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Fellowships Frequently Asked Questions

Understanding Fellowships

Is a fellowship the same as financial aid?

While fellowships often include monetary awards, most are based on outstanding merit or potential rather than need (though some look for a combination of these), and they tend to fund enrichment experiences (study/research abroad, professional development, etc.) rather than regular tuition and educational costs.  We suggest you work with Drexel Central for help with loans and other need-based aid. 


That said, to the extent that your financial need is an obstacle, it can help strengthen a fellowships application if you share your experiences in an honest and well-told narrative.  



How competitive are these awards?

While competition varies by program, these programs aim to find the brightest and most engaged students in a particular field or area of interest. They are, almost by definition, the most competitive student awards out there—understandably, lots of students are interested in receiving additional funding and opportunities! 


That said, consider that you might be one of these outstanding students. Plenty of Drexel students have won these awards in recent years, and you might be next. The only way to be sure that you won’t get an award is to not apply for it. 


What makes someone a strong candidate for one of these awards?

While different awards focus on different interests and have somewhat different criteria, fellowships are awarded to committed, motivated students who are able to articulate a strong vision of who they are, where they want to go, and how the award will help them get there.  The application process is often intense, requiring time, reflection, and revision, but through the process of working with our office, many applicants find that they are able to grow personally and professionally, clarify their goals, and strengthen their writing skills. We strongly encourage all students to consider applying for fellowships for these benefits alone.

Deciding to Apply

How do I find fellowships to apply for? There are so many – how do I decide which is best for me?

There are many scholarships listings out there, and it can quickly get overwhelming. Use the search engine on this site for starters. You should also ask your faculty mentors if they know of awards you might apply for, and check the database of associations within your discipline or area of interest. Staying organized will help you manage the information overload. Spreadsheets, binders, bulletin boards, electronic lists can all work – figure out what system will be best for you.

I know I want to do something significant, though am not sure quite what yet, or how I would get there. Am I ready to apply?

Maybe. It’s often the case that one of the most valuable parts of the fellowship application process is the self-exploration that it requires. Think through what you really want in order to help focus your search and select among the options. UREP has a number of books that can help with life and career decision-making, and the Steinbright Career Development Center offers career counseling and assessments to help students figure out a path that makes sense for them. 

I just found a perfect fellowship for me, but the deadline passed two days ago. Can I still apply?

No. Deadlines are non-negotiable in the fellowships world. Look for other awards with later deadlines, or try again next year if you are still eligible. And in the future, keep your eyes open for upcoming opportunities! 

It’s April (or July) and I need funding for September. Can you help me?

No. In most cases, these nationally-competitive awards have deadlines 6-12 months prior to when the grant would start, in some cases even 18 months ahead. If you are in a crunch, you may be able to find some smaller awards on short notice by using other databases.

I had a bad semester because [I was sick, I had personal/family problems, I had two other jobs, etc.]. The rest of my grades have been excellent, but because of this one semester my GPA is lower. Can I still apply?

Yes. If your application is otherwise excellent, you may be able to explain limited exceptional circumstances somewhere in your application such as in a letter of recommendation or nomination.

Can I apply for more than one award? Can I accept more than one?

Generally speaking, yes, you can apply for as many awards as you have time for, and it often gets easier after you’ve done this once or twice. We encourage it!  

Depending on the awards, however, know that you may not be able to accept them all should you be in the happy situation of being offered several. While many organizations will be fine with you receiving multiple awards as long as they are designated for different expenses, federal grants frequently have some limitations. Read the details of the award(s) you’ve received and be in contact with the award’s program managers with any questions. 

Letters of Recommendation

Who should I ask for recommendation letters? Do all the letters have to be from faculty?

The best letters come from people who know you best, who have seen firsthand how dynamic, brilliant, committed, passionate, or effective you are. Their position or title is less important than their ability to give detailed examples of just how fantastic you are.  

That said, the letter writer should have the experience to speak authoritatively about how remarkable your qualities are. A graduate student, for example, is rarely qualified to do this 

Be sure to follow the individual program’s guidelines for the number of required letters and how many of those must come from faculty. 

When should I ask for recommendation letters?

You should contact potential recommenders as soon as you think you are going to pursue an application. Ask for the recommendation at least a month in advance of the deadline. Schedule a meeting with the recommender and come prepared.

I don’t really know any faculty particularly well, though I’ve gotten good grades in my classes. What should I do about letters?

Maybe you’re an online student, or maybe you’re just shy. Maybe you’re in a program with enormous lecture classes and no real opportunity to work in smaller groups. In all these cases, you will need to work a little harder to forge relationships with faculty as far in advance as you can. Visit potential faculty recommenders during office hours or set up appointments to meet with them. Explain what you are thinking of doing and ask for their honest assessment of your candidacy. You might ask, too, whether they would feel comfortable supporting you in your efforts.

If you don’t have other options, you might acknowledge that to the recommender, and ask if there are ways that you can help them feel comfortable writing a stronger letter.

Be sure to include non-faculty members in your pool of potential recommenders. Depending on the award rules and criteria, a work supervisor or student activities advisor is often (but not always) an appropriate choice.

I know I have strong references. Can I submit more letters than are required?

Each program has its own rules, but generally speaking you may only submit the number of letters that are requested. Look carefully at the program website for clarification.

Fellowships Recipients FAQ

I received an external fellowship/scholarship. What do I do next?

Congratulations on receiving an external award!

Please submit an external reporting form to notify relevant offices at Drexel and be sure it is processed in a timely manner. Depending on the type of award and program, you may be contacted for additional information or to verify the details of your award.  

Please note: ALL external funding for educational support must be reported and any additional arrangements with sponsoring agencies or organization may require approval. The appropriate Drexel office will work with the sponsoring organization on any financial details of your award. Further negotiations regarding tuition and fees will be handled by the relevant school or college.  


Will my fellowship affect financial aid or other scholarships?

It depends.

Many fellowships and scholarships are designed to provide additional funds for educational expenses or to complement your existing loans and awards. Depending on the type of award you received, it could affect your financial situation and change your current financial aid and scholarships. The Financial Aid office will work with you and your department to determine if any changes to your award status are needed to reflect your external support.  

Please submit an external reporting form and the appropriate Drexel office will work with you and the sponsoring organization on any financial details of your award. If needed, further negotiations regarding tuition and fees will be handled by the relevant school or college. 

Please note: Failure to report your external funds in a timely manner could result in unnecessary fees or delayed processing of your award.