What is a Fellowship?

A fellowship gives graduate students the chance to get more graduate and post-graduate research experience without breaking the bank. Some fellowships have little to no specific work requirements, while others operate more like an internship for graduate students. These opportunities can bolster a graduate student's resume and pocketbook, so any graduate student with the opportunity should apply for such an award. Fellowships are usually merit-based awards, with preference given to those with high GPAs and promising careers ahead of them. Read on to learn more about the benefits of fellowships as well as how to find one.

Types of Fellowships

Fellowships are almost always monetary gifts connected to working in a specific field, but what they consist of can vary considerably. For instance, doctoral fellowships are given to Ph.D. students to fund proposed research that will advance their specialty area. Medical fellowships are granted for M.D. students who are completing in-depth training in an advanced specialty, such as cardiac care, women's health, or pediatrics. Humanitarian organizations also often offer fellowships for graduate students pioneering community-based initiatives or studying abroad. Some of the nation's most prestigious programs include the Fulbright Fellowships, Guggenheim Fellowships, Smithsonian Fellowships, and Woodrow Wilson National Fellowships.

Benefits Provided by Fellowships

Fellowships provide compensation, but that compensation may not always be monetary. Monetary awards are the most common, however, with fellows often receiving between $5,000 and $50,000 per year as well as a living stipend that also covers travel costs. Common secondary benefits of fellowships include health insurance, partial or complete student loan forgiveness, or free housing. Fellows in more internship-like fellowships also gain the benefits that come with experiential learning and continued research. Those with a strong research or work component can give a student a sense of responsibility well beyond an entry-level job in the field, and can form connections necessary for later employment.

Finding Fellowship Opportunities

Finding a fellowship often requires a little legwork. Students interested in fellowships should contact their faculty advisors, professors, or department chair regarding these opportunities, as not all are advertised. A school's financial aid office can sometimes point students in the right direction as well, either with a visit to the office itself or through informational meetings centered on fellowships. Researching opportunities online can go a long way, as well, with many fellowships posted on the internet. Some services offer fellowship databases which users can sort by minimum eligibility criteria. Schools and other organizations will post their fellowship opportunities online as well.

Applying for Fellowships

Fellowships are extremely competitive, so you'll have to prepare an impressive application that won't be shoved under the pile. Organizations usually look for fellows who are high academic achievers, community service leaders, dedicated honors students, and experienced researchers. Let your motivation and self-direction shine through. Don't be surprised if it takes two or more months to complete the application and put together supporting materials. Most will require a resume or curriculum vitae, official transcript, letter(s) of recommendation, and research proposal. Participating in a panel interview with selection committee members is also common.

Overall, fellowships are coveted funding opportunities that give postgraduates the chance to earn money while conducting research or working in their chosen career. Fellowships are similar to graduate assistantships, but they typically don't involve teaching and aren't granted through a specific institution. From the arts and humanities to science and medicine, fellowships are offered in virtually any field for valuable experience. Winning a fellowship that fits your interests and personality would aid in a bright professional future.

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