- Visit the websites of individual fellowships for comprehensive, up-to-date information.
- Talk to professors and others with expertise in your area of interest. Even if they don’t have any specific suggestions, they may connect you to someone who does or may later serve as a good source for a letter of recommendation.
- Check out websites for organizations in your academic discipline, e.g. National Science Foundation, Social Science Research Council, Poets & Writers, Inc. They often list applicable grants.
- Utilize your summer; those three homework-free months are a perfect time to explore possibilities, network, and soul search.
- Fill out the fellowship interest form to set up an appointment to discuss your options.
- Brainstorm. Knowing exactly what you want is probably the most difficult part of the application process. Take some time to write down what it is you’d like to do and most importantly, why. Having a clear sense of purpose from the get-go will be indispensible when writing your personal statement and/or proposal, and later (hopefully!) during interviews.
- Start early. Applications take considerable time and effort. Many involve background research and all require multiple draft revisions. Most fellowships also require letters of recommendation from faculty and others. Be considerate of their time and request letters well in advance of deadlines.
- Ask questions. The majority of fellowship applications are online and include detailed instructions, but if you are at all confused, please call, email, or set up an appointment. We’re here to help!
- Clarify your academic and personal interests. Before you begin to write an essay for an application, you should be able to describe with relative ease why you have chosen to apply for the fellowship and why it is so important to you, both professionally and personally.
- Be honest. Don’t overstate your travel or research experience. If your proposed area of study is inconsistent with your background, try to connect your newfound passion with your previous experiences.
- Avoid gross generalizations. Don’t say your job or internship taught you a lot about yourself or that you’re going to save the world with your research. Additionally, do not open your personal statement with a quote from John F. Kennedy or Mother Teresa.
- Be concise. Avoid over-used adverbs and grandiose vocabulary. Be yourself, but be precise.
- Enlist help. Fellowship advisors will assist you with revisions, but having an outside reviewer– a tutor at the Writing Center, faculty member, parent, or friend – read through your essay can be enormously helpful. At least one of your reviewers should be someone who is not familiar with your area of research or proposal so they can tell you if your essay makes sense to the layman.
- Appreciate the process. Writing about yourself is never easy, and writing about yourself in a way that will grab the attention of your reader is still more difficult. But even if you don’t win a fellowship, the writing and revising process will help you refine your goals and write stronger essays for future applications.