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Fellowships are similar to scholarships or grants in that they are monetary awards that do not require repayment. These types of awards fund undergraduate or graduate study, research, independent projects, or community service within the U.S. or abroad. Many of these awards are nationally competitive and have specific requirements and expectations. Some may be limited to a specific academic program, while others must be used at certain institutions or geographic regions. Please read the requirements for each fellowship carefully to ensure that you are eligible for the award and that the nature of the award meets your goals and interests.
There are numerous fellowships available to students in a wide range of disciplines that allow for the pursuit of graduate degrees, professional development, and/or independent projects. Many fellowships support travel abroad as well. Receiving a fellowship is not only prestigious, but a valuable experience that will enhance your academic, professional, and personal development.
There are also benefits to the application process itself, regardless of whether you are awarded a fellowship. Some of these include:
- Understanding yourself on a deeper level by defining your interests and future goals and assessing your strengths and weaknesses.
- Honing practical, real-world skills: learning how to write a personal statement, request letters of recommendation, organize your application materials and meet deadlines, and present yourself in front of an interview panel.
- Preparing for other application processes, such as graduate/professional school or future employment.
National fellowships are highly competitive and have specific eligibility requirements, but general qualifications include:
- Strong academic performance: GPA is usually a major factor; however not all fellowships set a minimum GPA requirement. Difficulty and breadth of coursework may also be taken into account. Challenging courses, such as those offered by Honors, are favorable.
- Clear sense of purpose and future: Fellowships are an investment in students who have the potential to make significant contributions to their field of study or to society in general. Concrete plans are more convincing to fellowship committees.
- Record of leadership, service, and other achievements: Fellowship committees look at extracurricular activities as an indication of motivation and drive for future accomplishments. Leadership involvement, research experience, and/or meaningful extracurricular activities are compelling. Although spending time abroad is not a typical requirement for fellowships, having such an experience strengthens your application. Spending your semester breaks in engaging and meaningful experiences also helps your application.
- Demonstrated motivation and drive: The earlier you get involved on campus and the longer you stay engaged with student organizations, the better it looks. Remaining active in a few carefully chosen activities that align with your future career goals is a greater indication of motivation and drive than joining many student organizations to boost your résumé.
- Expand your knowledge: Broaden your global knowledge by reading The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and/or The Economist. Stay current within your field of study as well.
Note that fellowships are based on multiple factors; no one area will rule you out unless it is specifically stated in the requirements (eg. minimum GPA requirement). If you feel you may not be accomplished in one area but are qualified in others, you may still be a competitive candidate. Please check with the fellowship website for specific requirements or contact the Fellowship Advisor to assess your candidacy.
You may also find general opportunities listed on these pages:
- MIT Graduate Education website
- Caltech Graduate Studies Office website
- International Education Financial Aid website
- International Scholarships database
- GoogleDoc listing
Individual departments and institutions may also offer their own funding opportunities for international students. Another potential source of fellowships would be your own national government or other private organizations. You are advised to contact them for more information.
Hundreds of applications are submitted each year for competitive fellowships that are only offered to a limited number of individuals; therefore, the odds are not very high. Additionally, there is no certain formula to ensure that an application will result in a fellowship award. However, not applying at all will guarantee that you will not receive a fellowship award.
It is important for you to read through the criteria for each of the specific fellowships you are interested in to assess if it makes sense to pursue the opportunity. If you feel you fit the criteria and are willing to put in the time and effort, it would benefit you to apply. Even if you do not end up receiving any fellowships, you will have gained some invaluable experiences and insight: a clearer understanding of yourself, your interests, and your future goals; practical experience in writing, networking, and interviewing; and understanding how to navigate an extensive application process, such as for graduate/professional school or future employment.
As early as possible (even starting your freshman year)! The sooner you begin investigating opportunities, the more time you have to prepare yourself and build your candidacy. Even if you are unsure of your plans after graduation, it will benefit you to learn about various options, begin building relationships with faculty, find extracurricular pursuits, and explore possible interests. Following these general tips will be valuable for many future plans, whether you continue with post-graduate education, head straight into the workforce, or choose another pursuit.
If you are already past your freshmen year, not to worry! Even if this is your graduating semester, you may still be able to put together a strong application. There have been students who have received fellowships even after learning about them in their senior year.
If you plan to research scholarships and fellowships on your own:
- Identify qualifications/motivations: What are you passionate about and see yourself pursuing as a higher degree or future career? Create a list of your interests and goals and make note of the following, as these may be factors in determining your eligibility for certain fellowships: unique factors (eg. minority status), GPA, field of study, intended school/program, intended geographic location, citizenship/geographic residency, etc.
