Fellowships 101: What are they? Who are they for?

Fellowships 101: What are they? Who are they for?

Fellowships 101

By Jason Chan


Do you sometimes wish you could spend all your time exploring and learning about a topic or issue that you’re passionate about? Are there questions you have about the world that you wish you had the opportunity to answer? Do you feel you have the potential to make an impact in society? If you answered “yes” (or even “maybe”) to these questions, you might be a good candidate for a fellowship! Read more to learn about what fellowships are and how you can begin exploring possible opportunities.


What is a fellowship?

Although fellowships encompass an array of opportunities, in general, they are short-term funded experiences that allow you to do a deep dive into a particular area of interest. Spending a year or two gaining expert knowledge about a subject you’re passionate about, developing new skills while cultivating ones you already have, and gaining exposure to new perspectives and new communities – these are hallmarks of many fellowship opportunities.


What would I be doing in a fellowship?

Fellowships come in a variety of types. Some, like the Fulbright, involve conducting research, while others, like the Rhodes or the Soros, are intended for graduate study in a range of disciplines. Some, like the Fulbright-ETA, are oriented around teaching, while others like the Luce place fellows in service agencies or nonprofit organizations. And while some, like the Gaither, are based in the U.S., others take place overseas or – in the case of the Watson – across multiple countries around the world. Chances are there’s a fellowship opportunity out there that’s relevant to your interest and goals!


Why should I consider a fellowship?

Fellowship experiences are unique, intensive, and transformative; they are intentionally designed to be catalysts in your academic and professional trajectories. Fellowship programs select you for your potential and promise, provide you with an immersive experience, and connect with you an extensive peer and alumni network – all to catapult you to the next chapter of your life and career journeys. There’s a reason many fellowship programs target college students and recent graduates, groups often engaged in a period of discovery and exploration.


When should I start thinking about applying to fellowships?

The earlier, the better! While many fellowship programs solicit applications from seniors, the deadlines are often early in the fall semester. Advance planning is key to ensuring you have time to prepare a strong application. In fact, the ideal time to begin thinking about fellowship opportunities is during your sophomore year, as there are a few programs to which students apply as juniors – the Goldwater, Truman, and Beinecke being notable examples (sophomores are eligible for the Goldwater as well!).


How can I find and learn more about fellowship opportunities?

The CCPA can be your first stop in learning more about fellowships. You can schedule a meeting with me to chat about your academic, extracurricular, and personal interests, and from there we can look at fellowships that might be a good fit. Faculty members can also be great resources, particularly for fellowships that are specific to an academic discipline; some may even be past fellowship recipients themselves! If you prefer online research, a good website to bookmark is ProFellow, with its searchable database of opportunities and numerous articles of advice.


As the Fellowship and Career Advisor at CCPA, I encourage all students to think about fellowships as they consider their post-college options. Taking the time to reflect on who you are, how you developed your interests and passions, and where your life journey is leading you can be incredibly insightful. Exploring and applying to fellowships can help you with this discernment process and, regardless of the outcome, prepare you well for what’s next after Haverford!


Jason Chan


Jason Chan joined the Haverford community in August 2019 as the Fellowship and Career Advisor at CCPA. In this role, he advises students on identifying and applying to fellowship programs and also provides guidance on navigating the career exploration and job search process in general. Jason has prior experience in the nonprofit sector, college student affairs, and higher education research, and in his spare time enjoys travel, photography, rock climbing, and playing Quizzo.