Frequently Asked Questions
What are fellowships?
Fellowships are highly competitive grants that provide funding to allow select students with the opportunity to pursue advanced academic research (nationally and internationally) and postgraduate study. The University Fellowship Office can help match you with appropriate fellowship opportunities.
What GPA do I need to qualify for a prestigious fellowship? Aren’t they highly competitive?
Some scholarships are extremely competitive and a majority of applicants have a high GPA; for example, we recommend a 3.7 and above for the Rhodes, Marshall, Mitchell, and Goldwater. Other programs, although still seeking applicants with a strong academic record, are much larger in scope, and are able to fund more students (e.g., Fulbright, SMART scholarship, Hollings). As a potential applicant, it is very important to read over the criteria and goals for each program and see if it aligns with your academic and professional interests. The fellowship adviser can guide you in this process.
What is an institutional endorsement and how do I get it?
Certain fellowships require a “nomination” in order to meet the number of allowed candidates, and some scholarships require you to be endorsed by your institution (e.g., Boren, Carnegie, Churchill, Fulbright, Goldwater, Marshall, Mitchell, Rhodes, Truman, and Udall scholarships). If an institutional endorsement is required, you will be asked to submit your application materials by the CAMPUS DEADLINE. This deadline usually precedes the national deadline by at least one month or more. After you submit your application by the campus deadline, a campus committee will review your application and decide whether to endorse it. In many cases, you will be required to interview with the campus committee.
When should I start looking into fellowships?
As early as possible. It’s never too early to begin looking for a fellowship that lines up with your credentials.
How do I prepare for the application process?
When you begin your sophomore year, you should hone your academic interests and begin looking for fellowship opportunities to help you meet your goals. The same applies to juniors, seniors, and even students at the graduate level. In any case, even as a freshman, you should prepare for the application process by:
- excelling in your classes
- developing passionate, scholarly interests
- pursuing independent scholarly work
- participating in interdisciplinary discussions
- studying a foreign language
- getting international exposure
- being actively involved on and off campus in long-term community service projects
- focusing on a specific policy question and develop programs and experiences to address it
- seeking mentoring from accomplished faculty and build relationships with faculty members
- taking courses outside your major, build your own major and/or pursue graduate coursework
- honing your reading comprehension and writing skills (e.g., write an Honors Thesis)
Do transcripts need to be official?
Transcript requirements vary by fellowship opportunity. All campus and external fellowship opportunities will specify if transcripts need to be official or if photocopies are acceptable.
What is a personal statement and how much time should I spend on it?
A personal statement is an opportunity for you to tell us about yourself your goals, ambitions, life experiences, academic interests and a document that clearly defines where you want to go and why. Every fellowship has different word length requirements for personal statements, ranging anywhere from 500 to 2000 words or more. When writing your personal statement, you should prepare and edit as many drafts as you need to feel comfortable with it. While no applicant will go through the exact same writing process, most successful candidates will write up to 10-12 drafts before a “final version” is produced. The process of rethinking and rewriting is crucial to writing a good personal statement that demonstrates your intellectual maturation and the development of your academic merit.
What is a “mock” interview?
After you have been nominated for a fellowship, you may be invited to one or a couple “mock” interviews by the UFO. These interviews are helpful ways to better prepare you for the actual interview. You will go through a simulated interview process before a panel of faculty and UFO staff followed by constructive criticism of your performance.
Who should read my personal statement?
An excellent personal statement is produced through countless revisions and multiple readers. With that said, the more eyes, the better. Other readers will be able to spot grammatical and mechanical errors that escape your attention. The UFO is here to assist you with looking over personal statements on a draft-by-draft basis with the exception of the Rhodes and Mitchell Scholarships. Even if you haven’t created multiple drafts, you should remain in regular contact with us so we can assist you with bettering your personal statement.
Should I meet with the University Fellowship Office? If so, how often?
Yes, and you should meet with us whenever you have questions about the application process or are in need of assistance with writing your personal statement, required essay(s), or any other required documents.
What is the difference between a national deadline and campus deadline?
As you have probably noticed, our Fellowship Search Engine lists two dates in most fellowship listings: a campus deadline and a national deadline. Campus deadlines are dates set by the UFO to receive your completed application, including letters of recommendation, transcripts, and personal statement, prior to the national deadline. The national deadline is the official fellowship deadline set by the fellowship foundation for receipt of all application materials. Take note that not all fellowships listed on our website have a campus deadline, but the fellowships that have one will have it listed as “initial deadline” in the search engine and “campus deadline” after you’ve clicked on the listing.
Can a TA write a letter of recommendation for me?
It is always preferable for a professor or advisor to write your letter of recommendation. Professors who have taught for a number of years can offer a perspective that a graduate student with less experience cannot. You should consider asking faculty members who have worked closely with you and know your academic interests. The UFO is here to work with applicants to determine the best candidates for letters of recommendation.
Do I really need to be a varsity athlete to apply for a Rhodes Scholarship?
No. In the past, it was expected of Rhodes scholars to attain high athletic achievements with a college team or as an individual during their university career. Now, the Rhodes Trust ask that students have the “energy to use one’s talents to the full, as exemplified by fondness for and success in sports.” This means that you must have an active lifestyle in correspondence with your academic achievements, whether devoted to the arts, dance, writing, or music and that you do not necessarily need to be involved with a varsity sports team.
I’ve just discovered a fellowship that matches my interests, but the deadline is coming up soon. Should I apply?
This depends on the program. If you are applying for a fellowship that requires relatively little information, such as one recommendation and a brief essay, then it may not be too late. However, if the fellowship in question requires three letters of recommendation, an institutional endorsement, a research proposal, and a personal statement, it is most likely too late to apply (especially if the deadline is in a week!!). The best course of action is to prepare your application materials well in advance of the campus or national deadlines. You should make pursuing the fellowship your goal for the year and allow yourself the time necessary to assemble the best application possible. We also recommend meeting with us at least once as you are preparing your application; ideally, we would also meet before you identify an award. Depending on the fellowship, it could take anywhere from six to nine months to produce a first-rate application.