Frequently Asked Questions

What is a fellowship?

A fellowship is a grant or stipend, often called a scholarship, given to support advanced study or research. The award is typically made on the basis of merit, though financial need may be a requirement as well.

What is the difference between the Fellowships Office and the Scholarships Center?

The Fellowships Office assists undergraduates, graduating seniors, and alumni who are interested in applying for nationally competitive scholarships. The Scholarship Center coordinates and administers local, national, and international private donor scholarships, as well as institutional and state scholarship programs for Western students.

What is a “nationally competitive scholarship”?

The term “nationally competitive scholarship” refers to prestigious scholarships that are open to outstanding students at colleges and universities throughout the United States. Many excellent students apply for a relatively small number of awards.

Why should I apply for a fellowship?

In addition to the financial reward, which can be very generous, many fellowships provide unique opportunities for study and/or research. Certain fellowships include internships related to a student’s field of study; many offer the opportunity to build a professional network. A number of the most prestigious scholarships enable the recipient to study or conduct research in another country for an extended period of time.

Apart from winning, what are the benefits of applying for a fellowship?

Students who take the process seriously learn a great deal about themselves as well as their goals. Many use this opportunity to research graduate programs and, in the process, identify those that best match both their academic backgrounds and their career goals. Virtually all candidates learn important skills that can be applied to graduate school applications and future grant proposals.

What are the qualifications of a competitive candidate?

The most prestigious scholarships expect a minimum GPA of 3.7 overall. Slightly less competitive fellowships will consider candidates in the mid-3’s if the student has a compelling “package”: a clear sense of direction, strong recommendations, leadership experience and demonstrated skills, campus and/or community service, and an academic program that has prepared you well for the program to which you are applying. Independent study, internships, study abroad, and language proficiency can also strengthen an application, especially if related to your goals and objectives.

How should I begin?

All of the nationally competitive scholarships have websites that provide information about the scholarship itself as well as the application process. The Fellowships Office website provides descriptions of many of the nationally competitive fellowships and links to their individual websites. If you do not find a match for your interests, investigate options on your own.

Begin by systematically working your way through the scholarship’s website. Take notes, write down any questions you might have, run off a copy of the application and the directions for completing it. Once you have done your “homework,” contact the Fellowships Office and make an appointment to meet with the Advisor.

What services does the Fellowships Office provide?

The Fellowships Office assists students in a number of ways. The most important services include:

  • Assistance in determining whether the student is a viable candidate.
  • Assistance in finding scholarships that match the candidate’s educational background and career goals.
  • Guidance in writing the required essays, including the personal statement and research proposal.
  • Assistance in preparing for interviews.

If I am a First Year student, should I meet with the Fellowships Advisor?

Yes, if you are serious about your education. In addition to learning about scholarships available to undergraduates, you can find out how best to build your resume to become a competitive candidate for both undergraduate and graduate scholarships.

If I decide to apply for a fellowship, do I have to meet with the Fellowships Advisor?

Most nationally competitive scholarships require students to register with a fellowships advisor and to work closely with this individual throughout the application process.

Applicants who are applying for scholarships that do not require them to work through the Fellowships Office are welcome to ask for assistance.

Can I apply for more than one fellowship?

Yes, if you meet the criteria for more than one.

Why do some fellowships have two deadlines?

Fellowships that require either a campus evaluation or an institutional endorsement usually have a campus deadline about three weeks before the final deadline. This allows time for a campus interview, if required, and/or completion of the evaluation and/or the endorsement.

The campus deadline allows time to make sure that all the components of the application have been completed and are correct. It also makes it possible to submit the online application early enough to avoid last-minute technical glitches, especially when a system is overloaded with last minute submissions.

I am interested in a specific fellowship, but I am not a very strong candidate. Should I still apply?

Completing an application for a nationally competitive scholarship is a major time commitment. You should, therefore, consider whether this would be a good investment of your time. Before you disqualify yourself, you might want to meet with the Fellowships Advisor to discuss this question.

Can I apply for a fellowship after I have graduated?

