Many colleges and universities have dedicated faculty advisers for each of the major national fellowships. In coordination with the institutional fellowships adviser, these faculty advisers work with applicants first as they prepare their applications and then, we hope, as they prepare for interviews. At Bryn Mawr, the members of the Fellowships Committee bear some but not all of this burden. We encourage applicants to seek the advice, input, and feedback of professors in their field and of other mentors throughout the application process.
One of the most significant things a student may ask for is feedback on personal statements, research proposals, or both. This can be a time-consuming task. If you really don’t have time to take it on, tell the student so. Please don’t look at it quickly and tell the student “it looks fine.” A student who hears this will be far less motivated to undertake revisions that other readers (for example, the fellowship adviser!) may recommend. Faculty input is especially helpful for those parts of the personal statement or proposal that relate most directly to the specialized field of interest.
We also encourage faculty to familiarize themselves with the various national scholarships and their selection criteria and to urge potentially strong applicants to consider applying. Many colleges and universities begin to target and groom selected students very early in their college career. Bryn Mawr, for many good reasons, does not. Nevertheless, the amount of work required to put together a viable application is considerable, and thus students should be encouraged to start thinking about these fellowships in the year before applications are made: in their sophomore year for junior fellowships (Goldwater, Truman, Beinecke, Udall) and in their junior year for senior fellowships. Seniors who produce especially strong theses or other senior work should also be encouraged to consider applying as alumnae.
Of course, it takes much more than just academic achievement to be a good fellowships candidate. You may or may not know much about your students’ extracurricular achievements, but certainly you will have ways of knowing their leadership potential. Strong fellowship applicants tend to be visibly enthusiastic and engaged. They are articulate and sometimes even forceful in class discussion. They do more than just work well with others: they influence and inspire.
Please be aware that students without US citizenship or at least permanent resident status are ineligible for many of the most prestigious fellowships. Of those listed on this website, only the Watson and Gates Cambridge are open to all; the Soros is open to permanent residents. Also be aware, though, that some students you will perceive as international students may have US citizenship.
The Fellowships Committee generally interviews students as part of the internal application process. For nominated students chosen for external interview, we set up one or more formal mock interviews with faculty not on the committee. You may be asked to participate in these interviews. If you are interested in participating, please let us know.
Writing letters of recommendation is probably the most common form of involvement the average faculty member has with the fellowships application process – and arguably the most onerous. In an effort to make the process go as smoothly as possible, this website provides advice to students regarding asking for letters of information. You may want to review that advice and send any comments to the Fellowships Adviser.
Letters of recommendation are very important to the fellowships selection process. To be helpful, letters should be substantive, detailed, and specific about the individual applicant. If you have any questions, please contact the Fellowships Adviser. If you are unable to write a strong letter of recommendation for any reason (lack of time, lack of knowledge of the student, or reservations about the student’s qualifications for the fellowship), it is better not to agree to write the letter.
Any fellowship that requires institutional nomination will also have an internal deadline, usually one to two months in advance of the external deadline. In most cases, we do ask for letters of recommendation at this stage. We are happy to accept emailed letters of recommendation at this stage. If a student receives institutional nomination, you will have time to revise your letter, if you desire. We will very occasionally ask for a revised letter, if we see some glaring problem (e.g., misspelling a student’s name, incorrectly stating the grade received in a particular course, etc.).
Formal applications require either original signed letters, often with an accompanying form, or electronically submitted letters. Hard copies are usually submitted through the dean’s office. We remind students to request hard copies be submitted to the dean’s office in time for us to send them to the fellowship foundations. In the case of electronically submitted letters, you will receive an email generated by the online application system. These systems range from the straightforward to the Byzantine. We are happy to try to answer any questions you may have.