Fellowship Hunting: How to Get Started

Funding, Scholarships & Financial Aid

Fellowship Hunting: How to Get Started

Here are three actionable steps to take if you're considering applying for a postgraduate fellowship.  I mostly draw from my experience winning a Fulbright as well as other success stories I've heard.  The singularly most important thing to do, though, is to start early.

Seek out your school's Fellowships Office and get to know its officers

These people are arguably your most valuable resource--and for three reasons.  Firstly, they will alert you on all those internal mini-deadlines that you won't easily find on the Fulbright, Marshall, or Rhodes website.  Don't shoot yourself in the foot; so many rising seniors already do.  Secondly, they will help you craft your personal statements and research proposals--so the earlier you reach out to them, the more valuable feedback they'll be able to offer.  As submission deadlines approach, they'll get exponentially more busy and might not have the chance to review your materials as thoroughly as you'd like.  Lastly, your Fellowships officers will most likely have some clout in the selection process.  By forging a relationship with them early on, they'll be more confident speaking to your abilities and academic standing in comparison to other candidates from your school.

Start writing your proposal today

But how do I write one?  And where do I start?, was exactly what I was thinking when I decided to apply.  The solution?  Read and write a little every day.  I know, I know--where will you find the time when you're already juggling classes, extracurriculars, a colorful social life, yadda yadda yadda?  This is not something you need to clear your afternoons for.  Read the abstract, introduction, and/or conclusion of an academic journal article (check out JSTOR or Google Scholar) and jot down the key takeaways and questions you still have for 10-15 minutes.  Every day.  Before checking your Facebook.  Ride the avalanche of bibliographical information for a few days or weeks--and, I promise, ideas will emerge.

Connect with professors and experts

Even if you've only got the faintest idea of a topic or discipline worth pursuing ("I want to study marine biology in Kathmandu!"), start messaging professors and experts in that field, either within your school or at the institution with which you want to affiliate.  Make sure you've read up on some of their work as that will make them more likely to respond.  And you'll be surprised how often they do, especially if you craft and pose good questions surrounding their research.  Once introductions are made, ask them about their latest projects, topics that are in high demand of scholarly attention, best practices on writing proposals.  And who knows.  You might even get a research adviser out of it.