Nationally and internationally competitive scholarships and fellowships offer exceptional opportunities for students to pursue research, study or teach abroad, fund undergraduate or graduate study, and much more. With hundreds of fellowship opportunities, it can be tough to choose the right award for you.
However, nationally competitive fellowships have a few things in common:
External funding – These opportunities are funded by governments, nonprofit organizations, foundations, private enterprises, and higher education institutions, among others.
Competitive application process – The name says it all – these scholarships tend to be highly competitive. Depending on the award, applicant success rate can be as high as 30+% or as low as one to two percent for particularly competitive awards. But don’t count yourself out – applying for fellowships is not a numbers game. Developing an application that is well-thought out and persuasive is more important than applying to an award with a higher acceptance rate.
Focus on student excellence – For most students, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about fellowships is GPA. Although a track record of academic success is important, a high GPA alone does not a fellow make. Student excellence takes many different shapes – demonstrated leadership, expertise in a specific field, and specialized professional or academic goals are often just as (if not more) desirable in the fellowships application process than a 4.0.
Which Award is Right for Me?
Not sure which award is the best fit for you and your goals? Explore your options below! Don’t see an award listed? Contact our office – we’d love to support you!
WHO: Science, math and engineering majors planning to pursue a research career.
WHAT: Up to $7,500 in funding for tuition and fees, room and board; access to network of research scholars
WHEN: Sophomores or Juniors
WHO: Majors in public policy, international affairs, public administration, business, economics, political science, sociology, or foreign languages.
WHAT: Funded domestic graduate study with post-graduation service requirement in the Foreign Service/
WHO: All majors with demonstrated leadership and campus/community involvement with career plans in public service or public policy.
WHAT: Up to $30,000 to toward a public service-related graduate degree.
WHEN: Juniors and Seniors
Udall Undergraduate Scholarship
WHO: All majors interested in environmental, sustainability, or planning issues OR students of Native American ancestry focusing on health care or tribal policy.
WHAT: Up to $7,000 for eligible academic expenses and four-day Scholar Orientation event.
WHEN: Sophomores or Juniors
WHO: Undergraduate and graduate students who want to undertake significant study of a critical language abroad (all language levels) and are committed to public service.
WHAT: Up to $20,000 for study abroad opportunities (8 weeks to one year) in world regions that are critical to US interests
WHEN: Undergraduates (scholarships) and Graduate Students (fellowships)
Critical Language Scholarship
WHO: Full-time students (undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students) who are interested in studying one of 15 critical need languages.
WHAT: 8 – 10 weeks of intensive, overseas language and cultural immersion during the summer in a language deemed critical by the U.S. Government.
WHEN: Undergraduate and Graduate Students.
Fulbright Student Program
WHO: All majors.
WHAT: Awards, for up to a year, in graduate study or research and English language teaching in a foreign country.
WHEN: Seniors, Graduate Students, and Recent Alumni
Gilman International Scholarship
WHO: Pell-eligible undergraduate students in any major applying to study abroad for 21+ days
WHAT: Up to $5,000 for undergraduate students who would like to study abroad. Select students who are studying a critical need language can receive up to $8,000.
Gates Cambridge Global Scholarship
WHO: All majors planning to pursue a full-time, residential postgraduate degree at the University of Cambridge in the UK
WHAT: Full-cost scholarship
WHO: All majors planning to pursue a full-time, residential masters degree at a UK university (other than Cambridge or Oxford)
WHAT: One to two years of funding for graduate study
WHO:All majors planning to pursue a full-time, residential postgraduate degree at the University of Oxford in the UK
WHAT: 2-3 years of graduate study at Oxford University.
First and Second Year Students
If you are a first or second year student interested in applying for fellowships, good on you for starting early! Your main task in your first few years of undergrad will be to prepare yourself to be a competitive applicant for your fellowship of choice.
- Establish a solid grade point average. Although fellowships are about more than just your GPA, many competitive awards require GPAs of 3.75 or higher (Rhodes, Marshall, Mitchell). Others fall in the 3.0 to 3.7 range.
- Join organizations, activities, and causes that represent issues that are important to you.Seek out leadership positions that are important to you. Get involved in interesting extracurricular activities that connect with your future goals and academic and professional interests.
- Show intellectual well-roundedness. Pursue a diverse curriculum. Seek extra-curricular involvement, on campus and in the community. Demonstrate a commitment and passion. Search for leadership opportunities. Broaden your horizons. Define your areas of interest for graduate school and careers.
- Develop close relationships with faculty in several disciplines. Faculty will be your mentors and your recommenders as you prepare for fellowship applications. Get to know them (and have them get to know you!) by becoming involved through research, internships, service-learning, study abroad, and similar opportunities.
- Stay informed of current events. Develop a global perspective. Expand your knowledge of the world, people, places and events. Read major newspapers; travel; talk to faculty and students who study what you are interested in!
- Start undergraduate research with a faculty member. Beginning research early is especially important if you are a science major. All majors are encouraged to begin research by the beginning of their junior year. For the Goldwater and Udall scholarships, you will want evidence of undergraduate research by your sophomore or junior year. Take a look at the Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creativity Office (URSCO), STAMPS,and the McNair program for information on research mentorship and scholarship opportunities.
- Explore your award options. Review scholarship program requirements and do your research on what successful applicants have in common. Meet with the Fellowships Advisor to discuss your plans.
You’ll likely begin your work on your fellowship application in earnest in your junior year. Connect with the Fellowships Advisor to talk through your plans and to come up with a personal timeline for your application.
- Make yourself nationally competitive. Start undergraduate research as soon as possible and continue through your senior year.
- Know where you are going and where you have been. Consider your future academic goals. Draft a 1000-word personal statement and plan of study, explaining your passion, what led you to this passion and where you hope it takes you.
- Enhance your resume and transcript. Seek an active role in organizations and activities that are personal to your interests and goals. Take challenging courses in and out of your major area of study.
- Prepare for senior awards in your junior year. Your senior year will offer many options for nationally competitive awards, such as the Marshall, Rhodes, Gates Cambridge and Mitchell. The most successful students begin the application process in their junior year. Meet individually with Prestigious International/National Fellowships or attend a workshop to learn more about each scholarship.
Seniors and Alumni
This is where the rubber meets the road! Connect with the Fellowships Advisor to get feedback on materials, support in crafting a competitive application, and connect with faculty mentors.
- Identify and be able to articulate your goals. One of the most important things you can do to make your application compelling is to be able to clearly articulate WHY you are applying for your chosen fellowship and HOW it will help you accomplish your goals.
- Connect with faculty and let them know of your plans. Faculty are a key component of your fellowship application support network. They can review your application to offer insights into how to strengthen your case. Many fellowships also require multiple letters of recommendation. By communicating early with your faculty, you will remain on their radar once it is time to request letters of recommendation.
- Polish your resume. Although it may not be an application requirement, you should have your resume up to date. It is often helpful to share this information with your faculty to help them write you a compelling recommendation.
- Visit the Writing Center. Call in the professionals when it’s time to edit your application essays. The folx at the UNCG Writing Center have experience with revising all sorts of essays, from statements of purpose to personal statements.