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Is there anything that I can do to prepare for these fellowships
early in my college career?
A: Absolutely. Maintain a strong academic record and take advantage
of academic opportunities available outside the classroom, such
as research opportunities. It is also important to get involved
in extracurricular activities. Don't try to do everything, but do
focus on a couple areas that you are passionate about and strive
to make a difference. Finally, get to know your professors as they
are an invaluable resource academically, as well as for letters
of recommendation. Consider applying for an undergraduate fellowship
during your time at USC; receiving one of these fellowships makes
you more competitive for a post-graduate fellowship. Make sure to
review all of the different fellowships on this site because some
of them are open to first- and second-year students.
Can these awards fund USC study abroad programs?
A: With the exception of the Boren Scholarship, Gilman Scholarship, and Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship, these fellowships are not designed
for USC study abroad programs. They are national awards that allow
you to select a program of study at an institution abroad, or to
do independent research abroad. This means you may have to submit
an application to a university located abroad in order to be eligible
for some of these fellowships (note: if you study at an institution
outside of a USC abroad program, the units are not necessarily transferable
to USC requirements).
Are fellowships for completion of a whole degree program?
A: It is possible to complete a degree program with a multiple-year
fellowship, often times a second undergraduate degree. For programs
that are one year or less, you can choose the area that you want
to study and/or research, but completion of a degree is not required.
Is it possible to apply for more than one fellowship?
A: Yes. In fact, given the similarity in the application processes
and the competitiveness of these fellowships, we encourage you to
apply for more than one. However, there are certain fellowships,
such as the Rhodes, that
you should not turn down if offered. You may speak to the campus
representative for more information regarding applying for multiple
I don't have a 4.0, do I still qualify?
A: Yes. The various fellowships have different GPA requirements,
but for the most part they look for students who are well rounded.
Certain fellowships emphasize grades more than others, and this
is outlined in the fellowship descriptions.
How competitive are the fellowships?
A: Each of these awards is highly prestigious and competitive
(which is another reason to apply for more than one). The degree
of competition depends on the number of awards given in proportion
to the number of applicants. The Rhodes
and Marshall scholarships
are among the most competitive.
What do the committees look for in fellowship candidates?
A: Though there are some specific differences between the various
fellowships, committees in general look for students who have demonstrated
a commitment to academics and extracurricular involvement. A clear
understanding of what you hope to accomplish through the fellowship
opportunity is also essential.
After I know which fellowship I am interested in, how do I begin
the application process?
A: The first step is to set up a meeting with the university
representative. Each of the fellowships has a different process
with different internal requirements, and the representative can
give you this information. You should also begin gathering materials
requested by the fellowship program, such as personal statements, letters
of recommendation, and transcripts from all of the schools you have
When should I begin the application process?
A: It is never too early to begin researching the various fellowships
and thinking about the application process. Despite the seemingly
simple application forms, the process requires time,
energy, and support. For example, many fellowships require letters
of recommendation, which take time to write and process. Also, if
your fellowship requires a statement of purpose/personal statement,
you will need to take time to generate ideas for, write, and edit
this document. Generally you will want to allow yourself 3-4 months
to work on your application.
How do I decide who to ask for letters of recommendation?
A: It is important to have recommenders from all aspects of
your life. However, if academics are stressed by the scholarship,
it would be best to request most of the letters of recommendation
from professors, and if the award is granted on the basis of leadership,
it would be best to have faculty advisors of organizations you lead
write a majority of the letters of recommendation, and so on. Also,
each recommender should be able to contribute something unique to
who you are and why you are such an impressive candidate.
Is it better to get recommenders with "big names" or people
who really know you?
A: It is better to choose recommenders that personally know
you and can attest to your unique talents or skills. Strong letters
are those that are personal as opposed to contrived from a resume.
Try to ask professors (as opposed to Teaching Assistants) to write
your academic letters of recommendation. Consult with someone in
the Academic & International Fellowships Office if you have more questions
regarding this matter.
When are the fellowship winners announced?
A: This varies by fellowship, but typically winners are announced
within 2-3 months of the submission of the application. Some of
the fellowships require personal interviews for finalists, which
may delay the announcement of winners.
If I am chosen for a fellowship abroad, are the funds sufficient
to cover any personal expenses I may have?
A: Students receive enough funding to maintain a modest lifestyle.
In addition, some fellowships include health insurance, and economy roundtrip flights.
Is it a good idea to apply for fellowships if I just want to go
abroad to tour around and maybe take a few classes?
A: Generally, no, it is not a good idea to apply for fellowships
if you are not serious about studying or researching while going
abroad (if you are interested in working abroad, the Luce Scholarship includes an internship component). Fellowships are generally
awarded to students who have a genuine interest in studying or researching
at a university in another country.
Can I still apply for fellowships even though I have no immediate
plans to go to graduate school?
A: Yes. While some fellowships are specifically designed for
graduate study, others allow you to do undergraduate research, acquire
a second B.A., or take part in an internship. If you are even thinking
about graduate school anytime in the future, receiving one of these
fellowships could be a great way to give you a broader understanding
of and a different perspective on your area of interest. Also, because
these fellowships are nationally competitive, they stand out on
any graduate school application.
Do I have to have prior research experience before applying to a
A: While prior individual research or research under a professor
can make a student a better candidate for a fellowship, many fellowships
do not require such research. Fellowships that have a strong academic
focus may weigh research experience heavier than other candidate
attributes; however, students often forget that the research they
do for class can count as research experience. Ask yourself: Have
you ever done your own data collection, such as interviewing other
students or professors for a research paper? If you are a student
in the sciences, have you worked in a lab setting in any of your
classes? If a professor has any information about your involvement
in any of the aforementioned activities, he or she may be an important
person to ask to write a letter of recommendation for you.
Do I have to have a whole research project in mind to apply for
A: For some fellowships, such as the Fulbright,
candidates are required to submit a research proposal. Other scholarships
may ask candidates to have applied to a university before applying,
and that university may want information on your specific plans
for research. However, there are many fellowships that do not ask
for such a proposal.
Does my research topic for a fellowship have to be in the same area
as my major, or can I pick an area that I want to learn more about?
A: In general, it is important to have a good understanding
of the topic you want to research or study before you apply; however,
this does not necessarily mean that you must limit yourself to topics
within your major. If you choose a topic outside of your major,
you should ask yourself, Being that I am not an expert on
in this area, what can I contribute from my prior coursework that
may make a significant contribution to this new field? This
may lead you to a fascinating area of research that may make you
a very impressive candidate for a fellowship. However, if you cannot
find a link between your area of study and the area you are interested
in or know too little about the area to be able to do this, it is
best to pick an area of your major in which you are experienced.
Do I need to already speak the language to apply for a fellowship
Are there programs that incorporate language instruction while I
A: Some programs have a language component, while
others select candidates with a strong background in the native
language spoken in the proposed country of study. It is important
to look at the requirements of each fellowship to see the amount
of language experience you need to be eligible. However, if you
are interested in obtaining a fellowship for the purpose of learning
a language that is not offered at USC, you should consider applying
for the Boren Scholarship or Critical Language Scholarship. Boren provides tuition, room, travel, and tuition
expenses in foreign countries for students to learn and/or master
a foreign language. Some fellowships, such as the Fulbright
or Rotary, may sometimes
fund language learning prior to the grant period.
Are all fellowships for study abroad?
A: Although most of the nationally competitive fellowships that
we administer through our office are for study abroad, there are
certain fellowships that allow domestic study. For example, the
and Beinecke Scholarships can be applied toward domestic study. Also, Boren
graduate fellowships allow a domestic component in conjunction
with study abroad.