- What is a fellowship?
- How is a fellowship different from a grant? From a scholarship?
- How will I know if I qualify for a fellowship?
- Where can I find information on fellowship opportunities that would be appropriate for my own situation?
- What different types of fellowships are available?
- Tips on Applying
- 10 Tips for Writing a Personal Essay
- Tips for Writing Letters of Recommendation
A fellowship is a monetary award offered by an institution, foundation or other organization to support academic work, research or specialized training in areas of particular interest to the granting organization. Eligibility guidelines and required qualifications for various fellowships are as varied as the many organizations that sponsor them. Generally, fellowships are granted to those with a high level of achievement in a given area, such as academic, athletic or artistic talent. Awards are also available for students who are interested in particular fields of study, who are members of under-represented groups, who live in certain areas of the country or who demonstrate financial need.
All three of these types of awards provide funding to support academic study, community service projects or other endeavors. The term "fellowship" usually indicates a post-graduate study or professional training experience and is often highly specific in its requirements for awardees. "Scholarship" is a more general term referring to any award given in support of academic study. And the term "grant" most often denotes an award to support a specific project or community service activity. All are usually competitive.
Every fellowship has basic guidelines for eligibility--a few examples: some are open only to U.S. citizens, some only to women, some only to minorities. The awarding institution can set any eligibility requirements it wishes; public institutions are expected to have broader eligibility expectations whereas private foundations can set more specific requirements.
Where can I find information on fellowship opportunities that would be appropriate for my own situation?
It's up to you to research these possibilities, although the Career Center has many resources to help. In addition to resources you can find in the Career Center Library, you can find information on this web page, and by searching for fellowships by topic on the web.
There are two basic kinds of fellowships available to those who wish to pursue degrees beyond the baccalaureate level:
Fellowships offered by colleges and universities to their own graduate students
These are the most common fellowships for graduate study. Often, a graduate program will offer a fellowship (often a teaching fellowship) to a talented student as part of a financial aid package; usually, this means that the student will work for the school, taking on certain teaching duties in addition to completing his or her own graduate coursework. Depending on the institution, these stipends may include a housing allowance and other benefits. Often these fellowships are given to students who have proven themselves capable in their various graduate school departments, but matriculating graduate students can express their interest for them as part of the application process to the school. Amherst College also supports graduate study through the Amherst College Fellowships Program, for graduating seniors and alumni pursuing graduate study--contact Denise Gagnon of the Fellowships Office for information on this program.
Fellowships offered by foundations, institutions or organizations for graduate study
Like other fellowships, these are awards for highly qualified individuals for which you must apply to the sponsoring organization. Some of these fellowships require that you be nominated by Amherst , and the College will have an internal application process to determine nominees; others allow you to apply directly to the sponsoring organization. Denise Gagnon of the Fellowships Office (213 Converse Hall) handles the internal nomination processes for prestigious awards such as the Fulbright, Rhodes, Watson, and several others.
Fellowships for Study Abroad
Certain foundations or organizations whose mission is to foster global connectedness offer fellowships for study abroad.
Fellowships in Government/Public Policy/Public Service
There are a variety of fellowship opportunities in these areas, offering specialized training and valuable leadership experience for further service in the public sector.
Fellowships for Research
These fellowships are most often for doctoral or post-doctoral work, and there are many fellowships of this kind offered to professional researchers for work in which the sponsoring organization is particularly interested.
Work Experience Fellowships (sometimes called Professional Internships)
Many organizations offer one- to two- year employment in positions which are especially designed to immerse a fellow in a given field, providing intensive training, excellent career experience and valuable networking contacts.
Amherst alumni may find fellowships to support Ph.D. work or to provide support for postgraduate work. There are also numerous fellowships available for people who have established careers in certain fields.
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If you're interested in pursuing a national competitive fellowship (like the Watson, Rhodes, Fulbright and others which require institutional nomination), or an Amherst College Fellowship you must make your application through the Amherst Fellowships Office. Please see Denise Gagnon for all the information you'll need to apply, including helpful suggestions from past Amherst winners of these prestigious awards.
If you wish to pursue other fellowship opportunities for which you apply on your own, the paragraphs below outline the process. Assistance and advice are always available for preparing your direct-apply award application by contacting Debra Krumholz the Career Center, or calling x2265 to request an appointment with her.
Research all appropriate opportunities to find fellowships and scholarships appropriate for your circumstances. Carefully review the information available, and be sure that you meet the eligibility requirements for a given award, since most award programs are only open to certain categories of applicants. Some categories might be: eligibility by major, eligibility by class year, eligibility according to planned graduate degrees or career; geographic eligibility (for example: application open only to residents of certain states), etc.
Carefully determine exactly what a specific application requires. How many essays (what kind and of what length), and how many letters of recommendation are needed? Who needs to write your recommendations--faculty, peers, previous employers? Do you need to prepare a list of your extra-/co-curricular activities, honors, and awards, or submit a resume? Are there other application requirements?
Plan carefully to meet the application deadline. Does the sponsoring organization require that your application be in their office by the due date, or do they allow your application to be postmarked by the due date?
Think about whom you want to ask for recommendations. You'll want to choose those who know you well (preferably both in and out of class) and who will write letters which address your qualifications for a particular award knowledgeably and in depth. When requesting a letter from a potential recommender, ask "if they would be willing to write a letter" on your behalf (this allows you to gauge their reaction – if there is hesitation, they might not be the best person to ask), and make sure that their schedule will allow them to meet the application deadline. Once you have determined who will write your letters, supply your recommenders with a packet containing information about yourself, including your academic and other interests (possibly include an unofficial transcript, a resume and a draft of your essay written for the fellowship application), and your specific goals regarding the fellowship or scholarship in question. If relevant, also provide the official recommendation form. Inform recommenders of the deadline for submitting a letter, and be in touch with them one to two weeks before the deadline to be sure that they've sent it.
If a transcript is required, go to the Registrar's Office to request that an official transcript be sent directly to the sponsoring organization. (Transcript request forms are available on the Registrar's webpage). If you have studied abroad, find out from the fellowship foundation/organization whether you also need to request a transcript from the U.S. institution which sponsored your study abroad program.
Fill out any necessary application forms--you may need to use a typewriter (available at the Career Center ), or cut and paste from word-processed pages, if the sponsoring organization provides only a paper form. Be sure that you can fit all of the required information into the space provided – you may need to practice a few times.
When sending off your application, use a checklist to be sure that you're including all necessary forms, essays or other materials in the envelope. Using an express mail service is highly recommended, so that you can track your envelope and ensure its arrival.
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From Michael Rosenthal '02, Fulbright Scholar 2002-03
The Truman Foundation provides guidelines on their website for writing letters of recommendation for Truman Scholar candidates; most will apply to any fellowship.
This PDF of guidelines is written specifically for those writing recommendation letters for Rhodes scholars, but most of the suggestions apply to any fellowship.