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Fellowship Frequently Asked Questions

Fellowship FAQs

The Basics

What are (inter)national fellowships?

Fellowships are competitive, merit-based awards that are funded by national and international foundations. They provide funding for research, language learning, graduate study, and experiences teaching abroad. These are not Boise State awards and are not considered financial aid. These are the “majors.” Many of the awards require candidates to be nominated or endorsed by their undergraduate institutions, and all require a rigorous application process.

What are the chances of winning a fellowship?

Fellowships are extremely competitive, but the likelihood of winning varies. While some like Marshall and Rhodes scholarships typically have a success rate of around 3%, others can be higher. The competitiveness of Fulbright grants, for example, varies by country and grant type. For several of the awards, such as the Goldwater and Udall, Boise State can only nominate a limited number of candidates, meaning students must first compete at our institutional level prior to going forward into the national competition.

If the odds are so discouraging, why should I do this?

The process of applying for a fellowship can be life-changing, regardless of whether you win the award.

    • It can significantly improve your writing abilities by teaching you how to present your life story in a clear, concise, compelling narrative. This style of writing will be used in future graduate school applications and in cover letters for future jobs.
    • It can deepen your relationships with faculty, staff, and peers at Boise State. Past applicants have described incredible opportunities that stemmed from conversations they had with the professors that wrote their letters of recommendation or from the experiences they had while getting more involved on campus.
    • It forces you to consider who you are and how you want to better both the world and yourself. Applying for a fellowship can be a grueling process. You have to begin making both short-term and long-term plans as well as contingency plans in case your original ideas do not work out. It asks you what you care about. Though these questions aren’t always easy to answer, thinking them through can help you focus your life and goals more clearly.

Where could I go?

Past Boise State fellowship awardees have studied at Oxford; taught English in countries such as Norway, Tajikistan, and Serbia; and completed research in places like Swaziland and India. There are fellowships to all different parts of the world and the U.S.  View pictures and read stories from some of our past fellowship recipients to learn more.

At what point in my college career should I start thinking about fellowships?

It is never too early to begin thinking about applying for fellowships. Though many are intended for seniors or graduates, some awards are available to freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. Additionally, thinking about fellowships early allows you to naturally fill in gaps in your resume or strengthen areas of weakness prior to submitting applications as a senior/graduate.

Can I apply (and win) more than one type of award over the course of my degree?

Yes, you can apply for multiple fellowships throughout your time at Boise State. Often, the more awards you win, the more competitive you become for future awards.

Are fellowships only designed for graduating seniors?

No! Some fellowships like the Critical Language Scholarship, Boren Awards, Truman Scholarship, and Goldwater Scholarship are all designed for students who are at earlier points in their undergraduate career. See our Fellowship List for more details on these awards.

Can alumni apply?

Yes! Alumni can apply to some scholarships such as Fulbright, Marshall, or Rhodes and receive advising from Boise State. Consult the Fellowship List for more information on individual scholarship requirements.

Are there age limits on fellowships?

It depends. Some awards specify an age range for their candidates, but others don’t. The Fulbright student programs, for example, allows anyone who has not yet achieved a Ph.D. to apply regardless of age.

Determining Competitiveness

How high does my GPA need to be?

Unfortunately there is no blanket answer to this question. Each fellowship has different expectations. In general, most successful applicants have GPAs of 3.7 or higher, with a 3.5 being considered the bare minimum. However, keep in mind that while excellent academic performance is a foundational component of your application, a high GPA by itself is not the only factor being considered. A student with a comparatively lower GPA (say, 3.6) who is highly involved with their community, has leadership experience, and can converse comfortably across a broad range of topics is likely a stronger candidate than a 4.0 student with little outside involvement beyond their coursework.

What are selection committees looking for?

Meeting the basic requirements for a fellowship is usually not enough to win one. The difference between the student who is competitive for a variety of prestigious scholarships and the one who is not is based on more than GPA. Competitive students take advantage of academic, extracurricular, scholarly, and service activities, or even better, create their own.

Scholarship committees generally look for candidates with strong GPAs who:

    • Are well-rounded. Show them that you do more than simply go to class and study.
    • Are actively involved. This can be with your academic or general community.
    • Are resourceful.
    • Have a demonstrated potential for independent research or study.
    • Have a demonstrated commitment to the betterment of society.
    • Have a demonstrated potential for leadership. Leadership comes in many forms; you don’t have to be the president of a student club to be a leader.
    • Have initiative and drive. Start something! A club, a volunteer group, a networking circle, your own project/research.
    • Have faith in their own potential for accomplishment.
    • Are interesting and interested. Don’t be afraid to be passionate.
    • Are well-informed, well-read, and articulate.
    • Bring out the best in themselves and others.
    • Give of themselves.

How do I know which scholarship is a good fit for me?

While all of these awards recognize excellent students, they differ in terms of eligibility requirements, application procedures, expectations for successful candidates, and overall mission. Some expect passionate dedication to one field of study or career path, while others look for candidates who show interest and aptitude in multiple areas of focus. Each organization has different goals and uses different language to describe what it does. Ultimately, knowing whether or not a fellowship is a “good fit” comes down to how well you identify with the ideals and structure of the program. We can’t manufacture fit. You have to do both research as well as some soul-searching to answer this question.

Application Process

Ok! I'm interested! Where do I begin?

We request that students try to do some research before contacting the Fellowships Advising office. Begin by reviewing some of the fellowships available, attend a fellowships workshop, and fill out a Fellowships Intake Form. You will have the option of indicating whether you have decided on a specific fellowship or are still trying to find a good fit. We will then contact you about making an individual appointment or attending a more specialized workshop.

What does the application process look like?

This process varies by fellowship, but generally students follow the following progression:

  1. Research fellowships to find a good fit. Seek advice from faculty, friends, and fellowship advisors.
  2. Draft application essays. This usually takes months to refine your ideas down into a cohesive narrative.
  3. Complete committee interviews. They are part of the drafting/refining process.
  4. Submit! Sometimes this will be followed with additional interviews by the funding organization.

For a more detailed version of this process, please visit the Fellowship Application Process page.

How much time should I expect to devote to this?

Expect to spend tens of hours on your application over the course of multiple months. Between talking to professors, advisors, writing drafts, rewriting drafts, collecting paperwork, being interviewed, and many other tasks, students can expect the process to feel like a part-time job.