Fellowship Opportunities: Why You Need It & How to Apply

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What is a fellowship?

In simple terms, a fellowship is a studying award or a grant, which is given to higher education students. Fellowships are meant for graduate students pursuing their bachelor’s or master’s degrees, or Ph.D. students working on their doctoral degrees. 

Students have to compete for fellowships, as this award is given on the basis of previous scholarship achievements and current ratings, such as GPA. The most competitive fellowships are the ones awarded on a national and international level. In any case, to win in a fellowship competition, one has to be worth it: have high scientific aspirations, promising research goals, and be focusing on important research subjects or questions.

In a wider sense, by fellowship, we often mean any academic financial award and sometimes even an entry-level job for a recent graduate student.      

The three types of fellowships

  1. Graduate fellowships. Such fellowships are the most common type of fellowships. They subsidize graduate studies, most often cover the main tuition fees, sometimes finance the costs of research trips, transportation, and living costs, library fees, etc. These fellowships usually last for up to one year.
  2. Medical fellowships. These fellowships are awarded to doctors, who already earned their degrees and who want to pursue further medical studies and research. Usually, medical fellowships focus on more narrow specialization in a given medical area. For instance, a massage specialist may want to win a fellowship to allow him to train further in a manual therapy area. 
  3. Postdoctoral fellowships are awarded to Ph.D. students pursuing their advanced academic degrees. Postdoctoral fellowships are a highly competitive type of academic fellowships. They may cover the full tuition fees, expensive research work, equipment, field studies. Such fellowships can last up to 4 years – as long as it is required by a Ph.D. degree. 

Why you may need a fellowship

Fellowship is a very useful reward. Below are the main factors why students want to compete for fellowships:

  • To cover your tuition fees. Graduate and postgraduate studies are very expensive; sometimes the total costs exceed tens of thousands of US dollars. Fellowships can cover your entire tuition cost or significant parts of it.
  • To make your study more focused and fruitful. Often, graduate students are obliged to do some teaching while pursuing their advanced degrees. Fellowships, on the other hand, can free students from such obligations and enable them to devote all of their energy and time to the main research subject. Fellowships are also useful in a way that they help to develop additional skills, such as hard skills in a given discipline as well as soft skills, for example, leadership.
  • To increase your academic reputation. Winning a fellowship adds a lot of respect to you as a scholar. Just think of it – a fellowship is a competition within an already highly competitive group of people – graduate and postgraduate students. Your peer students and scholars will look at you with respect if you have won a fellowship or several of those. By the way, it is not rare when students compete and win several fellowships in a single or several adjacent academic fields.
  • To boost your career potential. A fellowship will strengthen not only your academic reputation, but also your CV. Everyone with a fellowship should include it in their CVs – this will boost their career opportunities, as employers value candidates with extra academic achievements.

How to apply to a fellowship

Fellowship opportunities are created by all higher education institutions – colleges and universities. Check out your school to see which fellowships and when are available. In some cases, such as when local institutions are lacking specific fellowship opportunities, students may want to apply to fellowships developed by other schools and research institutes.

To apply to a fellowship, make sure you meet all the formal requirements. These may include age and academic discipline, specific subject area, and length of degree education. 

In most cases, fellowship candidates need to submit a fellowship application, consisting of an application or motivation letter, previous degrees and diplomas, GPA and other academic stats, letters of recommendation, etc. There will be a dedicated fellowship committee to review your documents and inform you of the selection results within a specified deadline.

The most important part of the application is the motivation letter. There you need to honestly express your education aspirations, research goals and to show to the committee members why you are worth the high prize. Therefore, approach writing this letter as one of the most important writing pieces in your academic career. 

Good luck with your fellowship application!