What are Fellowships FAQ

Is a fellowship the same as financial aid?

While fellowships often include monetary awards — usually in the form of tuition and/or living stipends — and while on occasion these awards can be quite generous, fellowships shouldn’t be thought of primarily as financial aid.

Why not?

For one, these fellowships are generally very competitive, sometimes extremely so, and are awarded to committed, driven students who are able to articulate a strong vision of who they are, where they want to go, and how the award will help them get there. Fellowship recipients typically have high grades and have recommenders who can attest to their talent and commitment.

In addition, the fellowship application process can be arduous. While financial aid forms are cumbersome, you typically needn’t spend several months putting them together. To receive a Fulbright, a Rhodes, a Marshall, you generally will spend three to six months (or more!) working on an application, with a good dozen revisions of your essay.


Can the Fellowships Office tell me which fellowships to pursue?

It is your responsibility to research and identify award opportunities, though we can often help with suggestions. Part of the fellowship application process — and one of the most valuable for you — is the self-exploration that it requires. Use the search materials on this website to get started.


Am I eligible for X award?

Explore the website. Each program typically specifies non-negotiable eligibility criteria such as citizenship status, GPA, field of study, degree level, and so on. Do you meet all those requirements? Some awards also give criteria that are not required but are desired and can be seen in their recipients – leadership, for example, or commitment to public service.


How competitive are these awards?


Competition varies by program, but generally speaking, these are among the most competitive awards out there. And while some programs are less competitive than others, they all aim to find the highest achieving students in a particular field or area of interest.


How do I know if I am a good candidate for an award?

Read the program description carefully, beginning with the eligibility criteria. Do you meet all of those requirements? Then look at the description of the program mission, or a description of what kind of people/projects they fund. Does this sound like where your passions are? You’re looking for opportunities that seem like a natural fit: It’s hard to fake this stuff and win.

If the site posts information on past recipients, study it. Can you see yourself on that list? Ask your professors. Share with them the criteria for the award and ask them if they think you make a strong candidate. Ask, too, what you can do to become a stronger candidate.


I’m a first-year student. It’s probably too soon to apply, right? Anything I can do in the meantime to improve my chances later on?

Well, it depends on what you are applying for. There are a few award opportunities for first-year undergraduates, and even more for second-years to apply for. And even more for third-years.  You can begin your search for opportunities on our website.

If you think you are likely to want to apply for one of these awards, you should, in the meantime:

  1. keep your grades high,
  2. foster strong relationships with faculty,
  3. get involved in something you care about. Evidence of sincere leadership and engagement are often key to putting out a strong application.