The National Institute of Health and the National Science Foundation, among other organizations, offer fellowships to prospective doctoral students in the sciences as well as those who are well into their doctoral studies. Programs such as the New York City Urban Fellows are tied to a year-long work experience, with no requirement to go on for further education.
While a university might award scholarships or fellowships to graduate applicants based on the credentials submitted in an application package (transcripts, resume, statement of purpose, other essays, and recommendations) the selection process for scholarships and fellowships from well-funded outside organizations is far more rigorous and far more competitive than virtually any college or graduate school admissions process. For example, the National Science Foundation received over 12,000 applications and made approximately 2,100 fellowships offers in their 2022 competition cycle. A potential scientist who hopes to pursue doctoral study in their field and receives one of these coveted awards must build their resume and accumulate research experience, be prepared to draft, then justify the scientific significance of a research proposal, and go through multiple rounds of interviews after they submit a complete application package.
Some of these awards are quite generous and have strong alumni networks. The Fulbright Foreign Student Program, as one example, is an international exchange grant program operated by the U.S Department of State. It provides awards to approximately 8,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, and professionals each year from the United States and 160 countries. According to the State Department, the ranks of Fulbright alumni include 61 Nobel Prize recipients, 75 MacArthur Foundation Fellows, 89 Pulitzer Prize winners, and 40 current or former heads of state or government. US students who are Fulbright grant recipients are employed for 12 months, receive paid health insurance and a stipend to cover room, board and incidentals while living in their host country.
Given the always-high level of competition for these awards, it is wise for anyone still in college to meet with their major advisor as well as the graduate fellowship advisor as early as possible to know what is expected of a competitive applicant. Many colleges have dedicated offices to help undergraduates and alumni apply for scholarships and fellowships, or they have faculty or career counselors who can help. These are awards that you plan year after year in college, and sometimes after graduation. While there are no assurances from starting early towards the pursuit of such high ambitions, the most successful applicants will be those who are the best prepared when they apply and hence an early start helps lay the groundwork.
Scholarship Hunting Hints
It’s pretty easy to find the big-name scholarships using a search engine. While it’s important to apply for these big opportunities, it will also be worth your while to seek out smaller, less competitive prizes – every bit counts.
There is an easy-to-use online directory that is a great place to start searching for these opportunities. Titled “Nationally Coveted Scholarships, Graduate Fellowships and Post-Doctoral Research Programs”, this list has many of the big awards and some lesser-known awards.
You should also look for unusual or “weird” scholarships. For example – Are you unusually tall? Do you have a passion for potatoes? Are you a child of an employee in the American footwear industry? There are so many organizations that want to help you succeed – you just have to find them.
A graduate education is increasingly necessary to advance careers, increase income and enjoy employer-sponsored health coverage and retirement plans, and applying successfully for a graduate or professional degree requires careful planning. Elizabeth LaScala PhD, Founder of Doing College and Beyond provides personalized guidance throughout the graduate and professional degree admissions process, whether you are currently studying at the undergraduate level or are already working in your career. Call (925) 385-0562 or visit Elizabeth at her website to learn more.