Watson Fellowship

How to apply



The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship is a one-year grant for purposeful, independent exploration outside the United States, awarded to graduating seniors nominated by one of 41 colleges including Wesleyan University. The Watson Fellowship allows fellows to engage with their deepest interest on a global scale. Fellows create and develop original projects and embark on the journey for a year. Fellows decide where to go, who to meet, and when to change course. The program aims to produce a year of personal insight, perspective, and confidence that shapes the arc of fellows’ lives. Each year Wesleyan may nominate four candidates.


A stipend of $40,000 for one year. The foundation provides health insurance (through reimbursement), the equivalent of 12-months of payments on outstanding institutional and federally guaranteed (Perkins, Stafford) loans, and an additional stipend for the support of Personal Assistance Services (PAS) or spouse (where relevant for the individual applicant).


  • Graduating senior nominated by one of 41 partner colleges (Wesleyan is one)
  • All citizenships 
  • All majors and fields of inquiry

Application Materials

  • Online application, including:
    • Personal Statement - What has convinced you to apply for the Watson? What passion will your pursue? How do you hope to benefit from the year? (1,500 words)
    • Project Proposal - Your project must sustain your interest amidst the highs and lows of a year in unfamiliar places. What is your plan for the 12-month period? What opportunities and challenges are unique to your project? (1,500 words)
  • 2 Recommendations (using the Watson Fellowship recommendation form, within the online application)
  • Contact List
  • Budget
  • Transcript
  • Headshot
NOTE: You will only be able to access the online application after expressing interest in this opportunity to fellowships staff at an initial fellowships meeting or by emailing fellowships@wesleyan.edu. If you are looking into this opportunity early before May of the year in which you will apply, you can follow the link to access a blank sample application that captures the main components of the application. (Accessing this document will require your Wesleyan login credentials.)

Selection Criteria

Watson Applications are evaluated in terms of three sets of criteria, a set of "person" markers and a set of "project" markers, as well as considerations about the fit between the person and the project and the candidate's fit with the Watson mission. 

PERSON: Leadership, Imagination, Independence, Emotional Maturity, Courage, Integrity, Resourcefulness,Responsibility

PROJECT: Organic, Inspiring, Open, Bold, Realistic, Connected, 3-Dimensional

First steps

Start exploring the Watson Fellowship as soon as you hear about it! It's never too early; we've had successful fellows who heard about it in their first year at Wesleyan and said they benefited from thinking about their Watson ideas early and often.

  1. Watch the short video on the Watson website and read the overview on their homepage.
  2. Check out the Watson Foundation's webinar about the fellowship and profiles of prior Watson Fellows (scroll to the bottom of the linked page to view the profiles).
  3. Think about what topic or question you would pursue as a Watson Fellow. Then start thinking how you can move from a topic that anyone might be interested in into a project that's unique to you.
  4. Read through example application essays from Wesleyan Watson Fellows to see how to structure a successful application.

How to Apply

  1. In spring or summer before your senior year, book an appointment for an initial fellowships conversation to talk about your idea for a Watson year with Fellowships staff and to plan out next steps.
  2. Accept the invitation to the Watson online application (you will receive this by email when you reach out to the Office of Fellowships about your interest in applying). These invites can only go out after May 1 each year, so if you are interested early, wait for the invite to come in early May.
  3. Save your completed draft application in the online portal by the campus deadline (in early fall semester of your senior year). Campus deadline applications should include all components of hate application EXCEPT the budget. It's ok to think of these as draft materials (for those nominated, there will be the chance to revise), but to the extent that it is a competitive year in the campus competition, you do want to put your best foot forward and send the most complete application you can.
  4. If you are called for a campus interview, complete an interview with the campus Watson Committee.
  5. Nominees will be named in October and complete their applications for the national deadline in early November. They will have the opportunity to work with Dr. Kowsz one on one to revise their materials and will need to prepare a budget and final contact list for the national deadline.
  6. Nominees will interview with a representative from the Watson Foundation in January or February of their senior year.
  7. The Foundation releases decisions about who has won the Watson Fellowship on March 15 each year. Fellows leave for their Watson year by August!