The word “fellowship” often causes confusion and not only because of its broad meaning. Being a fellow is usually associated with prestige, exceptional opportunities, and high-class career prospects. No surprise that the National Fellows Program accepts only 4% of almost 500 applicants. But what exactly makes fellowship programs so coveted and competitive if, unlike scholarships, they don’t necessarily imply generous financial aid? Let’s take a deeper insight.
First, let’s distinguish between fellowship and scholarship. The first term means that students of any level can get renewable or nonrenewable financial aid to cover their tuition expenses. In the case of fellowship, the terms are quite different. Fellowship usually goes for a short or long-term program for graduate or senior undergraduate college and university students and provides them not with extensive grants but with valuable educational and practical opportunities, mentorship, and precious status. In most cases, grad school fellowships supply their participants with grants to cover research and living costs, medical insurance, travel spendings, and other basic advanced student needs. To cut it short, fellowship is not about money, it’s about opportunities.
Fellowship Programs: A Pool of Benefits
Before opening up the major fellowship benefits let’s add some flies to the ointment because there actually are a couple. First, the application procedure. You might think that you’re familiar with the basic application process since you’ve done the same to get into college or university and probably to apply for a scholarship. Still getting all the papers ready to be considered by a fellowship commission is much more stressful and requires ultimate precision. Second, once you’re in, don’t hope for resting on your laurels - the real work has just begun. Third, you can’t let the people who gave you the fellowship chance go down. The work and tasks presented to you will almost certainly require developed stress management skills, working to tight deadlines, and solving tasks you’ve never encountered before. If these cons don’t frighten you off, let’s move on to the icing of the fellowship cake.
Experience, Challenge, Opportunity
If to speak about the top benefits that fellowship gives to the selected ones, it would be these three. When you’re a fellow it means that the whole new world of professional experience is open before you. Yes, the majority of programs are designed for more than just “graduates”. They are designed for the most prospective young people in the field, so the level of tasks might be higher than you expect. But this is where experience is built, isn’t it?
Being a fellowship applicant means that you’re already quite an outstanding individual since you’ve decided to go for it. It also means that you’re craving a professional challenge, otherwise, why would you consider applying for a program with no pre-identified tasks and with a stipend that is considerably lower than the salary you could earn at the job market for the same period of time? Fellowship exposes you to unpredictable and unique situations that bring you to a brand new level of understanding your field and yourself.
Probably the most desired word of those 3 is opportunity. Being placed among people of the same state of mind, among those who, like you, are full of enthusiasm and energy, or being able to look up to the top-notch professionals and learn from them is truly invaluable. When you become a part of the community, it makes each day full of new beginnings, ideas, and activities as a result, the “flow” will inevitably open up new career horizons for you. Apart from people, fellowship can also help you get international experience which is priceless for any young specialist and in high demand for any future employer.
How-To Fellowship Application Guide
We’ve already mentioned that the fellowship application process is a challenging one. The good thing is that “challenging” doesn’t mean you can’t nail it. Follow up to see how.
The first part consists of a bigger number of steps as it implies gathering and filling in papers and forms.
- Start far in advance
Preparing documents almost never goes seamlessly, so to avoid extra stress and hurry, start collecting all the papers, letters, and signatures beforehand. Securing enough time for preparation means you can get into details better and as a result feel more confident.
- Make a plan
No application process goes well without precise planning. Put down every drip you are to do, arrange tasks in order of importance and urgency.
- Get valuable insights from former applicants
Learning from your own mistakes is great, but avoiding them where possible is also cool. Of course, a fellowship application is not a one-time shot, but who wants to waste both valuable time and opportunity if there’s plenty of former successful applicants who will gladly share their own priceless insights.
- Focus on the project proposal
This is the most important part of the whole application process. The project proposal is basically the central element that should catch the committee’s attention and make them give you the green light. The project doesn’t have to be completed. Drafts, ideas, and intentions that the fellowship program can help you fulfill would be enough. Here are some tips on how to leave them not indifferent by your project proposal:
- Don’t write too complicated
Your project description shouldn’t look like an abstract from a scientific journal, it has to be clear and readable, able to turn on the committee’s imagination and let them see the final result. Give some air and eloquent simplicity.
- Put the focus on unicity/importance
You should fall in love with your project if you still haven’t. Think of its distinctive features, unique elements, and valuable practical results the organization might be interested in.
- Revise multiple times
Revision is everything. Even the most creative project proposal can fade because of spelling and grammar mistakes. That’s why try not to revise the work right after you’ve written it - let your attention refocus on it later (and a couple of times after that).
If the paper part is done correctly and the luck is on your side, prepare for an interview. Here’re a couple of practical tips:
- Reread the terms of the program and your own application
You might remember every detail right after you’ve submitted the application, but in a couple of months, you will hardly remember your own words. To avoid confusion, revise everything one more time and take notes if needed.
- Be confident (or fake it till you make it)
Confidence is the most basic yet the most essential thing when it comes to an interview. Don’t stress out, they’ve already liked you and your application, just let them do it in person.
- Think of questions you want to ask
A fellowship interview is not an exam, where you can only answer questions but not ask. Fellowship is designed for you, so you’re a full-fledged participant of the interview. Prepare questions or ask, as a bonus to information, you’ll feel more confident.
Fellowship Opportunities For Graduate Students
It’s almost impossible to estimate the number of grad school fellowship programs, so obviously it’s easy to get lost trying to select the one. To make the task easier, here are some of the most well-known and prestigious ones.
- The Leadership Incubator - is a fellowship program designed for women who are seen to be future community leaders. Week-long workshops, training, yearly access to online educational events, and partial funding of the participants’ projects are included.
- European University Institute Policy Leader Fellowship - provides a 3 to 9 month-long fellowship that encompasses training, accommodation in Italy, discussions and skill-building events for those who are interested in international policy issues. Financial support of 2,500 euros included.
- Obama Foundation Fellowship - it was designed to bring up a generation of people who are concerned with bringing innovation to the civic domain. The fellowship lasts for 2 years and covers travel and project costs of its members.
If you’re looking for institution-based fellowship programs, take a look at these ones:
- Harvard Medical School - offers a great opportunity for initiative physicians to fulfill their master's degree and implement projects on public health policy using a $50,000 grant.
- Bernard M. Baruch College, School of Public Affairs, City University of New York - an online fellowship program that allows students to get an MPA and a $25,000 grant to cover the professional development costs.
- University of California - the program aims to support postgrads in the social and life science domains by providing generous grants and offering valuable in-university experiences.
- University of New Orleans - minority representative students are welcome to pursue their STEM project implementation relying on $22,000 renewable grants.
- University of Washington - grads with a heart set towards marine research are welcome to apply and get access to all capacities of the University’s marine laboratories.
To reach a wider range of programs available, visit these fellowship and grant institutional databases:
- The University of Chicago
- Yale University
- University of Rochester
- Cornell University Graduation School
- Drexel University
- University of Illinois Springfield
Key Fellowship Resources
A single article is obviously not enough when it comes to looking for a fellowship program. So here are a couple of useful resources, blogs, and additional fellowship offer lists you can visit for a wider fellowship knowledge base:
- Berkeley Career Center
- UNESCO Fellowships
- American Psychiatric Association: Fellowship Blog
- Rutgers School of Graduate Studies
Being a student or a graduate today means having a hundred different ways to develop both personally and professionally without spending huge sums. Dedication, enthusiasm, initiative, and a tiny bit of luck are all you need to have in order to make your way in the world. The thing is to see the opportunities and never surrender on the way to your dream.