Advice for Applicants
Advice for ApplicantsPreparing the application package for a nationally competitive fellowship or scholarship begins long before the submission deadline. Below you will find our guidelines and advice on what to do before you apply and while you are applying. After you have submitted the application and, if necessary, completed the interview(s), you wait. Some fellowships or scholarships will provide a link for you to check on the status of the application.
Adequately preparing the application packets for these fellowships and scholarships requires a substantial time commitment. If you have chosen to apply to more than one scholarship or fellowship, please meet with us to discuss the deadlines and how you will prepare the packets.
For some fellowships or scholarships, letters from supervisors of internships or service experiences can be highly relevant.
Be sure to ask faculty at least one to two months in advance to write a letter of recommendation. Letters written by professors, rather than graduate students and instructors, carry more weight.
If your recommender has agreed to write you a letter, provide helpful information to recommenders. Ask your recommender their preferred method of receiving this material, whether in-person or by email. The information packet should include your resume, draft of fellowship or scholarship essays, unofficial transcript, submission instructions, and information about the scholarship or fellowship from its website as well as ours.
It is important to supply your recommender with information about the scholarship or fellowship because each are very different in nature, purpose, location, and focus. You want your recommenders to have all the information they need to write the best letter possible for the specific fellowship or scholarship.
In early drafts of the resume, err on the side of inclusiveness. The Career Center will assist you in cutting back, if needed. The resume is not the place to feature your modesty, but screening committees recognize padding when they see it: straightforward description without self-promotion or false humility is the ideal here. The objective of the resume is to showcase you as a distinctive personality, not necessarily “bigger” — more accomplished — than everybody else but interestingly, compellingly different from them. Keep the resume to one to two pages.
Please visit the Career Center to learn more about creating professional profile photos.
The key is quality, not quantity. Focus on attaining a deep level of involvement in experiences that relate to your interests. This will help form the narrative of your application.
Volunteer for an organization that is linked to your interests. Once you identify a scholarship or fellowship that you would like to pursue, you may decide to get involved with a service activity that improves your chances with that scholarship or fellowship.
For example, a student might get involved with tutoring or teaching activities that offer classroom or one-on-one experience. This deep level experience may help that student who wishes to apply for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship.
Language Study & Studying Abroad
Additionally, studying abroad demonstrates your ability to adapt to life in a foreign country. This experience will help adapt during a post-graduate fellowship and can be emphasized in your application.
Use academic titles in listing academic referees: “Professor” not “Dr.” For faculty with senior administrative appointments, use “Dean” (even if actually an “associate dean”), “Provost,” “Chancellor,” etc. Do not write, “Professor John Smith, Ph.D.” (the doctorate is assumed). If uncertain, check with us or use Vanderbilt’s online People Finder.
If asked for FAX and e-mail contact information for your referees, be sure to supply them, along with addresses and telephone numbers. Departmental FAX numbers for faculty are acceptable and are listed in the Vanderbilt’s online People Finder.
Unless expressly stated otherwise, order any lists (employment, publications, travel, activities, etc.) from the most to the least recent.
Sign and date the form after carefully reading any prose about “agreement” or “declaration” or “commitment” or “understanding” above the signature line. Be sure you understand what your signature “agrees” to.
Many fellowship and scholarship applications require two essays: a personal statement and a research statement. Sometimes these essays will have different names or require a response to a specific prompt. These essays should complement each other. Therefore, review your drafts to make sure you are avoiding repetition and ensuring that you write a consistent narrative in both essays, which aligns with the other parts of your application.