A fellowship is a monetary award usually designated for graduate students, and many are nationally competitive. There are often specific requirements and expectations, and some fellowships are limited to particular fields of study. Students applying for fellowships should read carefully the requirements (usually on the fellowship web site) before applying to be certain they have the qualifications to apply for the award. Scholarships may be either for undergraduate or graduate students, and students need to check qualifications carefully to choose awards for which they are most qualified.
Competitive students are generally those who achieve high grades and have potential to make significant contributions for the public good. How high grades should be vary with different competitions, and students should read the web site for the award to determine if there is a specific GPA requirement. In addition to grades, there are other assets most reviewers consider:
- meaningful volunteer experience,
- honors courses,
- undergraduate research,
- study abroad, and
- leadership in campus and community activities.
Many of the prestigious scholarships require a person to be a U.S. citizen.
The Community of Science (COS) database provides a way for international students to find information about funding opportunities for scholars from their country. Georgia Tech has a subscription to this site, and you can access the database from any Georgia Tech computer. You can access this database from library and departmental computers. The COS has information about all disciplines, not just science.
International students may also want to consult the resource book, Funding for United States Study: A Guide for International Students and Professionals published by the Institute of International Education. It is available in many libraries. In addition, you may be eligible for graduate assistantships or graduate co-op positions. Ask your faculty recommenders and the department to which you are applying about fellowships you might consider.
See Fellowships. This site provides links to award web sites. The Financial Aid Information page provides links to web pages with information about scholarships, fellowships, grants, loans, and similar forms of funding. Other good places to look are the Financial Aid Search through Fastweb and the Community of Science scholarship and fellowship database. The Community of Science database search needs to be done on a Georgia Tech computer since Tech subscribes to the database.
I am not sure my grades and activities are competitive. Should I apply even when I am not sure I can compete nationwide?
Going through an application process is hard work, but it is the kind of hard work that is rewarding in many ways. Applicants get to know themselves and their goals by the writing they do, and they develop skills, such as interviewing and grant writing, they will use in the future. Polishing your writing skills is never a waste of time. The personalized mentoring from Fellowship Communication Program advisors is valuable and helps you know where to use your energy. Rhodes and Marshall require 3.7 or above GPA. Discuss with advisors your situation for other programs. You may have accomplishments that will help a lower GPA.
Several of the prestigious scholarships provide opportunities in England, but I want to go to another part of the world. What possibilities are there?
Look at the Fulbright program, which has programs in approximately 140 countries. Requirements vary from country to country. Language ability is required for some areas but not for others. See http://us.fulbrightonline.org/home.html for additional information. Fulbright awards are available for students to go to graduate school, do research, or teach English as a second language. The Mitchell award provides 12 scholarships for students to go to Ireland to work on a master's degree.
I want to apply for an external fellowship but am not sure if my essays are what they should be. Is there anyone who can help?
I know reference letters are important, but I am uncertain about how to ask for them. What do you recommend?
The best recommendations come from faculty in courses where you have done well and the professor knows you. It is helpful to ask if the person can provide you with a strong recommendation. If the professor says no or is unsure, it is better to learn this information at the beginning and ask someone else than to have a lukewarm recommendation. Throughout your college career, get to know professors so your abilities are known.
Materials to provide referees include the following:
- A cover sheet with your name, address, phone, and email information, purpose of the recommendation (graduate school or fellowship application);
- A copy of your personal statement or proposal;
- A list of course(s) you had with this person, grade, and semester and any special projects you did;
- Your overall GPA and unofficial copy of transcript;
- The date when the recommendation is due, the address where the letter is to go, and whether the letter is to be submitted online or in hard copy;
- If there are special requirements (in a sealed envelope signed across the seal or other direction), provide this information.
- Suggest that your letter writers look at this advice from Joe Schall to see what is important to include in the letter for the award you seek. Use the search box to find a specific award. There is information about what is wanted in the recommendation letters for that award as well as sample letters.
Do not ask recommenders at the last minute. Plan your applications and ask many weeks in advance.
Check with those who are writing shortly before letters are due to be certain all materials have been submitted.
Be considerate and write a thank you note to those who provide you references.
Some students fund graduate study through professional positions obtained through the graduate cooperative program. For more information, contact the Career Center.
Contact the Office of Student Financial Planning and Services for information about funding graduate studies. A counselor there can give you information about loans and discuss your entire financial package with you - 404-894-4160 - firstname.lastname@example.org - http://www.finaid.gatech.edu. You can discuss your funding situation with the graduate coordinator in your department. (See the web page for your current or prospective department to find out who the graduate coordinator is.).
Students in STEM areas should apply for an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship during the senior year, first year or the first semester of the second year of graduate study. Attend NSF information sessions and talk with an advisor in the Fellowships Office to help make your NSF application as strong as possible.
See the General Fellowship list for other possibilities.
Use the Community of Science (COS) Funding Database to find a wealth of funding opportunities. To use the COS site, the user should be connected with the Georgia Tech computer system since Georgia Tech pays for the subscription.
Many national scholarships require an institutional endorsement. For these awards students must apply through the Fellowships Office. Some awards limit the number of students who may be nominated from each university. Talk with an advisor so that you know about the endorsement process and if only a limited number may be recommended.
NSF, NDSEG, Hertz, and many other applications are submitted by the individual and not through the Fellowships Office. However, with all applications, you will benefit from feedback about your essays from a Georgia Tech fellowship advisor.