No post-graduation plans? Apply for a fellowship or grant

9/12/2008 | By: Guia Del Prado  |

The final year of college is harrowing for many undergraduate students. Many are busy planning and preparing for their futures after college. Yet some, dissatisfied with their choices, remain undecided on which path to take following graduation.

An alternative choice after graduation includes applying for competitive fellowships, grants and awards. Among the possibilities include Fulbright Fellowships, which allow students to study and research in over a 140 countries, or the Rhodes Scholarship, which gives students the chance to study at the University of Oxford.

Applying for undergraduate national fellowships and grants is a arduous process. It includes writing a personal statement and a proposal, gathering three to eight letters of recommendation, building an outstanding resume and academic record, and putting in a great deal of time. That’s where the Office of Undergraduate Fellowships can help.

The office guides students through the application process, giving valuable feedback along the way. Students can bring their applications, resumes and personal statements to writing workshops organized by faculty committees who have experience in the fellowship screening process. The next workshop will be Sept.15 from 3–5 p.m. in the Honors Program office in Jot Travis Building. A general informational session will be held later in the semester on Nov. 19 at noon.

According to Honors Program director Tamera Valentine, the faculty committees includes professors from the English department to help with writing the personal statements and faculty from other disciplines who have been on selection committees for federally-funded grants.

“The faculty will help applicants by providing another set of eyes, examining and reviewing some of these personal statements and essays,” Valentine said. “We also provide samples of writing from old applications or from award-winning applications so students can get an idea of what a good application looks like.”

In addition to the workshops, students get individual attention on their applications and advice on how to improve their resumes. While academics are crucial factors in winning these fellowships, volunteer work and internships also help make a student a more qualified candidate.

“We are trying to get our students to do more than academics,” Valentine said. “We hope that by holding these workshops we’re also educating students on how to be better students, how to build a resume that will compete with all the other students across the nation.”

Valentine believes the application process also builds student’s general experience. Knowing how to apply effectively for jobs, scholarships, or graduate schools is a practical piece of knowledge for students. But the process also allows students to explore their motives, strengths and weaknesses.

“The application process is very revealing to the student,” Valentine said. “It opens their eyes to themselves, what they can do and how they can succeed.”

But the biggest reward, of course, is the grant or the fellowship itself. With these awards comes the opportunity to study, teach and research abroad, as with the Fulbright Fellowships. Recipients of the Gates Cambridge Scholarship and the Rhodes Scholarship can study at the prestigious institutions at Cambridge University and University of Oxford. The Goldwater and Udall award up to $7,500 to undergraduates with outstanding records and potential.

Still other scholarships and fellowships like the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarships and the National Security Education Program afford the chance for graduating seniors to study or be goodwill ambassadors to different countries.

“Students might want to consider applying for these prestigious awards if they want to do something different after they graduate,” Valentine said. “It’s a great experience, and often it changes students’ lives or even the direction of their careers.”

The deadlines for applying to some of the fellowships and awards are through October and February.


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