What They Are & How to Apply
What is a fellowship?
A fellowship is a merit-based, competitive award, scholarship, or grant to undertake a major educational experience or goal. Winning a fellowship offers a great deal of prestige and can provide an invaluable boost to your career.
How do I apply for a fellowship?
Competition for fellowships is fierce. The people or agencies who support fellowships are not just interested in giving money away, they are interested in making a wise investment.
Making a wise investment means asking hard questions with intent to reveal sustained commitment to seeing projects through. If you're interested in pursuing a fellowship, you should seek advice on your viability as a competitive candidate.
Fellowships at Mount Holyoke offers internal competitions for awards that require the college's endorsement listed under "Apply Through MHC." These most prestigious awards involve independent research on a topic of your choice, pursuit of a graduate degree at the master’s or doctoral level, or teaching English overseas.
Applying for and winning fellowships typically yields access to people, ideas, and resources on the cutting edge of new solutions to old problems, helping shape future generations of global leaders.
Where does the money come from?
Most fellowships are funded through philanthropic foundations or through government agencies in order to meet some targeted need, bettering society in a specific way. Understanding the mission/objective of a particular fellowship helps you produce a targeted and relevant application, making you a more competitive applicant.
What comprises an application?
Fellowship applications vary, depending on their purpose, but most contain some or all of the following components:
- An online or paper application form
- A personal statement explaining your reasons for pursuing, and your suitability for, the award
- Short essays, in the form of one- or two-paragraph statements, answering questions specific to the award
- An issues essay or proposal where you detail your project and/or answer questions that involve specialized knowledge
- Transcripts from all undergraduate institutions, including study abroad
- Letters of Recommendation from professors and/or professionals who know you well and can attest to your academic and personal qualities
- A language evaluation
- An interview, whether via teleconference, video conference, or in person
What is the difference between a “campus process” and a “direct apply” award?
Most agencies or foundations funding the most prestigious fellowships rely upon campus officials to prepare, and sometimes select, applicants for the award. For some fellowships, only students from designated colleges and universities are allowed to apply.
“Direct apply” awards, on the other hand, are open to students from any campus, without an internal process, and the student may apply independently.
At Mount Holyoke College, the National Fellowships Advisor in the Office of Student Success & Advising promotes a selection of “campus process” and certain “direct apply” awards for which MHC students are particularly well suited. While there are hundreds of fellowships available to students, the National Fellowships Advisor is limited to advising mainly on these particular awards.
Do “campus process” awards require additional steps?
Campus process awards entail conversation with the National Fellowships Advisor to discuss your eligibility (followed, usually, by a letter of intent by the advertised deadline).
You must then submit your initial application materials and be present for any other components of the campus process, such as being interviewed by a faculty committee.
The faculty committee typically then decides whether or not to endorse or nominate you on behalf of MHC to the foundation or agency administering the award.
A College representative will then write a letter of endorsement for your application, at which point you will officially become a Candidate.
It is a great honor (and responsibility) to be endorsed by Mount Holyoke College for one of these awards.
At such long odds, why should I even bother with “campus process” awards, putting myself through such time-consuming additional steps?
The campus process benefits you, the applicant, in important ways.
You will receive feedback and coaching from the National Fellowships Advisor on your essays and on every aspect of the application.
You will also receive guidance from mentoring faculty, who have a vested interest in seeing you succeed.
Faculty committee members will also carefully review your materials and discuss your goals with you, suggesting points for revision or directing you to other experts or resources that can strengthen your application.
You will also receive coaching in preparation for any foundation interviews.
Finally, the National Fellowships Advisor and Senior Administrative Assistant will ensure that your application is submitted in a timely and professional manner to the fellowship foundation or agency.
What steps can a student take to become a strong fellowships applicant?
Even a year or two before you intend to apply for a fellowship, there are things you can do to prepare. If you are targeting a specific opportunity, it is important to read the requirements and make choices in terms of courses, activities, and development opportunities that fit the goal.
The qualities of a fellowship’s ideal candidate – outstanding academic achievement, intellectual focus, demonstrated leadership ability, a commitment to community engagement, and a habit of global awareness – are worth cultivating, whether they result in a win or not.
Finally, how can I learn more?