Fellowship FAQ

What is a fellowship?

A fellowship is a monetary award offered by an institution, organization or foundation to support academic work, research, or specialized training in an area of particular interest to the granting organization. Some fellowships can be used domestically, and some are specifically for use abroad. Eligibility guidelines and qualifications for various fellowships are vary widely. Generally, fellowships are granted to those with a high record of achievement in a given area, such as academic, athletic or artistic talent, and can also be available for students who are interested in particular fields of study or who are members of under-represented groups, who live in certain areas, or who demonstrate financial need.

How is a fellowship different from a grant? From a scholarship?

All three of these types of awards provide funding to support academic study or community service projects or other endeavors. The term "fellowship" usually indicates a post-graduate study or professional training experience and is often highly specific in its requirements for awardees. "Scholarship" is a more general term referring to any award given in support of academic study. And "grant" most often denotes an award to support a specific project or community service activity. All are usually competitive.

How will I know if I qualify for a fellowship?

Every fellowship has basic guidelines for eligibility; some are open only to U.S. citizens, some only to women, some only to minorities. The awarding institution can set any eligibility requirements it wishes. Check the detailed description of each fellowship's requirements in the Fellowships Handbook.

Who can help me with the process of applying?

Fellowship advisors, University Committee on Fellowships members, Career Services, and The Center for Academic Success, as well as faculty members in your field of interest, are all resources available to help brainstorm ideas, offer guidance, and critique proposals and application materials.

How long is the application process?

The University Committee on Fellowships recommends that applicants plan and prepare for up to a year prior to the final fellowship deadline. Some fellowships have multiples stages, including on- and off-campus interviews, which require a good deal of advance planning. Additionally, many fellowship deadlines are prior to the start of the Fall semester, so advance planning and coordination with the campus fellowship contact is essential.

What is an institutional endorsement?

An institutional endorsement means that a fellowship applicant is submitting their application with the official approval of the university. An institutional endorsement usually indicates that a fellowship nominee has gone through an internal selection process here at Southwestern University. Certain fellowships require institutional endorsement.

What is a nomination?

A nomination indicates that a student has been selected by their institution to go forward in the competition from a general pool of applicants. A nominated student may be the same as a finalist, depending on the terms of the fellowship selection process. Certain fellowships require a nomination process. This means that Southwestern University does a preliminary selection among the applicant pool and nominates a certain number of candidates. (Columbia)

What is a "mock interview?"

Career Services regularly schedules mock interviews, or practice interviews, for students applying for jobs, internships, and graduate schools. But these interviews are also invaluable for fellowship candidates. In a mock interview, a student will be videotaped while interacting with the interviewer, and then feedback on demeanor, posture, dress, and answer content are given.

How many drafts should I prepare of my personal statement?

As many as needed! Because each candidate is different, there is no standard answer, although some students will write as many as 10 drafts before the final version is produced. The campus fellowship contact can be helpful in the process of revision, as can the Writing Center. The important thing is to solicit objective advice from a range of readers - faculty, advisors, friends, family, etc. The more eyes that see it the better!

What is the "SU Internal Deadline?" Can I still apply for a fellowship if I miss the SU Internal Deadline?

The University Committee on Fellowships is very interested in helping candidates submit the strongest, most competitive applications possible. In order to help facilitate this, and to help applicants meet necessary deadlines, internal deadlines have been established for all major fellowships. Thus, it is not possible to apply to a fellowship whose internal deadline has passed.

Can I apply for fellowships if I'm studying abroad?

Yes! Email the campus contact or a member of the University Committee on Fellowships to get all the information needed to begin the application process. Most pieces can be compiled and submitted electronically, and many fellowships have on-line applications.

Advice for First-Year Students

It may seem that fellowships are too far in the future to be a priority. Yet, as a first-year student, you have the most flexibility in shaping your future in ways that will bring you the most benefit and set you on the path to compete successfully for the most prestigious fellowship awards. Additionally, the Kemper Scholars Fellowship Program is open only to first-year students!

Besides an outstanding academic record, fellowship recipients have developed a knowledge and curiosity about the world in which they live and have substantial records of leadership and community service.

Therefore, start reading the newspaper. Keep up-to-date with what is happening in the world. Involve yourself in activities and take a leadership role. Get to know your faculty and your advisor(s) so that you make good decisions about courses along the way. Let your academic advisor know of your aspiration to apply for fellowships so that they can help you identify the kinds of experiences that could help you be competitive when you apply. Ask yourself which choices will build on your current strengths and draw together the different parts of your life into a cohesive structure. Aim for this cohesiveness right from the start and you can enjoy this satisfaction all the way through.

Advice for Sophomores

You are eligible for some fellowships this year and you need to start preparation of applications for other fellowships in your junior year. Review the opportunities with the appropriate Fellowship Advisor and talk with a faculty member and/or your academic advisor about your ideas.

This is the year to assume more leadership roles in extracurricular activities. Think of new ventures that the organizations you belong to could be doing and be the person to get them started.

Gather information and give thought to a foreign study experience for next year. Get faculty advice on which foreign study locations might be best for you.

Read the newspapers and other publications such as the Economist. Keep up on your current events. Form opinions about issues and share them.

Advice for Juniors

This is the most important year. You are eligible for some fellowships this year and you need to start preparation of applications for other fellowships your senior year. Make an appointment to meet with the appropriate Fellowship Advisor to start working on those that interest you.

If you are studying abroad this year, consult with your Fellowship Advisor and your academic advisor and maintain contact with them while you are away. As fellowship deadlines are as early as mid-September of your senior year, it will be very important for you to get started now.

Some fellowships require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), so get information on the GRE and consider how to prepare for it.

Recommendations, whether for fellowships or graduate school applications, are critical. You will need several letters of reference from faculty to accompany your applications. Engage faculty members in conversation regarding your plans and begin identifying those who will write letters of support for you. Some fellowships require as many as six letters.

Read, read, read papers and articles on current affairs. When you reach the interview stage for fellowships, you will be asked about current and past events in the world.

Advice for Seniors

Is it too late if you have not already begun the process of applying for fellowship either Junior year or over the summer? Probably - especially if the fellowship deadline is only a few weeks away. However, if you are a person who always pulls things together at the last minute, be prepared to devote your full energies to your applications, and you may be able to pull it off. Be sure to get in and see the appropriate Fellowship Advisor right away.

If you are applying for a fellowship that requires the GRE, and/or if you are applying to graduate school, take the exam by December.

What happens next? Before you return in the fall, begin to solicit faculty members for references. Meet with them and share your proposal ideas. Preferably select faculty in your major or minor or with whom you have developed good rapport. For some fellowships you will need up to six letters of reference.

Write drafts and share them, rewrite drafts and share those, and rewrite again. To get help with writing your proposals and essays, go to the Writing Center, share them with faculty members and others, and be prepared to write several drafts.

Meet with the appropriate Fellowship Advisor to share your progress and seek advice along the way. Follow deadlines and get all your materials in on time. Perfection is the key.

Adapted from Columbia University, Colgate University and Amherst College.