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Fellowships FAQ

What are fellowships?

A fellowship or scholarship provides a recipient with funds to support academic study or research. Some fellowships also provide funds for living expenses, books, and travel related to the fellow's area of academic interest. Many types of fellowships exist. Fellowships are awarded at the undergraduate, graduate, post-graduate, and professional level of study. There are special types of fellowships available. This guide discusses fellowships that are primarily awarded to graduating seniors. However, some of these are available to current graduate students or alumni.

Many of the fellowships reviewed in this guide, support graduate study abroad. Others, such as the National Science Foundation Grants for Graduate Study, can support study in the U.S. or abroad. Others, such as the Department of Defense's National Defense Student Education Grant fellowships, support graduate study only in the U.S.

Why apply?

One reason is money!  Many fellowships provide more ample funds for study than the traditional grants awarded to beginning graduate students.  However, the time and energy needed to apply for a fellowship requires applicants to look beyond the funds to the experience itself. The opportunity to go abroad for one or two years to study and do research will enlarge your knowledge of how science or engineering is "done" elsewhere, allow you to make international contacts that can last a lifetime, and learn how scientists and engineers are viewed in another culture.

Applying for a fellowship or scholarship may seem like a major endeavor.  However, if you are applying to graduate school, applying for fellowships is a directly related activity.  In graduate and fellowship applications, you must write an essay that outlines your professional goals and objectives for graduate study.  Both require letters of recommendation.  In contrast to the mid-winter deadline dates for graduate school application, fellowships usually have fall application deadlines.  Those applying for fellowships "get a jump" on the graduate school application process.

Are the applications a lot of work?

Applying for a fellowship or scholarship may seem like a major endeavor. However, if you are applying to graduate school, you'll probably already be writing essays and getting letters of recommendation similar to those that you will need for your fellowship application. In contrast to the mid-winter deadline dates for graduate school application, fellowships usually have fall application deadlines. The Rotary Scholarship is an exception to this rule, requiring you to apply more than a year ahead of your proposed dates of study, usually while you are still a Junior. If you are fortunate enough to win a fellowship, the benefits are obvious. Even those who are not recipients are way ahead on the road to applying for graduate school.

Where can I study?

Some fellowships such as the Rotary will allow you to study virtually anywhere. Others will limit you to a particular country, e.g., the Marshall restricts applicants to study in Great Britain. Others will restrict you to a particular university, e.g., the Churchill to Churchill College, Cambridge or Hertz restricts you to a group of U.S. graduate schools.

How do I apply?

This guide will describe the basic application procedures and requirements. It is best for you to consult the actual application material itself for specific details. It is also recommended that you meet with Lauren Stolper, Director of the Office of Fellowships Advising & Study Abroad to discuss your specific situation.

What resources do you have?

We have put together a listing of online resources for your convenience. There are also books overviewing fellowships in general, as well as specific programs, available in the Fellowships Office Library. In addition, catalogs from foreign universities, as well as books supplying their names and addresses are available for review.

Are international students eligible?

International Students may apply for the Rotary and Fulbright Awards. For the Fulbright, applicants will need to contact their own embassy or consulate for procedures. The other awards described above are open only to U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, or where noted permanent residents. For general assistance with funds for graduate study at Caltech, students should contact the Graduate Office. For study elsewhere, contact each university's financial aid or admissions office to inquire about their policy of funding international students. There are usually special awards available for students from Commonwealth countries who choose to study in another Commonwealth country.