Fellowships 101

What are fellowships?

Fellowships are funded opportunities to complete a project, take on a particular role, or study a specific subject. They are usually of a fixed duration and they often involve traveling to a particular place or institution where you will be hosted as a “fellow” for the duration of the fellowship period. Does that sound vague? Fellowships can take a variety of forms but one thing they have in common is that they are opportunities for personal, intellectual, and professional growth that require the fellow to take the reins in carving out their own unique path.

At Wesleyan’s office for fellowships, we can direct you to a variety of relevant fellowships, but we have a special focus on what are often called “national fellowships,” many of which require that a university nominates a student to be considered at the national level. Other fellowships are open for students to apply for independently.

What are "national" fellowships? 

They are fully funded, usually year-long programs that support independent exploration, research, English teaching, graduate study, arts projects, and professional experiences in and outside of the U.S.

Who can apply?

  • Most fellowships are open to seniors and recent alumni from any academic discipline.
  • Several are open to sophomores and juniors. 
  • Many do not have a minimum GPA requirement.
  • Some are discipline-specific, intended for STEM, humanities, or social science majors. Many are open to those studying in a variety of fields.
  • Most are only open to U.S. citizens, but a few are open to all citizenships.

Why should I apply? 

Whether or not you are awarded the fellowship in the end, the fellowship application process is a great opportunity for personal and intellectual growth. When you apply, you take the time to clarify your goals, ambitions, and motivations and, at Wesleyan, you have the advantage of building a community of mutual support with fellow applicants while you take on this challenge. Writing the application essays gives you an opportunity to reflect on your experiences thus far and chart your future path, all while learning to tell your story to an unfamiliar audience. This skill is critical for many careers and pursuits: being able to persuade others of the importance of your passions and why they should support your cause is helpful from the fields of business and politics to sciences and scholarship and beyond.

Despite our best efforts, none of us can control the outcome of a fellowships competition. Many factors weigh into the decisions and more applicants apply to the same opportunities in some years than in others. Still: only those who apply have a chance to win! If you are awarded a fellowship that's aligned with your goals, you gain a unique experience that advances your individual priorities, makes you a part of a fellowship alumni network, and introduces you to people and places you would never have met otherwise.

Interested? Keep reading about how to apply, when to apply, and the support you can access at Wesleyan.