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An Introduction to Fellowships

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Why apply for fellowships?

Fellowships are merit-based awards that offer financial support for undergraduate or postgraduate study and research. When you apply for fellowships, you are refining your future plans and goals, and honing your ability to write and speak persuasively about your experience and aspirations. While national fellowships are competitive and the final outcome may be uncertain, the skills that you develop when you commit to applying will serve you well beyond Stanford.

Getting Started on Fellowship Applications

  1. Reflect on what you have accomplished so far, and what you want to do next.
  2. Find out about opportunities that support your goals. Attend fellowship overview sessions (typically in the Spring Quarter) and application workshops for specific fellowships (typically in Autumn Quarter), and read the relevant fellowship web pages.
  3. Meet with your faculty advisors and mentors as you deepen your academic exploration. Ask them about fellowship opportunities that you should consider.
  4. Meet with Undergraduate Advising Directors and campus fellowship liaisons to discuss your interests and goals.
  5. Ask your faculty mentors as early as possible for letters of recommendation. Before you leave for the summer, or in early fall, meet with them to discuss your application plans.
  6. Look up sample application documents to become familiar with what is required in an application and what documents you need to prepare.
  7. Read samples of previous award recipients’ essays to get an idea of what successful applications include. Be aware that you will bring your own experiences and qualities that are different from other students. Sample essays for fellowships are available in the offices of Undergraduate Advising Directors, and the resource library section at the AARC and at the central Academic Advising office (Sweet Hall, 1st Floor). Sample essays for ORC-administered fellowships are available at the ORC library (Bechtel I-Center).
  8. Strong applications are refined over months, not days. Register with Academic Advising to receive updates on the competitions you are working on. In the months leading up to the application deadline, you should present an early draft of your application to your faculty mentors and the campus fellowship liaison for feedback. Work also with consultants at the Hume Center for Writing and Speaking to refine your essays.
  9. Manage your time: Identifying and applying for fellowships takes time, effort, and perseverance. On top of working on the application, you are often also managing a full course load and other responsibilities. Consider applying for a  fellowship as being the equivalent of taking a 2-3 unit course in a given academic quarter.