Frequently Asked Questions

What's the difference between scholarships, fellowships, and grants?
At one time "scholarships" referred only to funding or grants for undergraduate study, while "fellowships" referred to post-baccalaureate funding. Now, these terms have very little distinction, so much so that the terms are often used interchangeably. The term "grants" is the most inclusive and refers to any sum of money awarded to aid a particular project or purpose.

Why should I apply for a fellowship?
There are many benefits of applying regardless of whether you receive an award. It is an opportunity to define your goals, to narrow or broaden your interests, and to look at yourself realistically while examining your strengths and weaknesses. It is also a chance to learn real skills including: How to write outstanding resumes and personal statements; how to highlight your strengths and talents; how to select and request recommendations; how to research opportunities in your field or in your area of study; and how to organize your time to meet deadlines. Applying is also the best preparation for applications to graduate school, other fellowships and scholarships, and future jobs. If you learn what it takes to organize and coordinate all the pieces of an application and meet the deadlines, you've got it made! It is a fact that applications only get easier with practice! This means the sooner you start applying, the more skilled you will become at handling the process.

When should I begin thinking about applying for scholarships and fellowships?
Start early! Whether or not you plan to study abroad before or after graduation, or go to graduate school, you should learn about your options as soon as you set foot on campus. Your first two years at Mount Holyoke are the best times to begin considering appropriate opportunities and competitions. It is a good idea to apply for smaller awards early, which will help not only financially, but will provide valuable experience for participating in larger, more demanding application processes. Additionally, it is a good idea to look into summer research opportunities funded by Mount Holyoke. These experiences often provide excellent preparation for future research or study and strengthen fellowship and scholarship applications. Check in with your academic departments or campus offices for information on these types of opportunities.

How do I begin researching scholarships or fellowships?
Read the Application Process section of this web site. Follow the suggested steps, meet with the National Fellowships and Graduate School Advisor to clarify your goals, spend time in Dwight 217 reviewing the fellowship resources, and use the Web Links section of this site to conduct on-line searches.

What if none of the awards listed on the Fellowships web site apply to me?
The awards listed on the Fellowships web site are only a small sampling of what is available. Here are some general strategies for locating awards that fit your needs:

  • Start by making a list of all of your personal characteristics or affiliations that might make you attractive to a selection committee. It should include information such as: gender cultural or ethnic background; citizenship; religion; fields of study; both past and future social organizations you belong to; school clubs you belonged to; hobbies you have; sports you play; professional organizations you or your parents belong to; labor unions you or your parents belong to; you or your parents' employer; you or your parents' veteran status; any physical handicaps or ailments you OR your parents may have; your age; your GPA; your financial need (keeping in mind that a family with an income of $75,000 and three or four children in college may be eligible for more money than a family with one child in college and a $35,000 income); city; county; state and/or region in which you live; and any other affiliations or interests, etc.
  • Add to this list the names or types of organizations, groups, companies, etc. that are interested in supporting the type of work that you do or will be doing. (Various organizations, foundations, societies, women's groups, etc.) Contact these organizations and ask whether they offer such support or know who does.
  • Think of various organizations or government entities at the local, county, state and federal levels that might give awards to someone with your characteristics or interests. Contact these organizations and ask whether they offer such support or know who does.
  • Go to the National Fellowships web page. Go to the Web Links section and start doing searches using the characteristics from your list. Once you start this, you usually can find other links to all sorts of relevant information.
  • If you are an alumna, be sure you are or become familiar with the Alumnae Association awards.

Have you contacted any of your old MHC professors?
Perhaps someone might be familiar with an award that would be appropriate for you or know of an organization that might offer funding. Also, several departments give alumnae fellowships for graduate study. Deadlines vary. Contact the departments for further information.

If you are going to graduate school, contact the National Fellowships and Graduate School Advisor or someone in your program's department. They might be able to help you locate some local awards or tell you where other students received funding. Also, funding may be available from the school itself in the form of fellowships, graduate teaching assistantships, grants or loans. So the strategy is to use all of your characteristics to broaden the field of what you might qualify for and who might have money. The next step is to ask and apply. Even if you can't find one larger award to meet your needs, you might be able to find several smaller ones to produce the total amount you require.

