Best Practices and FAQ: Preparing and Applying

The application process can be daunting for many fellowships and other opportunities. Proper preparation can help with the goal of applying successfully, but it can also aid in saving time and resources, and reducing stress.

Frequently Asked Questions

I am interested in an opportunity but just not sure. Should I apply?

Given how demanding this process can be, and how competitive all of these fellowships are, you may be wondering whether applying is worth the time it will take. Making the decision whether to apply for fellowships and which fellowships to apply for can itself be difficult, and it is important to seek advice and input from various sources (faculty, your dean, the Fellowships Advisor). Keep in mind a few key ideas as you consider this:

  • Most Ph.D. programs offer most of their students aid (tuition waivers, stipends, teaching or research assistantships) for most of their time in graduate school. A prestigious national fellowship may not necessarily offer a lot more money in the short term, but in the long term it can improve your prospects for subsequent grants and for gainful academic employment.
  • Much but not all of the work that goes into preparing fellowship applications may also be directly relevant to graduate school applications.
  • A high level of academic achievement may be one of the central selection criteria for these scholarships, but it is far from the only criterion. In many cases, a demonstrated record of extra-curricular accomplishment is also crucial. Indeed, stellar extracurricular accomplishments may be decisive in the case of someone with an excellent but not spectacular academic record.
  • Fellowships are not prizes given for past accomplishment; they are grants made to accomplished individuals who know clearly what they want to do next and how that connects to what they've been doing,
  • Your hard work may not earn you a fellowship, but it will still have immediate benefits. You'll be able to express, both to others and to yourself, both in writing and in interviews, what you want to do and why. This may be useful for other applications, but it is also intellectually and personally satisfying in its own right.

I'm an international student. Are their opportunities available for me?

Unfortunately, most of the fellowships discussed in this website require U.S. citizenship or at least resident status. There are, however, many important exceptions.The Watson and Jack Kent Cook Fellowships are open to international students on absolutely the same basis as to U.S. students. International students may also apply for a Gates Cambridge scholarship, though doing so follows a different timetable than that set for U.S. citizens. Similarly, citizens of 16 Commonwealth Nations may also apply for Rhodes Scholarships; here too, deadlines are earlier and advance planning is necessary.

To learn which opportunities are available for international students, visit our informational page.

What details should I be aware of that aren't necessarily obvious as I consider pursuing opportunities?

Here are a few:

  • Some fellowships require institutional nomination. We provide a detailed description of how the internal application process works at Bryn Mawr. Visit the specific page to learn more. 
  • In all cases, the official website of each fellowship is the ultimate authority. If you see any contradictions between what we say here and what is said on external websites, please let us know.
  • There are many fellowships that are not listed on this website. We urge you to use all the resources at your disposal as you investigate programs and opportunities.