Frequently Asked Questions
What are the differences between the Intent to Apply deadline, a campus (or internal) deadline, and an official deadline?
The Intent to Apply deadline is the date established by our office as the deadline to inform us of your intent to pursue a specific scholarship or fellowship. To indicate your intent to apply for a specific scholarship, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org indicating the scholarship and attach your resume.
A campus (or internal) deadline is the date set by our office as the deadline to receive the completed application, including transcripts and recommendation letters. Our office sets an internal deadline when a fellowship or scholarship requires a nomination or endorsement. This office has processes in place to complete the nomination or endorsement by the official deadline. If there is no internal deadline, then you may apply directly to the fellowship or scholarship foundation.
An official deadline is the date established by the fellowship or scholarship as the deadline for receipt of all application materials.
What are the differences between scholarships, fellowships, and grants?
The terms “scholarships” and “fellowships” are often used interchangeably. At one time, “scholarships” meant funding for undergraduate study and “fellowship” referenced baccalaureate funding. “Grants” is the most inclusive and means funds that are awarded for a particular project or purpose.
What kinds of scholarships are listed on this website?
Some scholarships are aimed at supporting undergraduate studying, including the Goldwater Scholarships. Several of the scholarships are designed for graduate study at one level or another. These include Churchill, Marshall, Rhodes, and Truman Scholarships. Some scholarships are intended for professional development, foreign language acquisition, public service, or cultural exploration. Such scholarships include Boren, Freeman, Fulbright, and Luce Scholarships.
What is an institutional endorsement? What is a nomination?
Some fellowship require an institutional endorsement, meaning that an applicant must submit their application with the official approval of their college or university. If a fellowship requires an institutional endorsement, you cannot apply without that official letter of endorsement. Likewise, some fellowships require a nomination from their institution. This process is similar to the endorsement process, but the number of nominees is often restricted by the fellowship or scholarship requirements (e.g. Vanderbilt can nominate only four students per year for the Goldwater, only two per year for the Churchill). The Career Center handles these endorsements and nominations.
How long is the application process?
Expect the process to take longer and require more work than you anticipated. Many fellowship applicants begin working on their applications at least five to six months prior to the deadline. Experience shows that the sooner you begin, the stronger your application will be.
Writing and rewriting your essay(s) is the most important and the lengthiest aspect of the application process. Also, arranging for research projects abroad (e.g. the Churchill) or designing your own project and finding the relevant contacts and institutional affiliates (e.g. the Fulbright) takes a substantial amount of time and work. Do not wait until the last minute to secure letters of recommendation.
What can’t I control about the application process? What can I control in the process?
You cannot control:
Composition of the selection committee
Quality of other applicants
Luck and chance
You can control:
The amount of time and energy you invest in preparing a quality application
Meeting the deadlines
Am I eligible? Am I the right ‘fit’ for a scholarship?
Keep in mind that whether you are “eligible” or the right “fit” for the scholarship are two different questions.
Eligibility is the threshold for qualifying for the scholarship. You are eligible for a scholarship if you meet all of the eligibility requirements such as citizenship, age, grade point average, class year, or field of study. Note that while many applicants meet the eligibility requirements and are eligible for the scholarship, they may not be strong candidates.
Once you determine that you meet the eligibility requirements, consider whether the scholarship aligns with your particular interests, experiences, professional aspirations, etc. Visit the scholarship’s official website to learn more about the scholarship. Many scholarships post bios of previous scholars.
Is my GPA high enough?
Some scholarships or fellowships have a minimum grade point average eligibility requirement. If a scholarship or fellowship requires a minimum grade point average, it is a firm limit.
Thus, if a scholarship lists a 3.50 as the grade point average cutoff, they will not consider applicants who do not meet that requirement, regardless of circumstances, strength of university curriculum, or other justifications.
Many competitive scholarships do not list a specific minimum grade point average. Instead, they express their desire for candidates with outstanding academic performance. Due to the competition for these scholarships, you should probably have at least a 3.80.
I’m pre-med/pre-law. Do these scholarships pay for medical school or law school?
Most of the scholarship programs listed here do not fund study in professional school. One exception is the Truman Scholarship, which can be used for medical or law school if you intend to pursue a career in public service.
How do I demonstrate leadership ability in a scholarship application?
Some scholarships ask that applicants show leadership ability in their applications. This does not mean simply listing the offices you hold in various organizations. Think through your leadership activities in terms of the following categories: summary, target, action, result. Describe actions taken to make improvements or solve issues. Fellowship committees want to know about the outcomes of your leadership.
What are my chances of winning a particular scholarship?
