All You Need to Know about the DoD SMART Scholarship Program

The SMART Scholarship offers students a full-ride and a paid job after graduation.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

August 18, 2022

All You Need to Know about the DoD SMART Scholarship Program
Get details on the full-ride scholarship exclusively for STEM majors.
Are you passionate about a college education and a future career in STEM? Would you love to use your knowledge, experience, and talent to serve your country? The SMART-Scholarship-for-Service from the Department of Defense may just be the opportunity you are looking for. This prestigious scholarship program not only provides a full-ride scholarship to a participating university, but it also guarantees a civilian job with the Department of Defense (DoD) upon graduation. For every year that SMART Scholars receive education funding, they must complete one year of service at a DoD facility after graduation. Upon graduation, SMART Scholars receive competitive pay and benefits. Once their service requirement is up, SMART Scholars have the option to pursue a career elsewhere or remain with the DoD. According to the SMART Scholarship Program, an astonishing 77% of Scholars remain with the DoD.
Take a look at the details for the DoD SMART Scholarship Program.

Eligibility for the SMART Scholarship Program

To be considered for the SMART Scholarship Program, applicants must meet the following requirements:
• Citizen of the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada or the United Kingdom. • 18 years of age or older as of program start date (August 1, 2023). • Committed to at least one summer internship at DoD facility. • Committed to employment with DoD after graduation. • Minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale with good standing at their institution. • Requesting at least 1.5 years of degree funding prior to graduation (which starts at the program start date).
Additionally, undergraduate applicants must be currently enrolled in an accredited U.S. college or university as well as hold a high school diploma/GED. Current high school students must wait until they are enrolled in college to apply. Graduate students must also be currently enrolled in an accredited U.S. college or university – or awaiting notification that they have been admitted. Those who are waiting for an admission decision must be making plans to attend graduate school during the fall 2021 term. Finally, students must be studying one of the STEM-specified disciplines, such as Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, Environmental Sciences, and Oceanography. A full list of eligible majors can be found here.

How to Apply for a SMART Scholarship

Applying for a SMART Scholarship is just like applying for any other opportunity, although the application itself is quite extensive. In addition to the application form, applicants must also send in two references, their resume, and transcripts. The deadline for applications is December 1. Applications are reviewed and ranked within each STEM discipline. In February, applicants receive a notification of whether or not they are a semi-finalist. Again, applications are reviewed to determine all of the finalists for that particular year. In April, students are notified if they have been selected for the SMART Scholarship Program.

Planning for a SMART Scholarship

Students can use the SMART Scholarship at regionally accredited schools across the country. They must attend school full-time; however, there are a few caveats. If a student would like to take part in an internship or research fieldwork opportunity that is off campus, they must have written approval from the SMART Program. They must also remain officially enrolled in their institution, earn academic credit toward their degree through the internship or fieldwork, and not be paid. In the event that a student would like to study abroad, they must also get written approval from the SMART program. To study abroad, the program must meet the following requirements: • Curriculum must directly contribute to completion of degree requirements. • Participation must not interfere with graduation end time and post-graduate employment start time. • Must not interfere with participant’s ability to complete DoD internship as well as post-graduation employment. • Must maintain full-time enrollment status throughout study abroad term. • Tuition for study abroad must be paid directly to the U.S. institution at which the scholar is already receiving funds. • Must not affect the scholar’s eligibility to maintain the security clearance required for the DoD internship in addition to post-graduation service requirements. Students hoping to pay for college with a SMART Scholarship need to put time and effort into research and planning for their future. In addition to knowing their career choice, students also must plan for outside internships or study abroad opportunities – or else be willing to be flexible and work around some of the restrictions of the SMART Scholarship Program.

Benefits for SMART Scholarship Program Winners

The SMART Scholarship Program is one of the most prestigious in the country. Recipients of this award are taken care of during their undergraduate or graduate years. Here are just a few of the benefits: • Full tuition in addition to room and board. • Stipend of $25,000 – 38,000 a year depending on degree level. • Summer internship experiences for 8 – 12 weeks. • Health insurance of up to $1,200 per year. • Miscellaneous allowance of up to $1,000 per year. • Experienced mentor at one of the Sponsoring Facilities. • Employment at DoD facility upon graduation.

Who Gets Accepted into the SMART Scholarship Program

For students that are interested in applying, the program has provided some insight into who actually wins these scholarships based on 2018 application cycle data: • The program has an 18% acceptance rate. • Average GPA of 2022 scholars: 3.75. • Of those that received awards, 47% were undergraduate, 12% belong to a joint Bachelor’s-Master’s degree program, 14% were Master’s, and 27% were working toward their PhD. • For those that completed the SAT, average scores were: Critical Reading – 669.5, Math – 697.2, and Writing – 644. The SMART Scholarship isn’t just a full ride scholarship to help students pay for school, it gives them a start toward an unparalleled experience as soon as they graduate. SMART Scholars engage in groundbreaking discoveries and explorations as civilian employees within the DoD. If this sounds like the perfect opportunity for you, apply now.

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