A Detailed Guide to Applying

A Detailed Guide to Applying

Winning a fellowship requires planning and effort, which are in your control. Experience shows that if you follow these steps, you will greatly increase your odds of securing an award.

The Fellowship Office has created the Fellowship Planning Log to assist students as they begin the fellowship planning process.

Think Ahead | Find an Overriding Objective | Give Yourself Options
Do the Digging | Focus on Process | Get Help

Think Ahead

Fellowship applications are a time-consuming proposition. Students should be clear about their goals; choose the right program; draft a project proposal and usually a personal statement; and then line up their references. And all of this must happen before the deadline.

Students should therefore allow plenty of lead time. Find out the due dates for the awards that are of interest, and come in to meet with the GS Fellowships Office well in advance—six months beforehand, if possible. This will give you the chance to focus on process. When the time comes to submit your application, you will be ready to put forward your best thinking.

Once you get started with the application process, you will need to stay mindful of deadlines. These have a way of creeping up on you while you are occupied with other things. Enter the final due dates as well as your own process deadlines in your calendar and take gradual but consistent steps toward your goal.

Find an Overriding Objective

Successful fellowship applicants know what they want. For example, they want to go to Gujarat and learn Hindi. Or they want to go to Berlin and study filmmaking. Their single-mindedness gives them the power to focus their efforts on just one goal.

Many wonderful students, however, have two pressing ambitions. Such ambivalence thwarts productive effort. The first step in applying for a fellowship, therefore, is to figure out what you most want for the year ahead. There is no need for life-long renunciations; you must simply identify where, in the coming year, your priorities lie.

Give Yourself Options

You may find yourself in a position to submit multiple fellowship applications for the same project.

For example:

  • If you want to do a master’s degree in history in the UK, the Marshall, Gates-Cambridge, Clarendon, and Fulbright would all be plausible options.
  • If you want to learn an Asian language overseas, the Luce, Boren, Bridging, and Princeton in Asia programs are possible targets—as are the English-language teaching positions offered by Fulbright and the Japanese and Korean governments.

If several, mutually consistent fellowships are available the wise course is to apply for them all. You will enhance your chances of success and—what is more important—you will be affirming to yourself the seriousness of your intention to bring your plan to fruition.

Do the Digging

Throughout the application process, you will need to explain your plans for the future. You can answer convincingly only by knowing exactly what it is you are proposing to do, as well as where and with whom you are proposing to do it.

Find out, therefore, all you can about the fellowship programs that interest you and, where applicable, the course offerings of the universities where you propose to study. Seek out previous winners as well as professors who are informed about the awards you are seeking. Plan to attend one of the GS Fellowship Information Sessions held throughout the academic year to learn more about the opportunities that interest you.

Focus on Process

 Regardless of whether you ultimately secure a fellowship, making the effort to is bound to help you in the long run. To organize a good application you must:

  • Articulate your long-term goals and the steps you will take along the way
  • Present your most sophisticated ideas in accessible prose
  • Fashion a compelling narrative out of your past decisions
  • Adapt to the selection committee’s criteria while remaining true to your own priorities  

The act of applying, in other words, virtually guarantees that you will gain self-awareness and lucidity of expression. This is why we urge you to focus on process, rather than on the chances of being chosen. If you approach the work in a process-oriented spirit, you will end up with more insight into yourself, greater clarity about your goals, and greater ease in the presentation of your ideas, acquisitions that can be transferred to any context.

Get Help

Although it is possible to apply for fellowships on your own, the GS Fellowships Office urges you to utilize the vast resources available.

Benefits of working with the GS Fellowships Office

  • Guidance about which competitions to enter
  • Step-by-step assistance as you develop a workable proposal
  • Constructive criticism of your draft essays
  • Structure and moral support