Frequently Asked Questions

General Information

▼   What is the difference between a scholarship and a fellowship?
Many people use these two terms interchangeably; a common distinction is that a fellowship may be for post-baccalaureate study and a scholarship is associated with undergraduate study.
▼   How do I find information about scholarships and fellowships?
The website contains a listing of awards.  Each entry lists a deadline, general eligibility requirements, and URL for the program's official site. The list is not comprehensive; there are many new awards created each year, and some established awards may not be listed.
▼   What sort of academic record do I need to qualify?
It depends upon the scholarship or fellowship. Most will require a high level of academic achievement, but many also require a level of engagement/involvement both on and off campus. Consult the scholarship or fellowship's website or a fellowship coordinator to see if you qualify for the scholarships in which you are interested.
▼    For what kinds of opportunities do I qualify?

Qualifications are based on eligibility and criteria. You qualify to apply for any opportunity for which you meet the eligibility requirements, i.e., citizenship, class year, field of study, age, and GPA. You may technically qualify for a given fellowship, but you also need to determine if you meet the criteria for selection. Browse the Scholarship/Fellowship list to learn more about available opportunities and also meet with a fellowship coordinator to discuss your eligibility.

▼   What are my chances of winning any given scholarship/fellowship?

Chances of winning these scholarships vary tremendously. You should consider whether or not your particular interests, experiences, and professional aspirations make you a good fit for a particular scholarship. One way to assess "fit" for a scholarship is to look at the previous winners (their websites typically provide brief bios of previous scholars). It is wise to carefully consider the criteria for selection to determine if you are a strong candidate.  However, the process of applying will be helpful for you to verbalize your goals and your career trajectory. Some of the essays you write for the scholarship application may be helpful for other applications, such as those for graduate school or for medical school/law school. Just remember: if you don’t apply, you cannot win!

▼   What is an institutional endorsement/nomination?

An “institutional endorsement” is a letter of support required for some of the most prestigious scholarships. It indicates that the applicant is submitting an application with official approval of their college or university. An institutional endorsement usually indicates that a fellowship nominee has gone through an internal selection process.  These opportunities require a university endorsement:  Fulbright, Marshall, Mitchell, NSEP Boren, Rhodes, Truman.

Some scholarships, such as Goldwater, permit only a limited number of applicants from each university, and in many cases request formal letters of nomination for applicants. If an institutional nomination is required, then the applicant must follow campus application procedures before the final application is submitted to the funding agency.

▼   Can I apply for more than one fellowship? Will it hurt my chances of winning others?

You can apply for multiple fellowships at the same time. Having previously won another award, or even having applied for the same fellowship in the past, will not hurt your chances. Since many scholarships and fellowships are geared towards similar students, you should apply for as many as interest you and that you have time to prepare.

▼   Are there scholarships for non-US citizens?

Yes. The majority of scholarships listed are for US citizens, but you should check the requirements for eligibility. Some scholarship programs like the Rhodes and Fulbright will accept applicants through their home countries.  Contact the Coordinators for further information.

▼   I will be studying abroad during the campus deadline. Can I still apply?

Certainly - most of the application process is conducted electronically. Students should understand that support like workshops and mock interviews cannot always be arranged while students are abroad.

▼   Can I still apply if I miss the campus deadline?

Maybe, but you must contact a fellowship coordinator several months ahead of the national deadline to let us know of your interest. The campus deadline is set for the applicant's best interest as the application and revision process cannot be done overnight.

 Preparation of the Application

▼   How time-consuming is the typical fellowship application?
The amount of time required to prepare a competitive application varies from fellowship to fellowship, but most will require a significant investment of time and effort.  For Rhodes and Fulbright applications, students often spend several months preparing and revising application materials.  It is important to consult with the Coordinators throughout the process.
▼   Where can I find copies of winning applications?

In some instances, a Fellowship Coordinator can show you some examples of previous winning applications, but for the most part, there is no template available for the perfect application.

▼   Can I speak with previous winners?

Most of the recent winners are probably not on campus, but many of them are willing to speak with you about their experiences. A list of recent winners is available on this website; ask a Fellowship Coordinator for contact information.

▼   Who can help me with writing application essays?

Students can meet with a Fellowship Coordinator, but should also meet with a faculty advisor in your discipline, about what is expected in each essay.

Personal Statements

▼   What can you tell me about a personal statement?

It is a one-to-two page response to the question asked on an application; it is a requirement designed to allow the selection committee to get to know you, your interests, your goals, and why you are a perfect fit for the scholarship. The personal statement takes time. It is important that this statement honestly reflects you and your values in a positive, concise way. The Fellowship Coordinators will work with you one-on-one to help you improve your personal statement.

▼   How many drafts of my personal statement should I expect to prepare?

The quick answer: as many as you need! While no applicant goes through the same process, most applicants will end up writing at least 5 - 10 drafts before the final version is produced. Each draft may explores different narratives, use different techniques, and employ different emphases. The process of rethinking and revising will help you hone your focus and strengthen the application as a whole.

▼   Who should read my personal statement?

When it comes to reading and editing the personal statement, the more eyes, the better. Submit your work to the Fellowships Coordinators, and also ask your professors, mentors, friends, and parents to read it. They will let you know if the statement truly reflects who you are and clearly defines where you want to go and why. Other readers will be able to spot areas in need of improvement that may escape your attention.

Letters of Recommendation

▼   How many letter of recommendation do I need?

Scholarships can require anywhere from two to eight letters of recommendation. You should read the application instructions carefully when thinking about whom to ask for letters of support. Also consult a Fellowship Coordinator about whether all of the letters need to come from faculty.

▼   Who should I ask for letters of recommendation, and how can these be submitted?

It depends on the scholarship or fellowship. Ideally you should ask faculty members, USA staff or individuals in the community who have had a chance to get to know you well. For faculty, it should be those who know you beyond the scope of the normal classroom setting. These can be individuals with whom who you have worked on a research program, or simply ones with whom you have connected outside of class.

▼   Should I waive my right to see the letters of recommendation?

Many competitions will ask you to waive or not waive your right to see letters submitted on your behalf.  Candid letters are said to carry more weight.  Thus, you should usually waive your right to see the letter. 


▼   Do transcripts have to be official?

As a general rule, YES, although it may depend on the scholarship. It is best to check with a Fellowship Coordinator when requesting transcripts. You may also have to request individual transcripts from all undergraduate institutions that you have attended since beginning at USA, or from study abroad programs.


Information provided by:

U Nebraska Lincoln