Seven tips for becoming competitive for national fellowships:


  1. Start early. Review the list of fellowships and choose ones you might consider applying for in the future. It’s never too early to start thinking about opportunities like the Rhodes Scholarship (even though you won’t submit the application until your senior year).
  2. Maintain a strong GPA. Most (but not all) of the scholarships require a minimum GPA, and GPA is a factor in all of the awards. Being competitive for awards after graduation means you need to keep up your grades while at Fisk.
  3. Develop your writing skills. Essays and personal statements are the most important components in all of the applications. Take the time to build your writing skills in your courses: write multiple drafts of your papers, read the feedback from your professors and (most importantly) apply that feedback! Remember, you can revise the same personal statement to use for multiple fellowships: begin drafting a personal statement as soon as you can, and show it to your peers and mentors for feedback.
  4. Win smaller scholarships (especially those supporting study abroad). The more awards you can list on your resume, the stronger you will look to the selection committees. All eligible students (including presidential scholars) should apply to the UNCF fellowship, and you can find many awards with apps like Scholly. Those interested in studying abroad should be sure to look at the Boren Scholarship and the Gilman Scholarship. To learn more about these awards contact Duwon Clark, Dean of Global Initiatives
  5. Build relationships with faculty. All of the scholarships require at least one, and as many as five, recommendations from faculty. Besides doing well in your classes, start going to office hours and talking to your professors outside of class. The better your faculty know you and your accomplishments, the stronger your recommendations letters will be.
  6. Ask for help. Each fellowship lists a campus contact, who is knowledgeable about the application and can help prepare your application. Start meeting those contacts as soon as possible: tell them your plans and ask them what you can do to now, to make yourself a good applicant in the future. 
  7. Be a leader. You should seek leadership opportunities both on campus (in clubs, student government, or athletics) and off campus. Document your contributions to organizations so that you can describe them in your personal statements and interviews.