Applying for Fellowships and Scholarships
Applying for a competitive fellowship is time intensive, but it is also a rewarding process of goal setting and self-reflection. In preparing your application, you will refine your future objectives, prepare strong essays for other applications, and develop stronger connections to faculty. Listed below are some tips to get you started; we suggest that you open and read these sections, do some research, and then talk with a fellowship adviser to get things underway.
Research the Opportunities Early
Students are eligible to apply for different fellowships at different times in their undergraduate career. Some fellowships are specifically for sophomores, juniors, or seniors; others are open to a broader group, such as seniors and recent graduates. Eligibility requirements vary widely, too. Some are for specific disciplines; others require a history of financial need. Many, but not all, require a high GPA. While some fellowships support graduate study in a particular location; others offer the opportunity for self-designed projects and travel.
In considering this range of opportunities and requirements, you will need to think about which fellowship is the best match for you. And be sure to give yourself ample time for the process—from start to finish. There is much to do, and you want to do it well.
Meet with a Fellowship Adviser
Talk with the appropriate fellowship adviser about your interests. She will be able to help you assess how competitive a candidate you are for a given opportunity, or she may suggest other options for you. The adviser will also provide guidance on the application process for your chosen fellowship. Typically, this involves securing letters of recommendation and writing (and rewriting) application essays.
Understand the Application Process
The process differs for different fellowships. For some opportunities, you can apply directly. Other fellowships are managed through Middlebury and require that you follow internal processes and deadlines.
- For fellowships managed through Middlebury, you must be nominated or evaluated by the College. This requires that you submit specific application materials by an internal deadline and identify the faculty who will ultimately write your letters of recommendation. Depending on the fellowship, an interview may, or may not be required as part of the nomination process.
What happens after you submit the application? In some cases, as in Marshall, Watson, and Truman fellowships, finalists are selected and invited to interview. In cases such as the Fulbright, there are no interviews—fellowship winners are selected solely on the basis of their application materials. This is why it is especially important that application materials and essays be persuasive, captivating, and flawless with respect to grammar and spelling.
- For other fellowships and scholarships to which you apply directly, there is not a nomination process through the College. However, we are certainly available to advise you as you prepare your application materials and develop your essays. And, although our office is not a part of the formal application process, we appreciate knowing about your applications and the outcomes.
Request Letters of Recommendation Far in Advance of a Deadline
All applications include letters of recommendation. Do not underestimate the importance of these letters; a poor letter can sink your application. Here are some tips to better ensure that you have good, strong letters from your writers:
- Give your writers plenty of notice; they are busy people and have other responsibilities. Four to six weeks is reasonable and courteous.
- Provide your writers with a copy of your resume and degree progress report.
- Also provide your writers with information about the scholarship/fellowship and its selection criteria. Don't assume they are familiar with it.
- Thank them for their help!
Write (and Rewrite) Your Essays
Writing your application essays is more difficult than it might seem. The questions are straightforward, but to answer them well, so that you grab your reader’s attention, is not a simple matter. You are asking for funding to do something that is very important to you, and it is essential that you convey that importance to the reader. Take care to effectively communicate what your project/idea/course of study is, why it is so important, and why you are the person who must do it. For more advice on this, look through the fellowships blog.