Yes. While some scholarships are limited to graduating seniors, several of the most prestigious fellowships are open for a few years beyond graduation. You need to check the individual fellowships for details.

When should I start an application?

Because many of the fellowships for graduate study have deadlines in the early fall, juniors are strongly encouraged to begin work at the beginning of spring quarter. If you are going to be off campus during the summer and/or the fall, you need to get a good start on your application before leaving campus.

If you are interested in applying for a scholarship that has a deadline in January, you should get started during fall quarter.

A strong application typically takes about 40 hours over a period of a couple of months to complete. In addition to writing two or three essays, you may need to spend time researching graduate programs, establishing institutional affiliations in another country, or developing research proposals. The more time you invest in the preliminary research, think about how the fellowship will enable you to achieve your goals, consider what you can contribute as a result of receiving a major fellowship, and present your ideas in clear, concise prose, the more likely you will be successful.

I have just found a fellowship that I am interested in, but the deadline is soon. Should I still apply?

It depends on whether you need to start from scratch or already have a good sense of what, where, why, and how. Before you do anything, consult the Fellowships Advisor for guidance.

How do I apply?

All nationally competitive scholarship applications are now electronic. You should begin by registering online. Read the directions carefully. Give accurate, clear, and concise answers. Be completely honest. Do not exaggerate. Keep in mind that you may at some point have to answer questions about information you provide on the application.

If the application involves essays – personal statements, research proposals, etc. – you should work on your drafts off-line and upload them only when you are satisfied that they are your very best work. Most programs will accept documents prepared in Word. Check the instructions to make sure that you are using a program that is compatible.

What is a personal statement?

A personal statement is an “intellectual autobiography.” In other words, it is an essay in which you describe key turning points in your intellectual growth and how they have shaped your choices, your values, and your goals. Some applications provide specific guidelines for what they expect to find in a personal statement. Read and follow the directions for the specific application very carefully.

See the Guidelines for Writing a Personal Statement, available on this website.

What is a research proposal?

In general terms, a research proposal identifies the subject you wish to study, the questions you plan to ask, the methodology you plan to use, and the significance of your project. You may also need to explain your choice of graduate program and/or the country in which you wish to conduct your research.

The actual content of your proposal will be determined by your discipline. If possible, you should identify someone in your field – typically, your advisor or a professor with whom you have studied - who can guide you in developing your proposal.

Some applications provide specific guidelines for what they expect to find in a research proposal. Read and follow the directions for the specific application very carefully.

See the Guidelines for Writing a Proposal, available on this website.

Whom should I choose to write letters of recommendation?

Letters of recommendation and/or references written by faculty are among the most important elements in the application. The most valuable recommendations contain detailed descriptions of a student’s work as well as thoughtful comments about the character, qualities, and values that distinguish the candidate. Therefore, choose faculty who know both you and your work.

With this in mind, take the time to get to know faculty and to let them get to know you: Engage in class discussions. Stop by during office hours to talk about your class, the subject you are studying, your interests, and your goals.

See the Student Guidelines for Letters of Recommendations, available on this website.

How can I assist faculty who have agreed to serve as references for me?

Make an appointment to meet with faculty during their office hours so that you can talk with them about your decision to apply for a fellowship and why you have chosen specific fellowships to apply for. Talk with them about your reasons and your goals. If they agree to write on your behalf:

  • Give them a copy of the guidelines provided on the fellowship website.
  • Explain how the online process will work.
  • Provide a current c.v./resume. (The Fellowships Office can provide a sample of an academic resume.)
  • Give them a copy of your essays – the most complete drafts available.
  • Be prepared to hand back the work that you have completed in their classes so that they can write in detail about your academic work.

You might also refer your recommenders to the Faculty Guidelines for Letters of Recommendation, available on this website.

What is an institutional endorsement?

The most prestigious scholarships limit the number of candidates a university is allowed to submit. These scholarships also require a letter from a senior administrator – the president, provost, or dean – explaining why the university has selected a particular candidate. The letter is usually written by the fellowships advisor, even though it is signed by the senior administrator.

Page Updated 05.31.2012