Application Guidance

Winning a major fellowship or scholarship is a great honor that can open many doors to new opportunities and experiences. Whatever your personal and professional goals, fellowships are worth the time and effort required for their pursuit. Whether or not you receive an award, you will emerge from the fellowship application process with a stronger sense of who you are, and a clearer vision of what you want to do. The resources and information listed under Application Guidance offers useful tips as you prepare the various components that make up the application dossier. 

Nationally competitive fellowships and scholarships require an enormous amount of effort and commitment from the applicant. The NCS team can help to make the process manageable. We encourage you to schedule an appointment to discuss your plans, and attend information sessions held throughout the year. This website has numerous resources to help you at every stage of the process.

Most important – start early. The earlier you consider applying for a fellowship or scholarship the more competitive your application will be. Many deadlines fall nearly a year before the activity that they fund begins. Knowing what you hope to do well in advance will ensure that you meet the deadlines and prepare a compelling application.

Where to Start

Explore your interests

What are your goals? Consider carefully what you hope to accomplish and how a fellowship can help you to achieve this goal. For example: Do you have a research project that you want to undertake? Do you need funding for graduate school? Are you interested in exploring other cultures? Do you need funding for a study abroad program? Do you want to engage in community service or teaching? Do you want to learn a foreign language? Do you need to develop some professional skills, or are you undecided about a future career path and looking for an inspirational experience?

Once you have a clearer idea of what you hope to accomplish you can search fellowship programs to help you to achieve these goals.

Identify fellowships and scholarships

There are many different types of fellowships and scholarships. Explore the opportunities that are listed on this website and on the further opportunities page. You will find details of major awards, as well as other interesting internships, teaching and service oriented programs. It is also a good idea to talk with professors and academic advisors who may know of fellowships specific to your area of study, as well as to research professional organizations and private institutions that may sponsor awards in your field. Many of these opportunities can strengthen your qualifications for other major awards that may come later in your academic or professional career.

Begin your search by looking at programs that you are eligible to receive given your current academic level. Then broaden out to look at those that fit your goals. Some fellowships offer awards in particular fields of study, some have preferences for candidates from certain populations (ethnic groups, women, students with disabilities), and some are meant specifically for candidates who can demonstrate financial need.

Determine your eligibility and candidacy

Most fellowship/scholarship programs have stringent eligibility criteria. Before you get too far in the process ensure that you meet all of the stated eligibility criteria for the award. Applications that are deemed ineligible will not be reviewed by the award’s selection committee.

You also need to gauge whether or not you are a strong candidate for the fellowship. Review the fellowship’s purpose, mission and history to determine if it is a good fit with your academic/professional background, and that your goals align with the mission of the sponsoring organization. You may be eligible to apply, but are you a competitive candidate compared to past recipients? High GPAs are one indicator of a candidate’s success as a student, but a high GPA is not enough to make you a compelling candidate. In addition, many awards look beyond just the GPA to consider other factors such as community engagement, leadership roles, knowledge of a 2nd or 3rd language, etc. Having a solid academic record as well as accomplishments outside of your classroom pursuits will greatly improve your candidacy.

In addition, ask yourself whether or not your professional or future goals be well served by this program. This will help you to determine if the program is worth your effort and will be a factor in selection as sponsoring organizations tend to only grant to candidates who will most benefit from the opportunity.

Make an appointment with the Fellowship Advisor

All students and alumni are encouraged to set up an appointment to meet with NCS. The our team will help you to determine which programs fit you best, navigate the application process and give you advice on your project statements, essays and letters of recommendation. During our meeting we will also discuss your goals and create an action plan to help you during the application process. To make an appointment, go to the homepage and click on the “Schedule an Appointment” button.

Prepare application materials

Begin by reading all of the application instructions provided by the fellowship’s sponsoring organization. Ensure that you fully understand all of the procedures including the deadlines to meet. Having a firm understanding of what is expected from you will help to avoid technical disqualification.

In most cases applications for nationally competitive fellowships and scholarships require a combination of the following items:

  • An application form;
  • A project proposal essay and/or a personal statement/statement of intent;
  • A resume or curriculum vitae;
  • Letters of recommendation;
  • Transcripts from all post-secondary education.
  • Allow plenty of time when preparing your essays or project proposals. You want enough time to have them reviewed by your faculty mentors and advisors to ensure that your work is clear, error free, well-thought out and well-written.

Strategies to enhance your candidacy

Every fellowship application will ask you to provide additional information beyond what is listed on your transcript or discussed in your essays. These sections are designed for you to highlight your strengths, experiences and accomplishments. Some will merely ask you to submit a resume or curriculum vitae, but others will have specific form for you to list additional information such as work experience, volunteerism and/or community service, foreign travel, publications, and honors/awards. Candidates who have a varied background of experiences and achievements, and who have taken a leadership role or gone above and beyond to do something noteworthy will stand out from those who have had more typical experiences to that point. Any candidate can plan ahead to take advantage of the many opportunities that surround them to gain experiences and excel in their personal and academic lives to be competitive for prestigious scholarships.

 

Tips to be a stand out candidate 

Academic Rigor

Strive for excellence in your academic pursuits. Take challenging courses in diverse fields outside of your major. Expand your base of knowledge by exposing yourself to a variety of disciplines and schools of thought. Fully engage yourself in the courses you take, and use every opportunity to network with your professors. These are the people who will be writing your letters of recommendation.


Community Engagement

Enrich your knowledge about people, places, and events by following the news, reading broadly and exploring informed blogs. Consider travel and study abroad. Many students who win undergraduate study abroad fellowships then go on to win prestigious graduate level fellowships. In addition, there are many ways to “travel” intellectually and culturally without boarding a plane to another country. Participate in intercultural events, attend lectures, read scholarly and professional journals in your field of interest. Consider volunteer work or an unpaid internship in an arena that exposes you to populations or social issues that are beyond your usual experience.

Get involved in campus organizations or community groups and fill leadership roles in the activities that are most important to you. Attend a variety of cultural events on campus and throughout the city.

Undertake independent research

Seek opportunities to do research, to show that you are able to conduct independent work and/or engage in advanced graduate level study. There may be ongoing research activities on campus that you can get involved with. Ask your faculty mentors for advice on finding research projects conducted by them or their colleagues. Perhaps you could serve as a research assistant gaining valuable research skills in the process. You could also consider completing a thesis as part of your degree requirements, or apply for a summer NSF- REU program in one of many sites throughout the US.

 

Develop Leadership Skills

Work to improve the world. Give generously of your time to support public service or volunteer programs dedicated to addressing social problems or needs about which you care most. Take a leadership role within the activity to inspire and lead others. If a service or program does not yet exist to address a particular need \ consider developing one that will. Seek out professors and other mentors to help you implement your ideas.

Get involved in extracurricular activities that are meaningful to you, and help to inform you. As you explore these activities, take some time to think about why they matter to you.

Volunteer in the community. Connect with the Office or Community Engaged Leadership to find ways to get involved on and off campus. There are many resources in Boone and the surrounding areas.

Find an internship, internships may be paid or unpaid and take place during the summer or the school year. The Career Development Center is a great place to start for internship and job opportunities.