a digital certificate which is displayed at the top of the transcript along with a blue ribbon.

We also accept authenticated, signed Adobe PDF documents for renewal applicants and awardees asking for the second disbursement. Some universities allow secure electronic transmission, so ask your registrar about that. Some universities allow you to provide proxies access to your financial and academic records, so that would substitute for an official transcript as well. We also accept documents from secure services like Interfolio.

Remember, as is clearly stated on the application:

For each institution which awarded you a degree, submit your most complete official transcript. Submit your latest official transcript which shows your current progress towards the educational goals you listed above. Only submit your high school transcript if you have not completed significant college work.

For 90% of applicants, you will only need to submit 1 or 2 official transcripts. If you are nearing the end of your PhD or professional school and you have 2 previous degrees, you probably need to be using a service like Interfolio as you apply for other grants and then jobs.

If one of your institutions is charging too much money for a transcript, then you should discuss with that institution a remedy such as those I’ve mentioned above. Or organize a student strike. Or something. But it’s not FEF’s responsibility.

FEF also requires official transcripts for award winners to get the 2nd half of their disbursement. If you don’t want to pay for an official transcript showing your grades in the Fall semester, have the Financial Aid office explain to you and the FEF Secretary how to verify that you passed your classes in the Fall semester without an official transcript being sent.

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May I Send Application Materials by E-Mail?

New applicants must submit all material under a single cover by US Postal Service. Renewal applicants and awardees requesting a second disbursement may send materials by e-mail, especially transcripts.

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Caution on Expediting Transcripts and Other Documents

When you ask your institution to expedite sending a transcript, be careful that it does not send it to FEF in manner requiring a signature. #1, this forces me to stand in line at the Post Office to retrieve the mail. #2, if for some reason I don’t pick up mail for 10-12 days, then the Post Office may return the item.

In general, you never need to send things overnight or 2-day or priority. Please use 1st class mail. If I need you to send something overnight, I’ll provide you with a different address.

This is of particular concern to people who are attending institutions in other countries. Many US universities now have branch campuses abroad. See if you can get the US main branch of the university to handle sending your transcript to FEF. If you have to send it from overseas, do not send it to our post office box. Many international delivery services will not deliver to PO Boxes. Contact the Secretary for an alternate address.

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FEF Cannot Offer Feedback on Your Application

An applicant who did not receive an award wrote asking for feedback:

Would you happen to be able to offer me any suggestions as to how I can improve my application for other scholarship contests or if I decide to reapply next year? I would appreciate any constructive criticism you may have.

The FEF secretary’s response:

I’m not part of the review committee, and I did not evaluate the applications. Time does not permit me to answer your question in the manner it deserves.

Let me just say that the review process has an element of subjectivity. Other people may have reviewed the applications and determined that yours deserved an award. Sometimes the review committee sees too many of one type of academic program and prefers another.

Finally, it is FEF’s policy not to disclose the contents of recommendation letters to applicants.

One thing which I should have added in my response. Everybody who submits the application should read the Frequently Asked Questions document. There are some good tips for making a better application.