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Applying for Fellowships

Many fellowship applications require a personal statement, letters of recommendation, a resume/CV and transcripts. Be sure you give yourself enough time to prepare these items and that you know what constitutes a complete application — missing one item will eliminate you from consideration.

Start Early

Give yourself plenty of time to write, re-write and gather supplementary materials for the application. Most fellowship competitions have deadlines six to twelve months prior to when recipients receive the funding, and they usually require personal statements and letters of recommendation that may take several months to compile.

Tips on Writing Personal statements

Address the fellowship selection criteria and follow the application guidelines for the statement. First read the fellowship information carefully to identify the selection criteria. Then consider the experiences you’ve had that demonstrate that you meet the fellowship criteria. Write about those experiences in your personal statement. 

Personal statements help review committees learn about you — your goals, your interests, 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 transcript and resume/CV.

Find out who makes up the selection 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.

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

Tips on Letters of recommendation

Most fellowship applications require at least one letter of recommendation. Unless otherwise stated, a letter of recommendation should be submitted directly by the writer and kept confidential from the applicant.

Letters of Recommendation

First, consider the audience (selection committee) of the application. 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 or volunteer 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.

If possible, schedule a meeting or phone call with with your recommender about the fellowship to which you are applying. Be prepared to provide information about the fellowship — particularly about 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 resume/CV and description of the work you did with them. 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 fellowship funders do not make exceptions for late submissions, so give your recommenders as much notice as possible before the deadline and send occasional reminders. 


Like other aspects of your application, your resume or curriculum vitae should be tailored to the selection committee and the criteria of the fellowship. The CV you submit for one fellowship may be different from the one you submit for another fellowship. Highlight those accomplishments and experiences that demonstrate that you meet the selection criteria.

Resume/CV support: You may benefit from a resume/CV review with your advisor or other faculty members in your department as norms, traditions and expectations can vary by discipline. You may also schedule an appointment with the Career & Internship Center for feedback on your resume/CV. The Career & Internship 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. 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.