Deciding to apply for a fellowship is an important first step in pursuing your future. However, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of available awards and the application processes associated with them. Here are a series of steps to help you identify suitable fellowships and prepare strong applications.
Research Multiple Grants
Many exciting opportunities wait out there for you. While you may have one specific award in mind, explore other options. Remember that there are multiple ways to achieve your desired academic and professional goals. If there are similar grants available, consider applying to those as well.
Applying for a fellowship requires a certain amount of reflection on the personal and academic journey that has brought you to this opportunity. Be honest with yourself. Do you satisfy the requirements for eligibility? Are there other awards that may be a better fit for your strengths? Are you willing, in some cases, to live overseas for a year or more? Thinking over these questions before you begin the application process will help you to decide which awards warrant your time and energy.
Writing the Application
Start the application early! An early start will give you the time to prepare a well-written personal statement and, if relevant, a strong proposal. You will also need sufficient time to collect any required documentation (transcripts, letters of recommendation, sponsorships, etc.).
Many applications you will encounter are done online. Make sure that you treat this part of the application process with as much consideration and care as your personal statement. Careless mistakes on your general application can be as costly as a poorly written essay.
Writing the Proposal
No matter the subject, make sure that your proposal’s content and style are accessible to the common reader. Avoid specialized language, as a non-specialist may review your proposal.
It cannot be stated enough: rewrite. The more drafts you produce, the better your ideas will be articulated. Show your drafts to friends, faculty, and Fellowship Advisor.
Writing the Personal Statement
Some applications may ask for a personal statement. A personal statement is more than an autobiography. It must be able to demonstrate how your personal and academic journey has led you to that particular fellowship. Make sure you can link your accomplishments and strengths to its core values and mission statement.
Securing Letters of Recommendation
Identify professors, mentors, and/or past employers who know you best and ask them to write recommendation letters early in the application process. Discuss the fellowship or scholarship with them and provide relevant information from your resume or C.V. for them to use in their letters. Explain to your recommenders why and how that particular award fits your credentials. Don’t be afraid to remind them about the letter as the deadline approaches. Faculty and staff members will appreciate the gentle reminder!
Acing the Interview
Interviews allow selection committees to match your personality with your application. These committees want to know if your personal characteristics will contribute to the likelihood of your success as a fellow. Furthermore, they will want you to elaborate on your proposal and personal statement, as well as address any potential obstacles that your project might encounter.
Successful interviewing depends on your ability to present yourself and your application in a natural manner. There are many things you can do to prepare. First, we can set up mock interviews with your Fellowship Advisor in order to practice responses to questions that interviewers may ask you. Make sure that you also have a thorough understanding of the fellowship's core mission before the interview. Give your proposal an honest appraisal in order to determine what potential obstacles you may encounter. As always, do not underestimate the importance of a good night's sleep and proper breakfast before your interview!