- Find fellowships: Start with a broad range of options, then refine your search based on your qualifications and whether or not the fellowships match your goals and interests. One starting place is the Award Listing page. Note, however, that there are numerous other fellowships out there. Search phrases such as “prestigious fellowships/scholarships” or “fellowships/scholarships that require University endorsement,” or peruse this Fastweb site. After carefully reading through fellowship websites, list which ones you would like to apply for and which ones are alternates you may be willing to consider.
- Research uses for fellowship awards: Many fellowships are open to the program of study or independent project of your choosing. Look into available programs and connect with faculty at those respective universities or at UH Mānoa who may have insight into other programs within the U.S. and abroad.
If you would like the UH Mānoa Scholarships & Fellowships Office to help:
- Carefully review information on this website. There are direct links to specific fellowship websites posted to assist you in beginning your search.
- Attend fellowship information sessions.
- Make an appointment with the Fellowship Advisor. It is helpful to identify your qualifications and motivations prior to your appointment; this will serve as an excellent starting point at your initial meeting.
Every fellowship has its own process and application requirements. Most awards generally include these elements (linked to additional information about each component):
- Personal Statement/Essays
- Résumé/CV/List of Activities
- Letters of Recommendation
- Academic Transcripts
- University Endorsement
There are also intangible requirements to take into consideration. Putting together a compelling application will take a significant amount of time, energy, and effort. You will review and revise your application documents numerous times, in addition to extensively preparing for your interview(s). Applicants have spent from one to six months preparing their applications. An example timeline for a fellowship beginning the fall after your graduating semester is as follows:
Junior year: research and identify fellowships, request letters of recommendation, meet with Fellowship Advisor, begin preparing application materials.
Senior year: final revisions and submission pf application materials in early fall, interview in late fall/winter, notification of award status in spring.
Remember, you do not have to do all of this alone. The UH Mānoa Scholarships & Fellowships Office is here to guide you through the application process with information sessions and individual appointments. The faculty selection committee that will review campus applications is also invested in assisting nominated candidates from UH Mānoa shine at the national level. Faculty and others who will write your letters of recommendation are additional supporters of your application.
As this is a collective effort of many involved parties, you should be courteous and professional towards the dedicated individuals who want to see you succeed.
You may find specific tips for each of the general application components under Application Resources, however you will also need to know how to fit these components together to present a cohesive and compelling application package.
The following tips should help strengthen your application:
- Give yourself ample time to put together your application. These highly competitive awards require a significant investment of time and effort. Start early and allow yourself sufficient time to work and rework your application materials. The process is not meant to be completed overnight!
- Focus on making your application materials a consistent yet comprehensive assessment of you. Each piece of your application should offer different insights into who you are rather than redundancies. For example, your letters of recommendation should complement your personal statement. Visit Application Resources for additional tips on specific components of the application.
- Think of ways to highlight what makes you a unique candidate. Hundreds of applications are submitted each year for a limited number of spots; find ways to distinguish yourself from other applicants.
- Write good well. Do not let basic grammar mistakes or poor organization in your writing distract readers from what you have to share about yourself. Always proofread your work multiple times.
- Have others review your application and provide feedback; this is helpful to discover what parts of your application are strong and what areas require further clarification. Note that some fellowships may specifically ask that you do not receive any feedback on your work, such as the personal statement for the Rhodes Scholarship.
- You may also find tips from previous fellowship applicants/recipients here.
- Work closely with the UH Mānoa Scholarships & Fellowships Office. Our office is dedicated to helping students through the application process. Please do not hesitate to contact us, regardless of where you are in the stages of fellowship planning, to receive guidance and support. We are happy to provide an individual assessment and guidance to further you on your journey to a potential fellowship.
Yes! First, there may be other scholarship or fellowship opportunities for which you may currently be eligible. Please contact the Fellowship Advisor.
Second, look into opportunities that will help you find broaden your experiences or strengthen your application and reach your goals. Some on-campus programs to explore:
- Honors Program: undertake an academic program of challenging coursework, culminating in an independent project
- Study Abroad Center/National Student Exchange/Manoa International Exchange: study elsewhere nationally or abroad while still retaining UH Mānoa student status
- Honor Societies: be recognized for your academic merit; once a member, enjoy benefits such as scholarships, service and engagement opportunities, professional development, etc.
