A fellowship is an acknowledgement of your potential as an emerging scholar.

The term “fellowship” encompasses many opportunities, including competitive grants, study abroad, and research activities. Most commonly, a fellowship is awarded to fund a proposed research project or similar academic activity with specific, well-defined goals. The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and Fulbright US Student Program are the best known fellowships in the United States. Doctoral students in humanities and humanistic social sciences may be especially interested in the newly created Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Innovation Fellowship.

UChicagoGRAD helps graduate students and postdocs craft stronger applications across the wide range of fellowships, which spans overseas and domestic research, language study, dissertation writing, professional development, and teaching opportunities.


What is a fellowship?
A fellowship provides monetary support for various types of academic endeavors, including study, research, and professional-development, and can range in length from a month to multiple years. Winning a fellowship is an acknowledgement of your potential as an emerging scholar. There are fellowships for scholars at the undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate level. Fellowships are typically funded by non-profit organizations, commercial companies, government agencies, and universities. Since any organization can create a funded opportunity and label it a fellowship, there is immense variety in types of fellowships and how they are structured.

What do fellowships fund?
Most fellowships fund a proposed research project or similar academic activity with well-defined goals. Fellowships can fund both domestic research and overseas research, such as conducting fieldwork, accessing archives, running experiments, or acquiring data. A fellowships can also fund language study (e.g., Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowship Program, Critical Language Scholarship, Boren Fellowship), teaching experiences (e.g., Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship), or professional training (e.g., post-MSW fellowships, government leadership fellowships). Fellowships can also fund creative and performing arts endeavors (e.g., artist residencies). Certain fellowships also fund degree coursework (e.g., Schwarzman Scholars, AAUW, or NSF GRFP).

What is the difference between an internal and external fellowship?
An internal fellowship is funded by a student’s home university. Many departments, centers, and affiliated organizations at UChicago offer fellowships for graduate students and postdocs. An external fellowship is funded by an entity outside the University. For many major external fellowships, the University of Chicago will play an administrative role in the application process or disbursement of the award.

What if a fellowship requires active student status, but I will have graduated by the time the fellowship starts
Some fellowships require that a recipient be an active student for the duration of the fellowship award. Contact your Deans of Students about deferring your graduation and extending your student status into next year.

Can I apply for more than one fellowship at the same time?
Generally, you can apply for as many fellowships as you would like. Some competitions such as the Fulbright US Student Program may restrict you from applying for multiple fellowships within the same organization during the same competition cycle. We encourage you to explore widely. If multiple fellowships fit your profile and interests, applying to more than one can be advantageous. Consider that fellowship applications are time and energy intensive. It is important to balance applying to opportunities that fit your interests with managing the time required to produce a strong application.

While you can apply to multiple fellowships, it might not be possible to accept more than one fellowship at a time. Whether you can hold multiple fellowships will depend on the rules of individual funders. For example, it may be relevant whether award periods overlap or whether the awards share the same funder, as is often the case with federally-funded awards.

What is involved in applying for a fellowship?
Every fellowship has its own application requirements and process. Some smaller fellowships may have applications with fewer components and a shorter process. Larger yearlong fellowships will have a more extensive application with an application deadline eight to twelve months prior to the start of the fellowship. The components of a fellowship application are similar to those you are already familiar with from your application to a master’s or doctoral program. Fellowships generally require one or more essays (e.g., statement of grant purpose, personal statement), transcripts, and letters of recommendation. If you would like support in applying for a fellowship, the fellowships team at UChicagoGRAD offers 1:1 advising appointments to support you at any stage of the application process. You can also receive written feedback on any of your essays from our writing specialist.

What is entailed by a campus nomination or competition with limited submission?
Certain fellowships require applicants to receive a nomination from their home university. The nature of the campus nomination process will vary depending on the fellowship and may involve the fellowships office at UChicagoGRAD or your home department. These fellowships typically include an internal deadline which allows time for the nomination process prior to the official external deadline for the fellowship.

Some fellowships do not limit to how many students can apply from each university (e.g., Fulbright U.S. Student Program, Boren Fellowship), so the campus nomination process is not a selection process. Other fellowships limit the number of submissions allowed, which requires the University to select nominees from among our interested applicants.

Who should I ask for letters of recommendation?
Fellowship selection committees look for strong letters of recommendation from writers who are familiar with your academic abilities and personal qualities. In most cases, doctoral students ask members of their dissertation committees to write letters of recommendation for research fellowships. Master’s students and incoming doctoral students often wonder whether to ask an undergraduate professor to write a letter of recommendation.

Since a recommender should speak to your relevant qualifications and experience as they relate to your proposed project, it is important that you discuss the details of the fellowship and your project with your recommender. It is common practice to give a recommender four to six weeks to write and submit your recommendation. If you know further in advance that you will be applying to a fellowship, we recommend you reach out to them earlier to ask if they feel they would be able to write a strong letter of recommendation for that specific fellowship. If so, you can communicate with them about when you will follow-up with specific instructions and any application materials that would help them to write their letter. Recommendations typically come from professors, advisors, supervisors, mentors, or employers who know you well and have appropriate experience in the relevant field of study. Recommendations are not character references, so you should not pick individuals who only know you in a personal capacity, such as friends or family members.

How do I find a language evaluator?
If you have previously studied or are currently studying the target language in a university course, you may reach out to the instructor to ask if they would be willing to complete a foreign language evaluation. If you have not studied the language through coursework, the fellowships team at UChicagoGRAD can suggest an available instructor to conduct an evaluation with you. If the University of Chicago does not have any instructors in the target language, you may need to seek out a professor or instructor at another university. As with letters of recommendations, you should not pick a family member or friend.

How will the monetary award be disbursed?
Fellowships differ as to how they disburse the funding to the recipients. For some fellowships, especially smaller ones, you may receive the money directly from the funding organization. For other fellowships, especially larger ones, the money may be disbursed to you via the University of Chicago. That is, the University will receive the funding from the organization and then it will be disbursed to you. The amount of money that will be disbursed to you will depend on your division’s external funding policy. Similarly, for some divisions, the benefit of fellowship funding may not come in the form of a direct monetary award, but rather in relief from teaching-assistantship duties.

Who is my grant contract administrator?
Your Dean of Students can help you identify your division’s or school’s grant administrator. Contact grad-fellowships@uchicago.edu If you are having trouble finding the right contact.