Application Tips

Application Tips

Applying for fellowship and scholarship opportunities takes time and should be approached thoughtfully and carefully. The point is to identify opportunities that support your specific academic and professional goals.

The process we outline below provides three fundamental steps:

1) Identify appropriate fellowships or scholarships;

2) Understand and research what different opportunities have to offer; and

3) Prepare and revise your application.

While this requires effort and time management, you will find the advice below invaluable to building and advancing your career.

1) Identify Appropriate Fellowships or Scholarships

Identifying an appropriate fellowship or scholarship opportunity can be a difficult and confusing process. The aim is to find opportunities that support your particular academic and professional goals.

Students should start their search by looking for programs whose characteristics match their profiles and interests. A fellowship may focus on a field of study, a target population (women, racial or ethnic background) and/or professional training. The goal of any fellowship is to target and support talented students. Students should discuss opportunities of interest with an advisor in the Office of Fellowship & Scholarship Opportunities and/or faculty members in your departments.

Most foundations publicize their scholarship opportunities on their websites where documents relevant to their applications may be downloaded. You will also find requisite contact information such as telephone numbers, email addresses and mailing addresses on their websites.

A prospective applicant should know whether he or she meets the scholarship eligibility requirements. Your academic interests and profile should reflect the stated intention of the scholarship. For example, a biology student who is interested in pursuing a career in biology should look for scholarships in the sciences.

You will find a list of fellowships and scholarships in our database. However, you may identify opportunities by looking at alternative listings, talking to faculty and reviewing professional association websites.

2) Organize and Research Your Application

Organizing the application process is a crucial first step. Once you acquire the desired application, read it thoroughly and note the deadline in your calendar and make a list of the application requirements. It is always helpful to plan ahead. Some programs offer application timetables that help you keep your dates in order as you progress through the application process. This will help you break the application into manageable parts and lend clarity to the entire process.

Program websites often possess detailed descriptions of their awards. Research the awards closely and understand what they offer you. Programs often publish specific criteria, which enables you to decide whether your credentials amount to a competitive candidacy, and may even offer tips for prospective applicants. Moreover, many websites will list prior recipients of the award to provide insight into the kind of applicant the organization prefers. Is your candidacy comparable to those who have won previously? Are you qualified in a different way?

You want to make sure to check basic eligibility requirements. Fellowships come with basic requirements related to your degree level, field of study, GPA, just to name a few. Too many students discount themselves from awards for which they might prove to be strong candidates. Do not sell yourself short. Ask yourself whether the opportunity draws your interest, whether you meet the basic eligibility criteria, and if you have faculty who will write strong letters of recommendation on your behalf. If you answered yes to all three, then you are likely to be a very competitive candidate.

Lastly, make sure to apply to various fellowships. Most students are more likely to obtain a fellowship when they apply to multiple opportunities. Applications often have overlapping themes. The content used in one application can be used as a framework for other compatible applications.

3) Prepare and Revise Your Application

Generally speaking, applications require:

1) Completion of an online application or printed application;

2) A personal statement;

3) A school transcript showing a high GPA;

4) Between two and four letters of recommendation; and

5) A résumé.

Additionally, some fellowships applications may require:

1) Nomination by your college;

2) An interview;

3) Additional essays or research proposals; and/or

4) Documents that establish your identity and/or United States citizenship status, such as your birth certificate, social security card, and passport.

While applications will vary, each component is a vital piece of your overall candidacy.

Applications require a significant amount of time to prepare. Whether soliciting recommendation letters from faculty, or requesting a transcript, or writing and revising a personal statement, an application compels one to begin early. Beginning early will give you time to become familiar with the fellowship and write and rewrite your personal statement and/or essay. Applicants should involve as many people as possible in their writing process from interested professors to advisors from the Office of Fellowship & Scholarship Opportunities to the college writing center to peers who have some experience in applying for fellowships. This will ensure that your written submissions will be strongly and fully formed as documents.