When should I apply for scholarships and fellowships?
The answer to this question depends on what types of awards you are interested in applying for and when deadlines are set each year. Generally, if you are interested in awards for graduate school and/or post-baccalaureate travel or study abroad, you should begin during your junior year. At this time, you should learn about all of the fellowship opportunities for which you are eligible by spending time reviewing the Fellowships web site, library files and directories. Make an appointment with the National Fellowships and Graduate School Advisor to focus on your goals, and set a timeline.

If I don't want to apply for a scholarship or fellowship until sometime in the future, is there anything I should do to start preparing now?
Be aware of awards that may interest you so you are prepared well in advance of their deadlines. Note which awards have deadlines during your sophomore, junior or senior years and be attentive to eligibility requirements (i.e., age, citizenship, level of academic distinction (typically a G.P.A. of 3.5 or higher), Bachelor's degree). Refer to our website for this year's deadlines. In preparing to become a successful fellowship candidate, bear in mind that prime consideration is given not only to those who display a high degree of academic achievement, but to those who possess a wide variety of outstanding individual merits including:

  • Outstanding leadership qualities · Social responsibility
  • World-based knowledge (outside the formal curriculum)
  • Versatility (both in social and intellectual endeavors)
  • Commitment and investment of well-defined personal goals that further  your overall objectives.

Overall, here are some suggestions for preparing in advance:

  • Read newspapers such as The New York Times and Wall Street Journal to broaden your global knowledge and political spectrum. The Economist is also a recommended source for information on world affairs.
  • Read current novels, AND the classics.
  • Conduct a serious review of basic world history. Know your world geography.
  • Be up-to-date on political and cultural dimensions of, and ethical issues in your field of study. Read the major journals in your field. (Ask your professors if you don't know which ones are best).

How many fellowships should I apply for?
You can apply for as many or as few fellowships as you like. You must weigh the time it takes to complete applications, whether or not you are a competitive candidate, and how much work you want to put into the application process. You should feel free to meet with the National Fellowships and Graduate School Advisor to discuss this further.

What can't I control about the application process?
The grade point average; the composition of the selection committee; the bias of the selection committee; the intent of the award; the eligibility requirements; the pool of applicants when you apply - both quality and quantity; and, to a certain degree - luck and chance.

What can I control in the process?
You can decide. Taking control is deciding to apply, because if you don't apply, you can't win. Also, you can select scholarships that are a good match with your G.P.A., areas of interest and background (but remember to stretch a little!). You can choose to take the time to prepare a quality application and meet the deadlines. And finally, you can remember that your goals are worthwhile even if you don't receive the award.

What's the first thing I should do once I receive an application from a scholarship foundation?
You should immediately make several copies of the forms. The more copies you make, the better prepared you will be to create a clean presentation. Please note that many fellowship applications are now online. Some may be downloaded and others may be submitted electronically. If you choose this route, please be sure to confirm whether your application will be noted by time of submission or receipt. This is crucial as high volumes on deadline dates may cause delay.

Who is available for help and advice?
The National Fellowships and Graduate School Advisor can help answer any questions you may have about the application process and specific competitions. Faculty advisors and professors in your field of interest can be helpful in advising you as to whether your interests match a specific award and in developing and critiquing proposals for study. Discuss your ideas and plans with your friends, roommates, parents, siblings and anyone else who will listen. The more conversations you have, the better you will be able to articulate your goals and ideas. This is wonderful practice for both writing essays and interviewing with selection committees. Be sure you are able to clearly communicate why you are interested in a particular program, university or country. Be open with your writing and ask those you discuss your ideas with to critique your essays as well.

What are my tax obligations for fellowships I receive?
Don't let April 15th catch you by surprise! Educational tax deductions may only be taken for costs required by the institution of study. This means that travel and living expenses are not deductible. Therefore, some awards, or portions of them, may count as income and must be taxed accordingly. For official IRS information request Publication 970, "Scholarships and Fellowships", call 1-800-829-1040 or read the Publication 970 IRS article online.