UW Graduate School

Applying for Fellowships

Many fellowship applications require a personal statement, letters of recommendation, a resume/CV and transcripts, either official or unofficial. Be sure you know what constitutes a complete application; missing one item will eliminate you from consideration.

Personal statements

Fellowship applications may require one or more statements, and often include guidelines for what should be covered in the statements. Each fellowship is different — read and address each criterion in your application. Do not limit your answers. For example, when writing about a leadership experience, think broadly about what “leadership” means and how you have embodied it.

Personal statements help review committees learn about you, your goals, what has brought you to where you are now and why you want the fellowship. The statement should complement, rather than reiterate, the information in your other application materials.

During the application process, find out who makes up the review committee. Often, you may be writing to a broad audience, or to a group of faculty, who may not be experts in your discipline. Present a statement that is professional and academic, but limit jargon as much as possible.

A second — or third — set of eyes to review your statement is useful before you submit a final product. Ask your peers and/or your advisor to proofread your statement and provide feedback. Many applicants compose several drafts of a statement before submitting a satisfactory version.

Letters of recommendation

Most fellowship applications will require you to submit at least one letter of recommendation. Unless otherwise stated, a letter of recommendation should be submitted for consideration either directly by the writer, or enclosed within a signed, sealed envelope.

Who do I ask?
First, consider the audience (review committee) of the award. For example, committees comprised of faculty from around the country often prefer to read at least one faculty recommendation. If you are applying to an award with an internship, include a recommendation from a supervisor with whom you conducted relevant work experience. The Office of Fellowships and Awards is happy to provide advice for selecting recommenders on an individual basis.

Use recommenders who know you best. While it may be tempting to ask a faculty member whose name “carries weight” in your field, a detailed recommendation that speaks to your strengths is more likely to move you further in a selection process than a brief endorsement from a well-known source.

Finally, if your application requires more than one recommendation, consider how each potential recommender would add to your application. Select recommenders who can speak to your personal qualities or aspects of your research. A diverse array of recommendations that support the components of your application package is preferable to a group of recommendations that restate the same points.

What do I provide them?
If possible, schedule a meeting or phone call with with your recommender about the fellowship to which you are applying. Be prepared to provide background of the award, as well as the qualities and characteristics the selection committee is seeking in an applicant. To help your recommenders provide the strongest endorsement possible, provide them with drafts of your personal statement and other relevant materials, such as your curriculum vitae and portfolio. Highlight areas on these materials, or provide a summary of points, which you would like each recommender to focus his or her comments.

Providing recommenders with these materials helps them to craft relevant letters. This also can be a time to ask for application feedback, if appropriate. Make resources available to recommenders at the earliest opportunity.

It is your responsibility to ensure your recommenders submit materials by the application deadline. Most external fellowship agencies cannot make exceptions for late submissions from recommenders, so give your recommenders as much notice as possible before the deadline and send occasional reminders, if needed. Many application portals allow you to check whether a recommendation has been submitted.


Like other aspects of your application, your resume or curriculum vitae should be tailored to the review committee audience and the nature of the award. The CV you submit for one award may vary from the one you submit for a different application. Think about what sections or accomplishments of your CV are most appropriate to highlight, given the selection criteria of each fellowship.

Resume/CV support: You may benefit from a resume/CV review with your advisor or other faculty members in your department — general norms, traditions and expectations can vary by discipline. For general feedback on a CV or resume, schedule an appointment with Catherine Basl, the graduate student advisor in the UW Career Center. Call the Career Center or book an appointment online. The Career Center provides a number of resources for graduate students.


Some fellowships require transcripts from all institutions you have attended. In most cases, an unofficial transcript will be sufficient, although you may be required to submit an official transcript later, if awarded. Keep on hand an unofficial transcript in PDF or hard copy. Contact your undergraduate institution in advance to order sealed and unsealed copies of your official transcript. Some institutions take up to four weeks to process transcript requests.