Watson Fellowship


All graduating seniors at 40 participating institutions (including Carleton) are eligible for nomination by their institutions.


  • 5:30 p.m. on May 4, 2017:  Information meeting in Leighton 236
  • 12 noon on Friday, September 22, 2017:  On-campus deadline
  • 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 7, 2017:  Final application deadline for nominees


The Watson Fellowship Program seeks to give exceptional college graduates the freedom to engage in a year of independent study and travel abroad in order to thoroughly explore a particular interest, test aspirations and abilities, view their lives and American society in greater perspective, and develop a more informed sense of international concern.


The Fellowship provides $30,000 to each recipient (more if traveling with spouse or dependents).

Selection Criteria: The Foundation seeks to identify individuals who demonstrate integrity, strong ethical character, intelligence, the capacity for vision and leadership, and potential for humane and effective participation in the world community. Feasibility of the project and language ability are also taken into account.

Application Process

At Carleton, the Watson application process occurs in four stages:

Stage 1

Submit the following materials by Friday, September 22, at 12 Noon as a single PDF to fellowships@carleton.edu with the subject line “Watson:”

  1. Cover Sheet (click here)
  2. Current Resume
  3. Personal statement:  The personal statement (5 pages, not more than 1,500 words) should describe your personal and intellectual background and explain the personal significance of your proposed project.  Why did you choose your topic? How did it develop out of things you’ve already done, experienced, or known?  How is it a new challenge that will contribute to your personal and intellectual growth? You should not focus on the project itself in detail (you’ll do that in the project proposal), but you will need to introduce it as you provide context for why you want to spend a year on it.  Your statement should make clear that the project grows from a deep and consistent passion and that you have the background to tackle it.
  4. Project proposal:  The project proposal (5 pages, not more than 1,500 words) is where you describe the project in more detail and explain how you will spend the 12-month Watson Fellowship year (including your planned methodology and locations).  You should show your readers that you have anticipated some of the challenges you might face and have strategies to confront those challenges.  Your proposal must show that you have made contacts in the countries where you want to carry out your project.
    • Be sure you take a look at the U.S. travel warning and embargo list and avoid including any of the listed countries as part of your project; the Watson Foundation does not fund projects that include travel to countries on that list.
    • Working through the logistics of your project and developing contacts over the summer are crucial steps -- they will help you understand your project better and thereby produce a stronger application!  The Watson Foundation is looking for clear evidence that you have thought seriously about your project and prepared as best you can for it.  This is one of the best places for you to demonstrate your initiative and resourcefulness.
  5. Recommendations (entered on cover sheet):  Names of two or three official recommenders; at least one must be a Carleton faculty member who can speak directly to the project and to your potential as a Watson Fellow.  Only the four nominees chosen by Carleton will be asked to request letters of recommendation in advance of the Watson Foundation deadline of 5:00 p.m. on November 7, 2017.
  6. Unofficial Transcript (printed from the Hub).  The four nominees chosen by Carleton will be required to provide official transcripts by the Watson Foundation deadline of 5:00 p.m. on November 7, 2017.
  7. Photo: A recent photograph of yourself that meets the requirements for US passport photos.

    NOTE: Only the final nominees will use the Watson online "portal" system. Prepare and submit your application materials through the Office of Student Fellowships as described below.

      Your materials should be as polished as possible; along with any interview, they will form the basis of our evaluation of your candidacy. 

      Please note that Marynel is willing to read drafts of your statements if she receives them by September, 5, 2017, 9:00 a.m. (email as Microsoft Word attachments to  fellowships@carleton.edu); she will provide feedback to you by September 9, 2017.

        Stage 2

        Reading of proposals by Carleton committee, selection of four nominees

        • A faculty committee will read all completed application folders, interview some of the candidates, and make up to four nominations.  Interviews will take place shortly after the September 22 deadline.  We expect to choose the Carleton nominees by October 13, at which point we will ask them to request recommendations and begin entering their information in the Watson on-line portal.

        Stage 3

        Revision of proposals, submission to Watson Foundation

        • The four nominees will polish their applications and further prepare for the Watson Foundation interviews. Nominees submit their finalized materials via the Watson Foundation website portal no later than 5:00 p.m. on November 7, 2017, so that the Office of Student Fellowships can complete the nomination process by the Watson Foundation deadline.

        Stage 4

        Interviews of nominees by Watson Foundation representatives

        • Each of the four nominees will be interviewed at Carleton by representative(s) of the Watson Foundation at the end of Fall Term or beginning of Winter Term.

        Example Applications

        Click here to review the applications of past Watson recipients!

        Official Website

        Watson website
        ** Each applicant should thoroughly read the materials on the Foundation's website!

        On-campus Adviser

        Marynel Ryan Van Zee, Director of Student Fellowships, Laird 131, x4300.

        Recent Carleton Recipients

        2017: Emily Ross '17

        2014: Halah Mohammed '14

        2013: Charlie Bentley '13, and Robin Wonsley '13

        2012: Niki Tomita '12, and Gracie Ogilby '12

        2011: Kai Knutson '11; Matthew Fink '11; Adam Karas '11

        2010: Andrew Terwilliger '10.  Check out Andrew's blog.