- Horizons Undergraduate Journal: publish your student work in this UH Mānoa-centered, peer-reviewed journal publication
- Mānoa Career Center: find student jobs, federal work study, and internships/co-ops
- Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program: fund your independent research or creative endeavor
- Mānoa Political Internships: gain experience working at top levels of the federal and state government
- Chartered Student Organizations: serve the UH Mānoa community through chartered organizations funded by student fees
- Registered Independent Organizations: find a list of current student clubs on campus or information on how to start one
- Mānoa Peer Advisors: receive training to help peers navigate college academics
- New Student Orientation Leader: help incoming students transition to college
- Access to College Excellence Peer Mentor: facilitate the adjustment of a cohort of freshmen to college through a weekly class
- Financial Literacy Peer Educator Program: be trained to help others to develop and maintain a financially stable life
- Learning Assistance Center Tutor: apply to become a paid or volunteer tutor for UH Mānoa peers
- Sustainability at UH Mānoa: address sustainability issues through these campus organizations
- Student Equity Excellence and Diversity: explore programs and resources for underrepresented groups in higher education
- Service Learning: engage in the community in a meaningful way
- Ka Papa Lo‘i O Kānewai: volunteer at the taro field on campus while learning about Hawaiian culture
- Sports and Recreation: join one of the wide range of athletic and recreational activities offered on campus
In addition to taking advantage of the opportunities listed above, here are other ways to build your candidacy:
- Improve your written and oral communication skills.
- Participate in conferences and symposia.
- Network and build connections with faculty, staff, volunteer coordinators, employers, and other individuals who can mentor you and write strong letters of recommendation for you.
- Make productive use of semester breaks, such as by participating in short-term research projects, internships, and volunteer work during the winter, spring, and summer interims.
- Develop artistic talents and explore other pursuits that will make you a well-rounded character.
University endorsement (used interchangeably with the term University nomination) means that a fellowship applicant is putting forth an application with the official approval of the University. Some fellowships require an institutional endorsement, indicating a student may not submit their application materials directly to the fellowship agency on his/her own. For fellowships that are handled by the UH Mānoa Scholarships & Fellowships Office, nominees will go through an internal selection process before receiving institutional endorsement. You may find more information about this process here. For fellowships that are handled by other offices on campus, please check with each office individually regarding their internal application process.
Not all fellowships require University endorsement. You may search for them on the web.
Many fellowships require institutional endorsement. For such awards, you must apply through the respective UH Mānoa office handling the campus internal application process. The fellowships listed on this website all require University endorsement.
There are awards that students may apply to directly that do not require University endorsement. Nevertheless, you may benefit from meeting with the Fellowship Advisor and sending drafts of your application materials for review.
The official deadline is set by the agency sponsoring the fellowship for the receipt of application materials. The internal deadline, typically a month or two prior to the official deadline, is set by the respective office at UH Mānoa handling the nomination/endorsement process for applicants. The time between the internal deadline to the official deadline is necessary for UH Mānoa to conduct its own selection process and assist nominated candidates with their application before final documents are submitted to the fellowship foundation. Please note that the respective UH Mānoa office handling endorsed applications may require your final application documents a few days before the official application deadline to ensure sufficient processing time to submit your complete application package to the fellowship agency.
Yes! It is often advantageous to apply for multiple awards to maximize your application efforts and increase your chances of being considered for a fellowship. While there is no limit on the number of your fellowship applications, keep in mind that each fellowship has its own distinct set of application requirements. Be strategic in selecting which fellowships to apply for as your application materials should be tailored to each award opportunity. In addition, select ones that strongly align with your goals and interests rather than spreading yourself thin.
Yes. The window of eligibility for some fellowship awards extends a few years beyond graduation. Applying as an alumnus/alumna may be particularly advantageous if you gain meaningful work or volunteer experience or otherwise solidify future goals after graduation. Please check with the respective fellowship websites regarding age requirements or other limitations. Alumni and current students of UH Mānoa have the same access to guidance and resources provided by the UH Mānoa Scholarships & Fellowships Office.
- Provide information, advertise, and host information sessions on fellowships and other opportunities.
- Assess students and suggest fellowships for which they qualify.
- Advise students on programs and activities to strengthen their educational experience.
- Coordinate internal scholarship committees to nominate UH Mānoa students for fellowships that require University endorsement.
- Support, guide, and provide feedback throughout the fellowship application process, including but not limited to writing the personal statement, securing letters of recommendation, and preparing for interviews.
Submitting a nationally competitive fellowship application requires significant advance preparation. Internships, independent projects, and meaningful campus/community activities help build one’s candidacy. Our office will meet with students as early as freshman year to begin planning their fellowship application process. To make an appointment, please see our Contact page.
The Fellowship Advisor is available to all students interested in fellowship opportunities. Once you decide to commit to the application process, you must meet at least once with the Fellowship Advisor. It is highly advised that you to work closely with the Fellowship Advisor as you put together your application, whether in-person or via phone or email. The Fellowship Advisor can assist you in many ways throughout the application process: reviewing drafts of your personal statement where allowable, helping you determine whom to ask for letters of recommendation, preparing for interviews, etc. Visit our Contact page to set up a meeting with the Fellowship Advisor.
Feel free to go to our Contact page to email, call or schedule an appointment.