Thinking about competitive fellowships at Bryn Mawr
At many colleges and universities, high-performing students receive frequent public acknowledgment, through Dean's Lists, honors programs, honorary societies, and the like. Over the years, Bryn Mawr has deliberately cultivated a campus environment comparatively free of such distinctions. In keeping with the College's Quaker heritage, the Honor Code emphasizes the importance of creating an environment in which each member of the community is able to realize her full potential. Traditionally, students have interpreted this to mean that they shouldn't compare their performance to others, and in keeping with this tradition, the College does not rank students.
The world of prestigious national fellowships has a very different culture, one that distinguishes a small set of students from all others in terms of both achievement and potential. Increasingly, many fellowship foundations are encouraging colleges and universities to identify exceptionally strong students as early as possible (sometimes before the freshman year!) and to begin grooming them almost immediately as future fellowship candidates.
Here at Bryn Mawr, we believe that there is no real need to begin specific fellowships preparations so early in your career. Rather, the best preparation is simply to have a good undergraduate college experience. You should be taking progressively more challenging classes that reflect and develop your interests and abilities. You should try to get to know professors, especially in areas of particular interest to you. You should work to find extracurricular activities that allow you to develop your leadership abilities. You should look for summer activities –jobs, internships, volunteering –that complement or supplement your work and activities during the academic year. Doing your best to achieve this kind of balance should serve you well no matter what you choose to pursue following graduation.
Even at Bryn Mawr, there is some outreach to students who seem to be having college careers typical of fellowship candidates. Sophomores and juniors eligible for the Goldwater, Truman, and Beinecke will receive infomation by email and/or campus mail notifying them of their eligibility several months in advance.