10 Tips for Students Applying for Scholarships and Fellowships
1) Maintain a strong academic record. You will need a minimum GPA of 3.5 for most fellowships. Ask for help if you are having trouble in a class and use university resources such as the Writing Center to get help with your assignments. Schedule regular meetings with your academic advisors. Remember, your primary job at Mason is to be a student, so be the best student you can be.
2) Meet the Director of Fellowships. Make an appointment with the Director to discuss your interests, even if you are still unsure about which of these opportunities might help you to reach your academic goals. The office of fellowships has many resources to help you find and apply for fellowships, both for undergraduate and graduate students.
3) Manage your time. Time management is the key to success at Mason and in life. Don’t over commit yourself to too many extracurricular activities. Discover your passions both inside and outside the classroom, and make them your priorities. Use a calendar and/or academic planner to balance your coursework and other obligations.
4) Begin Early. The fellowship application process requires that you set aside several hours a week over the course of several months to plan, gather supporting material, write your application, and consult with your professors. Ideally, you should identify a particular opportunity at least four to six months before the application deadline.
5) Do Your Research. Do you meet the qualifications outlined by the foundation? These might include: junior or senior status, intended graduate discipline, a minimum grade point average, a particular level of language proficiency or other prerequisites or experience, and in some cases a demonstrated interest in studying in a particular country or at a specific university.
6) Establish positive relationships with faculty. You will need highly enthusiastic recommendations to be a competitive candidate. Your academic references need to know you and your talents well to serve as effective advocates. You need to provide your professors with detailed information on the fellowships for which you are applying, request a letter a month in advance, and follow up with them to make sure they complete the letters before the deadline.
7) Become a well-rounded and well-informed person. Doing well in your courses is just the beginning of the scholarship process. An interest in more than one field is attractive to foundations. Become a regular reader of the New York Times, The Economist, or the Washington Post, as well as a periodical that is relevant to your major or interests. Become a leader (not just an officer) in a campus or community organization. Better yet, establish an initiative to address an unmet need on campus or in your community. Participate in a study abroad experience or an internship.
8) Know your graduate program. Thoroughly research the graduate programs you are most interested in to determine which would be the best fit for your interests. Make contact with specific faculty members or other researchers at the programs you are applying to determine whether their research interests match yours and whether they would be willing to work with you if you enrolled.
9) Develop your essay writing skills. Your essays are vital to your application. Fellowship essays must be highly polished and organized around a strong narrative theme. You must make a strong case for why you deserve to win a particular fellowship. A successful fellowship essay goes through a minimum of four drafts before it is submitted. Examples of successful fellowship essays are available through the Director of Fellowships.
10) Say thank you. It is important to acknowledge the work that faculty have done on your behalf. Write a handwritten note to each of your faculty recommenders letting them know the outcome of the process, thanking them for their support, and informing them of your graduate or other postgraduate school plans.