Under the banner “fellowships” we include merit scholarships and grants for formal education as well as educational experiences. The most prestigious, highly coveted awards last for an academic year or more and are awarded after a national or international competition. Membership in an active community of fellows and scholars is part of the benefit. Competitive summer internships and other experiential programs are often called “fellowships,” too. These are valuable opportunities that will help you build credentials and gain experience to make yourself a more competitive candidate for graduate school and the longer-term fellowships on which we focus in Smith’s Fellowships & Postgraduate Scholarships Program.
It’s Never Too Early To Start
Have you wondered if there is a fellowship out there for you? Do you have questions about when you should begin to prepare an application? Or what steps you might take to be an even stronger candidate? Come to an informal session on fellowship opportunities and talk with your faculty advisers or with an adviser in the Fellowships & Postgraduate Scholarships Program. Whether you are a first-year student, a senior or a recent alum, ask questions. Some programs are open to sophomores and juniors, while some are aimed at graduating seniors and recent graduates. In all cases, strong applications require sound planning in advance. Start early—as early in your college career as possible—even if you’re not ready to sit down and write your application.
An Overview of Fellowships
How Do I Get Started?
Familiarize yourself with fellowship opportunities and let them inspire you! Once you know one or two opportunities that interest you, start conversations with your advisers. Familiarize yourself with when you may apply for opportunities. If you need to apply to be endorsed for a fellowship, pay close attention to when you must begin working toward your goal. Remind yourself of deadlines.
Improving Your Prospects
Most fellowships look for fellows with high academic achievement, engaged in campus and community, who are creative and critical thinkers. Individuals enhance their prospects by taking advantage of the richness of Smith’s liberal arts curriculum and co-curricular opportunities.
Study what you love and feel is important. Challenge yourself. Explore on campus and off. Take on responsibility. Solve problems. Be a doer and practice rallying others to do things that matter with you.
We encourage students to pursue personal, educational and career development. Talk with your advisers and teachers. Seek research and travel experiences.
From Dreaming to Doing
- Explore the Lazarus Center for Career Development. Clarify your thinking about the possible career paths you might follow.
- Explore student government and campus orgs. Get involved on campus.
- Volunteer through the Jandon Center for Community Engagement. Get involved in the wider community.
- Get to know the Wurtele Center for Leadership. Develop your way of leading.
- Study abroad. See what the Lewis Global Studies Center has to offer.
- Get to know the entrepreneur in you. Explore what the Jill Ker Conway Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center has to offer.
- Challenge yourself through sports. Develop leadership and teamwork skills in the process.
- Use and get to know the Jacobson Center and the Spinelli Center. Help others as a tutor.
- Explore Design Thinking and take charge of your life design in a way that is creative and structured.
Why Should I Apply for a Fellowship?
If you don’t ask, you won’t be considered. The honor of receiving a competitive fellowship is great, but what will really matter to you is what the award helps you to achieve. A fellowship is never the goal in itself; it is the opportunity it funds and facilitates—graduate school or living and studying abroad or the experience of a lifetime—that should really make your heart race! Since fellowships are coveted for what they represent, they are very competitive. A little competition never hurts—provided you are well-suited and prepared for the competition.
Even when you don’t get the award, there is much for you to gain from the process. You clarify your graduate school plans, career path, life goals and more in the process of applying for a fellowship. You collaborate closely with advisers and mentors and almost always get to meet interesting and helpful people along the way. You practice presenting yourself to new and demanding audiences, on paper and in person. You get to test yourself among other talented individuals. And you are well prepared to go after that next competitive opportunity. More often than not, individuals who are unsuccessful in their first attempt are successful in a later competition.
Need More Convincing?
The best way to learn about what fellowships can do for you is to read the stories of applicants and awardees.
How Do I Search for Fellowship Opportunities?
The fellowships website provides summaries of principal fellowships and other awards and fellowships programs on the Select Fellowships page. Here are other resources to help you as you begin exploring fellowships options.
Make good use of our fellowship and postgraduate scholarship search tools and advice in Additional Resources on the Resources page.
How Do I Know If I Am Eligible for a Fellowship?
Eligibility has many variables. Read the eligibility fine print for the opportunities that most interest you. If your eligibility is not crystal clear, talk with a fellowship adviser for clarification. Are there elements of eligibility that you can influence (like experience and academic achievement)?
Each program is unique. Strict GPA cutoffs will be specified for some programs, but not others. Citizenship eligibility varies enormously: Some programs accept applications only from U.S. citizens while others accept the citizens of the world. Some programs express age limits or require application within a few years of college graduation. Some programs target particular academic subject areas or intended careers. It's crucial to read the fine print and consult the eligibility criteria for each fellowship before planning your application.
Eligibility Fine Print
Programs listed that are funded by the US government (Fulbright, NSF, Goldwater, Udall, Hollings, Truman) are eligible to US citizens; in some but not all cases, US nationals and US permanent residents are also eligible. Some other programs will also limit eligibility to a US focus, but specific eligibility rules may be more broadly defined (e.g. P. & D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans). Rule of thumb: You have to check the fine print of eligibility! Some programs offer opportunities to a much wider range of citizenships. Knight-Hennessy and Schwarzman are open to any nationalities. Gates Cambridge is open to any citizenship except the United Kingdom. Rhodes has application routes for all nationalities. DAAD recruits great graduate students from many countries.
What is Smith’s Role in Supporting Fellowships?
Some fellowships programs require nomination, endorsement or preselection review by Smith College. For these, the first stage of application may be an internal competition to be one of the students that Smith formally supports. Sometimes it is just one nominee (for example, Beinecke), sometimes more (for example, Goldwater, Truman and Udall permit four each). Some programs do not require Smith approval of your application (such as Gates, NSF), but your competitive chances improve if you take advantage of all opportunities to develop a strong application—including consulting a Fellowships Program adviser!
Ways to Start Checking
- Look at our listing of fellowships for when you may plan an application: first year, sophomore, junior, senior, graduate.
- Each fellowship information sheet available on our Resources page lists the main eligibility rules.
What Kinds of Fellowships Are Available?
For undergraduates who are planning graduate school
Programs like Truman (for public service-related graduate degrees) and Beinecke (for those in the arts and humanities, and social scientists) ask you to apply while you are a junior for an award you will take to graduate school with you.
For seniors or recent graduates who want to go to graduate school in the US
The NSF Graduate Research Fellowships (for some social sciences and the natural sciences) is one of the biggest programs in this category. Knight-Hennessy is a program at Stanford for any graduate discipline at Stanford.
For seniors or recent graduates who want to go to graduate school abroad
There are prestigious programs for study in the UK and Ireland (Rhodes, Marshall, Mitchell, Gates Cambridge). Germany offers a range of options through its DAAD program. Two programs in China offer one year of master’s-level study aimed to create cohorts that are international and interdisciplinary: Yenching Academy and the Schwarzman Scholar program. There are others in this category if you do your research and keep looking!
Fulbright for seniors and recent graduates that opens up a very wide world to its applicants
This is a big program for one year funded abroad. It can be very experiential (you work as an English teaching assistant or you find a research opportunity) or more structured as a study program. See Smith’s Fulbright Focus.
Daisy Astorga Gonzalez ’19
“I applied [for] fellowships, so I could become a first-generation graduate student and ease the financial burden of pursuing my graduate studies.”
Charlotte Samuels ’20
“I [applied] to the Fulbright program because of the incredible opportunities to work closely with communities on issues that connect my interests in anthropology and public health.”
Eve Xu ’20
“[A] graduate fellowship [i]s not only an honor but also a gateway to possess more ownership and flexibility over one’s graduate work.”