Frequently Asked Questions
I’m an international student, can I apply for fellowships?
Yes, but unfortunately there are fewer you will be eligible for. Since many fellowships are funded all or in part by the US government they only accept applications from US citizens. There are still great programs, however, that are looking for qualified applicants of all citizenships. Whenever possible I’ve indicated whether or not a fellowship is available to non-US citizens. If in doubt, check the fellowship website.
How high does my GPA have to be?
For some fellowships, like the Marshall and the Rhodes, a high GPA is crucial (the average for these awards tends to be upwards of 3.9). For others, like the Fulbright ETA and the Princeton programs, GPA is not necessary the key component. In general, if you have a 3.0 or higher, you may be a good candidate for fellowships. If you have a GPA below 3.0 but have excelled in other areas (athletics, public service, etc), schedule a meeting with Dr. Cable.
How can I tell if I'm qualified for a fellowship?
Well, the first way is to look at the fellowship’s website and look to see what sort of qualifications the foundation is looking for. Sometimes this is found under the heading of “Eligibility.” But don’t just look online; make an appointment to meet with Dr. Cable. By getting to know you a bit better, I can guide you to programs that fit both your qualifications and your goals.
How many fellowships can I apply for?
How many essays do you feel like writing? Aside from restrictions against applying for different types of the same award (like Fulbright), there aren’t really any rules against applying for as many programs as you’d like. In fact, we strongly encourage students to bite the bullet and apply for as many as they can—as long as your applications and grades stay top notch during the process. While most fellowships have very different applications, in many cases there is some overlap; enough so that not every essay needs to be started from scratch.
When will I hear if I've won?
This varies widely. Some programs, like the Marshall, Mitchell, and Rhodes, have application deadlines in early October, notify finalists by early November, conduct final interviews later that month and typically announce the winners by December. Other programs, like the Fulbright, have a mid-October due date but you won’t hear if you’ve made it to the finalist stage until the end of January. Once you’ve made it this far, you still will need to wait until late March at the earliest—and more like late April or early May—to hear if you’ve actually won a spot. It’s not ideal, but there’s nothing we can do to speed things up.
What if I win more than one fellowship?
Well, after we get done with our victory dance then you’ve got some tough choices to make. In most cases you simply cannot do more than one fellowship at a time (unless you have one of those time traveler pendants like Hermione had in Harry Potter...). I will be more than happy to talk objectively about the pros and cons of each program. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide. And no, I won’t be angry or disappointed if you choose one rather than the other, and neither should anyone else here at F&M. Remember, it’s your life and you need to do what is right for you.
What if I don't win any fellowships?
Unfortunately, many people will find themselves in this position; keep in mind that these are extremely competitive programs with far fewer positions than applicants. In many cases, you can—and SHOULD—reapply the next year. Only a few programs restrict applying to a single year (like the Beinecke and Truman during the junior year). More and more people are winning top awards like the Marshall and Rhodes their second (and even third!) time around. Take some time to get over the disappointment and then pick yourself up and get back on track. And remember, you’ve had all sorts of experience since you applied the first time—just imagine how much more amazing your application can be!
If I win a fellowship, can I defer entering the graduate program that I've already been accepted into?
Usually, but that’s entirely up to the graduate program. You’ll need to contact them and inform them that you’ve just won the XYZ Fellowship and in order to take advantage of this amazing opportunity you’d like to defer starting their graduate program for a year (or however long your fellowship is).
What is the difference between the campus deadline and the national deadline?
This is very important and can cause a lot of confusion. In many cases, F&M can only nominate a finite number of students for a particular award (like the Goldwater). In order to make sure we put the best candidates forward, we need to review your application materials and hold on-campus interviews. In the case of the Fulbright, F&M is required by Fulbright to conduct interviews—even though there is no limit to the number of students applying. For most fellowships, the campus due date is 4-6 weeks prior to the national deadline; the allows plenty of time to review your materials, make our choices, and ensure that all documentation is properly completed online or in hard copy.
Do I really need to have everything submitted by the campus deadline?
If you’re serious about applying, then absolutely yes. We can still evaluate your application if your transcript or a letter of recommendation is missing, but it’s unlikely you’re going to look as good as a classmate who was able to get everything in on time.
One of my letter writers still hasn't uploaded their letter of recommendation; surely the foundation won't penalize my application just because the professor is late.
False. In most cases, a foundation will decline to review any incomplete applications. No exceptions, no excuses. Get everything in on time. What does it say about your potential as a fellowship winner if you can even manage to get an application together in a timely manner?
I transferred to F&M. Do I need to upload a transcript from my previous school as well?
In most cases, yes. When in doubt, check the fellowship website and/or contact the organization. (But be absolutely sure it’s not on their website before you bother them!)
OMG, I think I'm a great fit for the XYZ Fellowship but the deadline is next week; should I still apply?
Most likely yes! In some cases, if you’ve missed the campus application process (interviews and the selection of finalists) then it really is too late. But if there’s no campus deadline or if you still have time to get a quality application together then go for it! (And perhaps thank your recommendation letter writers with a campus bookstore or Zime's gift certificate since they’ve had to rush…)
I need letters of recommendation; whom and how do I ask for these?
Good question! First, check the fellowship website; in many cases the organization will indicate what they’d like your letter writers to address—academic performance, leadership, commitment to public service, etc. Next, think about professors and maybe supervisors who know you (and your work) well. In order to write a strong letter of support, the person really has to speak to specific things. Not just “He always came to class and submitted homework on time.” (Don’t ask friends and family members to write these letters—the letters need to be profession and objective.)
Once you’ve decided whom to ask, make sure you give them room to politely decline. Responses like “I don’t think that I’ve had you in class enough to provide a strong letter” or “This is a really busy time of the semester for me; I’m afraid that I won’t be able to do this right now” may be attempts to get out of it. Pay attention to subtle clues; you need STRONG letters, not lukewarm (or even bad!) ones.
For many fellowships, you will input your recommenders’ names and emails into your online application form and they will receive an automated email with a link where they can either complete an online form or upload a letter they’ve written. Make sure you have given them whatever guidelines provided by the foundation (check the website!), a sample letter if the organization has one (check the website!!), the most recent drafts of your application essays (it’s vital that they understand what it is you’re applying for), your resume, and even copies of papers or research you did for the professor’s class. Don’t assume they remember you. While in many cases they do, having a lot of data at their fingertips will help them craft the kind of personalized, detailed letter that really counts.
Give your letter writers 4-6 weeks lead-time; nothing is worse than frantically emailing a professor the night before your application is due asking them if they could possibly get this done, ummm, now.