There is no easy answer to this question because many factors influence your chances of winning the scholarship or fellowship. Carefully consider the criteria for selection for the scholarship or fellowship in which you are interested. If you feel that you meet these criteria and you can work hard on presenting yourself well in the application, then seriously consider applying.
It is also important to keep in mind that many awards are so competitive that in the end, the chances of winning are by definition, marginal. Note that if you are clearly advised not to apply for a specific scholarship, the advice is intended to save you time and effort.
I’ve just learned of a scholarship or fellowship that I am interested in, but the deadline for the application is very soon. Should I apply?
Most importantly, note the intent to apply and Vanderbilt deadlines that are noted for the specific scholarships requiring Vanderbilt’s endorsement detailed on this site. These deadlines must be adhered to in order to be considered.
If you are applying for a scholarship or fellowship that requires relatively little information, only two recommendations, and a brief essay, you may have enough time to pull together an excellent application package.
However, if the fellowship or scholarship requires a lot of various pieces of information, such as eight letters of recommendation, university endorsement, a research proposal, and personal statement, it is probably too late. Experience has shown that it takes six to nine months to put together an excellent application package for these types of fellowships and scholarships. Even if you scramble to put together a package, it will likely result in a weak package and you risk squandering the good will of the people you’ve asked for last-minute recommendations. This may be a waste of energy and time.
Consider applying for the fellowship the following year. Then, you will have given yourself the necessary time to assemble an excellent application package. Remember after graduation, you can still apply to many of these fellowships and scholarships.
I am studying abroad. Can I apply for a fellowship?
Yes, but it may require more logistics. If you are beginning your study abroad program or are already abroad before the fellowship application process begins, contact the Career Center. Keep in mind during your preparations that in-person support such as workshops, cannot be arranged for students who are abroad.
When should I start looking into fellowships and scholarships?
It is a good idea to get a general idea of the available scholarships and fellowships as soon as possible so that you are aware of what the different scholarships and fellowships require or look for in their applicants.
Some scholarships require more background preparations. For example, a first-year student considering applying for a Goldwater scholarship as a junior should think about getting experience in a research lab. However, a first-year student considering a Fulbright scholarship may not worry about their proposals just yet.
In order to best prepare for possible scholarships or fellowships, a first-year student can do well in their courses, explore a wide variety of fields, build relationships with faculty, and obtain meaningful experiences. Sophomores and juniors should explore the different fellowships and scholarships, attend an information session about the various opportunities, and visit an advisor at the Career Center.
Can I apply for more than one fellowship or scholarship?
Yes, you can apply for as many scholarships and fellowships as you like. However, you should consider the time it takes to complete applications, whether or not you are a competitive candidate, and how much work you want to commit to the application process. Consider that it may be better to submit fewer applications that are of excellent quality rather than many applications that are not as good quality.
Some fellowships and scholarships overlap in terms of field or type of grant, so it would make sense to apply for all that fit with your interests and goals. However, because each fellowship are distinct, different in style and focus, it is more beneficial to identify the ones that are more suited to your interests and credentials, then focus your energy on producing the best possible application for those, rather than spreading yourself too thin.
I am not a U.S. citizen. Can I still apply for fellowships?
Many fellowships and scholarships listed here are for U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, or permanent residents. Some scholarship programs like the Rhodes or Fulbright will accept applicants through their home countries. If you are an international student looking for scholarship information, please visit the International Student & Scholar Services Office.
How many letters of recommendation do I need?
It depends on the fellowship or scholarship. Scholarships generally require between three and eight letters of recommendation. Read the application instructions very carefully as each scholarship and fellowship have different criteria for selection and a specified number of recommendations. Think very carefully about whom to ask for letters of support.
Most scholarship selection committees rely heavily on these recommendation letters to get personal insight into applicants’ strengths, weaknesses, and accomplishments. This kind of personal information cannot be determined from transcripts or test scores. Therefore, it is in your best interest to help your recommenders write the most accurate and detailed letters possible. Make your choices carefully and choose people that have observed your academic ability and your personal qualities. Most or all of these recommendations should come from professors (not graduate students) with whom you have taken classes. Graduate students do not have the level of experience as a professor in a classroom and in drafting strong recommendation letters.
I am a recent alumni. Can I apply for fellowships?
Yes, you can apply through our office for up to two years after graduation. In many instances, you might be a better applicant for a competitive fellowship after a year’s worth of work experience, or after you’ve had some time away from college to think about what specific degree objective you wish to pursue. If you’re interested in national and international fellowships, you have access to the same resources available to current students.
Are there scholarships on this website for unpaid internships with corporations, non-governmental organizations, professors, laboratories, or political figures?
No. If you are looking for funding for an internship as an undergraduate, start by exploring DoreWays. Graduate or professional students should visit their career assistance offices at their respective schools.