Ada Draper Award



At a time not so very long ago, in the mid-nineteenth century, when the usual expectation for a young lady was that she would stay home and hold a candle in the window for her gentleman friend’s return from his Grand Tour, Ada Draper did more than study abroad and more than wish her own experience on other young women. Her wishing made it so. In her last will and testament written in Paris in 1888, Ada Draper established a perpetual trust, the interest of which “shall be applied to establish scholarships and to enable needy and meritorious female students to be sent to Europe after graduation to complete their studies.” By which verb “to complete,” Ada clearly meant not “to finish once and for all,” but, in the etymological sense, “to make full.”

Ada Draper herself epitomized the values of lifelong learning and independent-mindedness. Born in Boston in 1835 in a prominent shipping family specializing in the South America trade, Ada Draper spent a good deal of her own adult life in Europe. One may speculate about her reasons, including surely her love of European art and a set of beliefs not considered acceptable in the polite Boston society of the time.

Why she chose to make Boston University the institution whose female graduates would benefit from her trust is a matter of speculation. She likely knew BU as the first institution in Boston to admit women to graduation and the first, in 1873, to award an American M.D. to a woman. She may have known that BU’s founding president William Fairfield Warren also served as the founding president of the Massachusetts Association for the Advancement of Women.


Award Qualifications:

This award will be granted to an outstanding CAS senior woman (minimum grade point average of 3.5) to be used for traveling or studying abroad after graduation. The fund stipulates “such income shall be applied to establish scholarships and to enable the most meritorious and needy female students to be sent abroad after graduation to complete their studies.” Implicit is the recognition that learning, in Ms. Draper’s opinion, should extend beyond the classroom walls and take place in foreign climes.


Previous Award Winners:

Previous winners of the Ada Draper award have done a wide range of projects and trips.  Just a few examples are:

  • A summer in Jerusalem doing an internship with the Palestine-Isreael Journal of Politics
  • Volunteering with professors in Ecuador correlating reproductive activity with environmental factors in painted forest toadlets
  • A month spent in Cameroon collecting data on the under-described language of Medumba
  • Interning in Hungary studying canine cognition at Eotovos Lorand University’s Family Dog Research Project
  • Traveling to Ireland to gather data to create a database of resources for English instructors teaching Angela’s Ashes


Information for Applicants:

  • Applicants must be a College of Arts & Sciences female-identifying student graduating in January, May, or September 2024 with a cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or higher.
  • Applicants must complete the application cover page and include a proposal essay, a copy of current resume, and two letters of reference.
  • Complete Ada Draper applications are due by 5:00pm on Friday, March 1, 2024 to CAS Advising at 100 Bay State Rd. Room 401 or to Click here to download the application cover sheet.
  • Finalists will be asked to interview with a selection committee at the beginning of April.


Frequently Asked Questions:

Q:  How long should my proposal essay be?

A: There are no length requirements. We find that most proposal essays end up being around 2-5 pages, but can certainly be longer or shorter.

Q: Is there a time-frame in which I must travel?

A: Most trips take place the summer or fall following graduation. However, we have approved trips that have taken place later for specific reasons  (e.g. the rainy season in some countries would be a difficult time to travel). Ideally, a proposed trip would occur within one year of winning the award.

Q: Does my proposed travel have to be strictly academic in nature?

A: Yes and no. Ada Draper’s vision was to have students supplement their formal  classroom education with travel that would serve as a capstone. So, while the award in no way requires you to do formal research, we are also not funding trips that are not related to your academics. A good example is one of the 2014 winners: she was a Biochemistry & Molecular Biology major and a Dance minor. She used her award money for a trip to Spain to study tap dance with some of the world’s best tap instructors. 

Q: Can I use my award money for toward graduate school?

A:  No, the Ada Draper Award may not be used for tuition.

Q: What should my reference letters be about and/or whom should they be from?

A: References letters should speak about you as a person, a student, your ability to travel and work independently, and why you are deserving of the Ada Draper Award. While we say the two references should come from faculty, they may also come from advisors, supervisors, etc. if those people can better speak about you.

Q: To whom can I address further questions?

A: Further questions may be directed to Ali Grise, Director of Academic Advising: