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Apply for a Fellowship

Temple in South Korea

Once you have refined your fellowship choices and understand the requirements and selection criteria in detail, you are ready to apply. At this point in the process, you should be mapping out your application strategy in consultation with your advisers and the fellowships office. This will involve understanding the deadlines involved, preparing a writing schedule, drafting key parts of the application, and requesting letters of recommendation. Application preparation begins well before the deadline—your plan should be clear in the semester ahead of your submission date. In coordination with your advisers, the fellowships office will help you refine and revise your application until it is ready to submit.

Map Out Your Fellowship Strategy

Fellowship advising is linked to advising in your majors and with faculty mentors. Your advice about fellowships may also come from your Lazarus Center career adviser or from your Class Dean or from your study abroad adviser. When a fellowships plan takes shape and is approved by you and your advisers, then your work begins on your application. Through a series of exercises under fellowships adviser supervision, you will build the components of your application. For Fulbright, where a large number of applicants work to complete the same application, your preparation takes place in a Moodle course structure. 

The Fellowships & Postgraduate Scholarships Program advisers touch base with your faculty advisers as part of the process to confirm your fellowships plan. Fellowships that require Smith College nomination or endorsement involve a longer period of advising and preparation. Some require formal application for a Smith College nomination.

Prepare Your Timetable

If you are considering applying for another fellowship or award not listed in the deadline document, prepare your own timetable and coordinate it with your letter writers:

  • What is the external submission deadline that applies to you? Note the date and the web page where you’ve found the information.
  • What is the external submission deadline that applies to your letter writers? Note the date, the web page where you’ve found the information, and how letter writers are asked to supply their letters.
  • Make an appointment to talk with your letter writers 1-2 months ahead of their deadline. Agree upon the information they would like to see before they write your letter and set a deadline for supplying this information.
  • Prepare your own writing schedule. Give yourself plenty of time. Give yourself a deadline for a first full draft that is at least one month ahead of the final deadline. Get feedback on your draft from readers you trust. Revise your draft. Get more feedback. You should aim to produce a polished and authentic application that makes crystal clear how you meet and the ways that you exceed the requirements of the award. Present a specific and convincing case for how you satisfy the selection criteria specified by those who grant the award.

Overview of the Recommendation Process

Fellowship selection committees rank recommendation letters very highly in their decision making. Persuasive letters come from writers who demonstrate that they know the candidates well and can attest to their relevant qualities.

Think through who is best placed to write letters for particular fellowships.

Guidelines & Strategies

The following guidelines can help you organize your thoughts.


The fellowship requirement that the college nominate or endorse candidates has some implications:

  • The number of applicants endorsed by the college may be limited.
  • Endorsement may require preliminary application for nomination.
  • Students must anticipate the extra time required to prepare their applications. Allow ample time for conversations with mentors, letter writers and fellowship advisers. Multiple drafts are not just advisable, but required of students who seek college endorsement. Time will be required prior to external deadlines to complete the college’s endorsement letter or report on the candidate.
  • Advisees should tell their faculty and staff mentors and advisers about the particular fellowships that interest them. Request, don’t assume, that your mentor, adviser, or teacher will write a letter of recommendation for you. Discuss and provide succinct information to help your letter writers understand the selection criteria for a particular fellowship.
  • Internal deadlines are relevant deadlines for fellowships that require nomination or endorsement.

Student Voices

Sanna Muhammad
Sanna Muhammad ’20

“Don’t worry too much about not having the ‘perfect’ resume, just apply and see what happens.”


Vivian Hulsey ’20
Vivian Hulsey ’19

“The Smith application process for Fulbright helped me realize that self-reflection is the key to creating a strong and honest application.”


Cara Flores ’20

“I have gained application skills that are useful for future applications and life after Smith. I am proudest of learning how to take a research idea I’m passionate about and be able to clearly articulate it through my writing and in a successful grant application.”