Tips on Applying for Fellowships

Some general information and advice about applying for national or international fellowships

Fellowship winners are not made overnight. Ideally, you will present a consistent pattern of academic and extracurricular activities that fit the purpose of the fellowship that interests you. A personal history is not built in one semester. If your interests and goals change along the way, that’s fine too; think about how to connect your newfound passions with your previous experiences.

Remember that one of the best ways to prepare to apply for an external (national or international) fellowship is to apply for Carleton-funded fellowships! Each year, Carleton’s Office of Student Fellowships awards thousands of dollars of support for Carls to engage in research or other independent projects, gain experiential learning, and pursue other activities.

Being a successful applicant for an external fellowship begins with research and planning in advance, providing yourself enough time to work through drafts and revisions of your materials, and consulting with the many people who can help you through the process (your advisors and mentors; your professors; the Director of Student Fellowships; the Writing Center; the Reference Librarians at Gould Library; previous applicants; and your peers), gathering materials including letters of recommendation, transcripts and other items; and following through.

Research and planning: Know the fellowship and know how your qualifications, experience, GPA, and other things fit or don’t fit with it. ‘Fit’ is one of the most important elements of a successful fellowship application and nearly all fellowships have comprehensive websites with lots of information and advice posted on them to help you figure out whether that particular one is for you.  Many of those websites are linked from the Office of Student Fellowships webpages, but you can also search the internet for additional information.

Allowing time: Consult early and watch deadlines for things like intent-to-apply forms, which are often mandatory.  Some external fellowships also have an on-campus competition before you can be nominated or endorsed for them.

Drafting, revising, consulting: As early as possible, begin writing early and seeking feedback on your drafts.  Some excellent advice on the personal statement, the centerpiece of most fellowship applications, can be found here.

Gathering materials: Request your recommendations with plenty of notice and provide them with the materials (including your application or proposal!) they need to write a strong recommendation for you. Transcripts can be ordered free-of-charge through the Hub; if you need to request transcripts from any previous institution, be sure you do it with plenty of time to meet the fellowship deadline(s).

Following through: Watch for and meet all the deadlines for submitting the application; prepare for and participate in mock and final interviews (for external awards); provide any additional paperwork; meet with those who write endorsement letters, as requested; and be attentive to all the multiple, small things you will have to handle to complete the process.

Most importantly, being a successful applicant requires PERSEVERANCE: Be prepared to write more than one fellowship application before you are successful. Don’t put your eggs in one basket and remember that there is a lot of value in the process itself! 

Marynel is available to help at any stage in the process, from researching opportunities to reading and commenting on drafts, to guiding you through the exciting steps of being a finalist.  Don’t hesitate to contact her at or call ext. 4300 to make an appointment.