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.
Letters of Recommendation
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.
What Fellowships Applicants Need to Know
If a fellowship requires the college to nominate or endorse candidates (see Endorsements below), there are some implications for your conversations with letter writers:
- Endorsement may require a preliminary application for nomination.
- You and your letter writers should understand that the number of applicants endorsed by Smith College may be limited. Therefore, some internal competitions are competitive.
- Candidates must anticipate the extra time required to prepare applications. Allow ample time for conversations with mentors, letter writers and fellowship advisers. Multiple drafts are not just advisable, but required of individuals who seek college endorsement. Time will be required prior to external deadlines to complete the college’s endorsement letter or report on the candidate.
Approaching Faculty and Deadlines
- 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 the relevant deadlines for fellowships that require nomination or endorsement.
Letters of recommendation should be tailored to the specific fellowship to which a student or alumna is applying. As a generalization, all awards ask for you to address the applicant’s academic abilities and experiences, leadership qualities and their future impact or ambassadorial potential. They differ in terms of the emphasis they place on these elements. They all want your specific examples and observations to help distinguish our fellowship applicant from others in a highly competitive and talented pool of applicants.
In the next tab, we provide links to information intended to help advise you how to adapt your letters for particular awards. Each fellowship info sheet in Resources also provides information about the internal Smith process and deadlines. If you have any questions or concerns, email email@example.com.
We understand that some of you may have students or recent alumnae applying for multiple awards with similar deadlines. In that case, in the early stages of the application process, we advise you to write a more general letter that you can modify later as the final application deadlines approach.
For suggestions on writing a letter of recommendation for a fellowship application, we provide General Guidelines for Writing a Fellowships Letter of Recommendation as part of Additional Resources on our Resources page. In a nutshell, your letter should address in detail your student’s intellectual abilities and their leadership potential for affecting meaningful change in society.
Links to Foundation Websites for Writing Effective Letters
To write strong letters of recommendation for your students, please review the foundation websites and guidelines for application materials.
|Beinecke||Undergraduate scholarship awards funding for graduate study in the arts, humanities, and social sciences||Beinecke Nomination Materials and Forms|
|Churchill||UK STEM postgraduate scholarship at University of Cambridge||Churchill Letter of Recommendation Instructions|
|DAAD||German postgraduate study scholarship||DAAD Application Guidelines|
|Fulbright US Student||International postgraduate fellowship for study/research, teaching English, or work in the arts||
|Goldwater||Undergraduate scholarship to recognize STEM majors planning research careers||Goldwater Letter Writing Guidance|
|Knight-Hennessy||Stanford University postgraduate scholarship||Knight-Hennessy Advice for Recommenders|
|Marshall||UK postgraduate scholarship||Marshall Information for Recommenders|
|Mitchell||Irish postgraduate scholarship||Mitchell Information for Recommenders and Endorsers|
|Rhodes||UK postgraduate scholarship at Oxford University||Rhodes Information on References|
|Truman||Undergraduate scholarship awarding funds for graduate study to prepare for public service||Truman Guidance for Letters of Recommendation|
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.
One of the best ways to prepare to apply for a nationally competitive postgraduate award is an application for an early competitive scholarship. We encourage undergraduate students to step forward in fall to be considered for four undergraduate scholarships: Beinecke, Goldwater, Truman, and Udall. A detailed summary of the process is provided in the fall endorsement information sheet. Interested undergraduates are asked to complete an application for support.
We encourage rising seniors and recent alums to step forward in spring to be considered for Fulbright or one of the four UK postgraduate scholarships that require Smith College nomination or endorsement: Churchill, Marshall, Mitchell, and Rhodes.
We encourage individuals interested in making direct applications for Gates Cambridge in the UK and Knight-Hennessy in the US to use this process to obtain support in planning their applications. These awards are highly competitive, needing just as much care and attention to detail as the awards for which Smith endorsement is required. Application for Gates Cambridge or Knight-Hennessy does not require Smith endorsement.
A detailed summary of the process is provided in the spring endorsement information sheet. Undergraduates and alums are asked to complete this Fulbright application for support if interested in Fulbright, and are asked to complete this application for principal fellowship support if seeking nomination or endorsement for a UK scholarship.
Each student or alum who completes an “application for support” will be asked to identify their faculty advisers and mentors. One faculty member will be contacted by Fellowships & Postgraduate Scholarships Program for an informal recommendation.
A decision whether or not to nominate or endorse an undergraduate or recent alum for an award is made in consultation with faculty. For the most competitive of awards, that consultation may be formalized by a Smith College selection committee comprised of faculty members and advising staff. In other cases, consultation may be with the faculty members who know the candidate well and who can attest to their likely competitiveness for the award in question.
Contact Margaret Lamb if you have questions or wish to know more about the fellowship endorsement process.