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Deciding to Apply

Applying for fellowships is a significant commitment. How to decide whether it’s worth the time and effort?

Research possible fellowships to pursue

One of the more difficult (and at times daunting) parts of the application process can be identifying what to apply for. Which fellowships will support you in pursuit of your particular academic and professional goals? Which are you eligible for this year?

Begin your search by looking carefully for programs that sound interesting. Our fellowships search is a good place to start, but there are many other sources.  Be creative and use your resources to identify additional opportunities. For example, you can:

  • Ask faculty mentors for suggestions.
  • Research any honors societies, professional associations, unions, and even corporations that you may be connected with. Many sponsor scholarships for talented students.
  • Use the resources of Drexel’s library. Start with their Funding Databases page, and meet with a librarian for help with your search.
  • Build a robust list, prioritize the most interesting and relevant ones, and consider applying for as many suitable awards as you have time for.

Understand the details

Review the program websites thoroughly, looking at the following:

  • Most programs will specify non-negotiable eligibility criteria such as citizenship status, GPA, field of study, degree level, and so on. Start there. Do you meet ALL those requirements?
  • Beyond this, every award has preferences, which usually reflect the program’s broader purpose. Sometimes these preferences are stated explicitly, sometimes they are buried within more general statements about mission. You want to find out what the organization values and what their goals are: Are they looking for students who plan to pursue a research career, for example, or are interested in public service, or want to promote intercultural understanding?
  • If the website lists prior recipients of the award, study those recipients. What was their field of study? What experiences did they have coming into the fellowship? What are their professional goals?
  • Understand the application process for that specific award. Do you apply directly to the granting agency or is University nomination or endorsement required? If the award requires nomination, contact the Center for Scholar Development immediately, as there will be a campus deadline. How many and what kinds of essays will you be asked to write?  How many letters of recommendation will you need?
  • Take note of the deadline and plan ahead; do you have at least six weeks to work on this?

Take an honest look at how strong a candidate you are

Now that you know what they are looking for, realistically assess how well you fit the criteria and preferences of a given award. Different students are suited to different awards; rarely is a student a slam-dunk match in every area.  That said, you want to make sure you match all the program requirements and can demonstrate a significant track-record in most (if not all) of the preferences.

Look for a fit between the things you genuinely love and the qualities they are looking for.  Does this sound like where your passions are? Do you have relevant experiences and recommenders that can speak to your qualities? Can you see yourself on their list of recipients? What would it say about you?

Don’t hesitate to ask others for help self-assessing. You can share the criteria with a professor and ask if they think you’d be a viable candidate, or set up an appointment with the Center for Scholar Development to do the same.

Deciding to proceed

If you fall short in one of the program preferences, but can demonstrate significant commitment, leadership and excellence in other areas, you may still be a strong candidate. Don’t discount yourself too quickly just because you don’t think ‘people like you’ get ‘those kinds’ of awards.

If you fall short on several of the preferences, however, you may not be a strong candidate just yet. Use your time to strengthen your areas of weakness, and consider applying for smaller awards to begin with.

Once you decide to move ahead, get organized and make a plan that will help you manage your time and commitments.