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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a fellowship?

Fellowships aim to provide work experience, training, and professional development to recent graduates, which can act as a stepping stone for a career in a particular field. Fellowships for recent graduates are most common, however, undergraduate fellowship and scholarship opportunities are offered by some organizations.  They can range from two to five years in support of obtaining a degree to independent study projects that can last two to ten weeks in the summer. Fellowships are sponsored by a wide range of public and private institutions and provide funds for various ventures, such as research, travel, and professional and academic development. Financial compensation and, occasionally, a housing stipend are offered. 

Who typically applies for fellowships?

Fellowship candidates are generally in their junior or senior year of undergraduate study. However, there are some fellowships opportunities available to sophomores. Most successful candidates have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher and have an outstanding record of service, leadership, research, and relevant work in their major/expected career.  It is best to research the eligibility criteria of each fellowship, as the requirements for fellowships vary. Aspects to look for when researching eligibility are citizenship status, class year, field of study, age, GPA, and knowledge of a foreign language, if going abroad.

What is involved in applying for fellowships?

The majority of fellowships applications require a personal statement, project proposal (if applicable), and letters of recommendation from your professors, mentors, and/or research supervisors. Some fellowships may require you to be nominated and endorsed by your university, while others may require a phone or in-person interview.

Your personal statement is crucial to the success of you application.  A common theme should be present throughout your personal statement and reflect who you are, detail the path you have taken, and where this path will take you in the future. Revision is a critical part of writing an exceptional personal statement, and you can expect it to be revised multiple times before it is ready to be submitted.

Strong letters of recommendation are also essential for a successful application. You should choose a recommender that can confirm and evaluate your achievements.  The best recommender is someone you have worked closely with, such as a faculty member, a research or project advisor, your academic or professional mentor, or an immediate supervisor.

When should I start looking into and applying for research and fellowship opportunities?

It is never too early to begin researching fellowships and scholarships! Although many of fellowships are only available to juniors and seniors, sophomores and freshmen can prepare for possible fellowships.  As a freshmen and sophomore, taking courses that pertain to a fellowship that you would like to apply for, holding leadership roles on campus, participating in research projects, and building relationships with faculty members and advisors is extremely important.

Application deadlines vary from award to award. Many fellowship applications are due during the fall semester or early spring.  However, a few fellowships require application during the summer or a full year prior to the term of the award. It is best to check the deadlines of each fellowship you would like to apply for.

What are my chances of winning a fellowship?

There are several factors that will determine the success of a fellowship application, such as personal statement, quality of recommendation letters, relevant experience, and ability to meet all of the eligibility criteria. With that being said, fellowships and scholarships are highly competitive in nature. For example, over 9,600 students apply for a Fulbright each year and 1,800 receive the award. With fellowships and scholarships being so competitive, having a strong personal statement and letters of recommendation are essential when submitting an application.

Who can I talk to about applying for a fellowship or scholarship?

The RMU Honors Program staff and faculty is available to help you throught the application process. You can set up an appointment with Lindsey Sobolosky (sobolosky@rmu.edu) to discuss the fellowship and scholarship opportunities you would like to pursue.