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General Advice

General Advice

The fellowships application process requires hard work and commitment, but thoughtful preparation can make the process less daunting and your success more likely. Princeton offers a network of fellowship advisers and mentors to help you with the application process. You should also be encouraged by the fact that Princeton students and alumni have consistently received a generous share of fellowships. Plan to begin the application process six to nine months prior to the deadline. As you begin thinking about fellowships, start with the following steps:

Access Information

  • Watch for email announcements and refer to the Office of International Programs calendar for fellowship information sessions and other events during the academic year.
  • Undertake research on the fellowships by accessing the detailed information available on the fellowships website. Inform yourself about the qualifications necessary for each fellowship. Attend information sessions and other events and meet with fellowship advisers and recent recipients.

Find a Good Fit

  • Think about your interests and what postgraduate experiences most interest you. If you are considering graduate study, first reflect about where you would like to study and why. Discuss possibilities with faculty members, both those who know you well and those who are familiar with areas of study, universities, and countries of interest to you. Identify opportunities specifically suited to you and your goals. 
  • Be sure that the academic department and degree you wish to pursue exist at the institution(s) you are considering. A proposal is strengthened by your knowledge of the school’s programs. See the Resources page for more information. 
  • Remember that no individual can be intimately familiar with all degree programs in even one university, such as Oxford, much less around the world. While the fellowship advisers listed in this guide are willing to help you with a choice of degree program or choice of university within their spheres of knowledge, you must take the initiative to seek out information. 

Launch the Application Process

  • When you have narrowed the list of fellowships for which you plan to apply, consider who can write the strongest possible recommendations for you; then meet or Skype with those individuals about your future plans and goals. Because letters are critical in the selection process, it is much more important to have a letter of recommendation from a faculty member who knows you well than from a dean or prominent professor who is only acquainted with you. You should begin thinking about prospective letters of recommendation early. Applications will require between two and eight letters of recommendation.
  • Carefully outline the required proposal, personal statement, or essays. Develop preliminary drafts as soon as possible and have them ready for review by mid-July for those awards with early fall deadlines. Use the summer to obtain advice from faculty, friends, and advisers.
  • Most fellowship applications must be accompanied by transcripts. Order updated official hard copies (in sealed envelopes) or official electronic copies from the Office of the Registrar. Electronic copies can be emailed to you or to another recipient. They require a code to unlock, but are considered tamperproof once opened. We advise including a Study Abroad transcript (a copy is fine) with most global applications. In addition, several fellowships require that a physician sign a certificate of good health after accepting an interview or award. Review the specific requirements of each fellowship. Some require, for example, affiliation letters, evidence of foreign language proficiency, a cv or resume, or photographs. 
  • Read previous award recipients' essays. Sample Rhodes, Marshall, Fulbright, Marshall, and Schwarzman essays are available in colored three-ring binders. To review them, visit the Office of International Programs (Simpson A60) during normal business hours or the shelves at the entrance to Trustee Reading Room in Firestone Library. This will give you an idea of how a successful proposal reads as you begin thinking about your own achievements and aspirations. However, do not let them intimidate you. You will bring your own special qualities to the task.
  • Students pursuing fellowships that are project-oriented or self-directed should contact relevant organizations well in advance of the deadline and speak to professors and other mentors to assure that your plans are viable. Some proposals require that you include an estimated budget.

“Even with outstanding credentials, what often differentiates an applicant is not just what you have done so far but how well you can articulate what you intend to do in the future—and how the fellowship will enable you to pursue those goals.” 

— Dean Peter Bogucki, Associate Dean, School of Engineering