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What Are Fellowships and Research Scholarships?

What are Fellowships?

Fellowships are competitive awards for graduate study, personal enrichment, travel, and research while you’re still at the undergraduate level. These awards recognize excellence, initiative, and a drive to make an impact in the world.


The awards are sorted by when students are eligible to begin applying for them, NOT by when you should start considering them. Fellowships require several months of planning an application, let alone the time it takes to build a competitive candidacy.

A fellowship provides financial support to graduate students to pursue graduate studies without associated teaching or research responsibilities (as they are in a teaching or research assistantship). Fellowships are generally merit-based internal or external awards to support a student in a full-time course of study.

While the term “fellowship” is used by a variety of different programs, generally fellowships:

  • are short-term opportunities lasting from a few months to several years
  • focus on the professional development of the fellow
  • are sponsored by a specific association or organization seeking to expand leadership in their field

Fellowship programs can be designed to support a range of activities including:

  • graduate study in a specific field
  • research to advance work on a particular issue
  • developing a new community-based organization or initiative
  • training and reflection to support the fellow’s growth
  • opportunities to further explore a particular field of work

Fellowships have traditionally been awarded to graduate and post-graduate students, but there are an increasing number of fellowships available to recent college graduates in public policy, the arts, education, and other nonprofit fields.

Recommended: Find Fellowships Here >>

Benefits of a Fellowship

Experiential Learning

Fellowships are structured to provide significant work experiences, and fellows are often expected to take on a great deal of responsibility quickly. Generally, fellows are provided with unique experiences that are not typically available to someone starting out in an entry-level position. This experiential learning component varies depending upon the fellowship program.

Training and Professional Development

Fellowship programs are known for their commitment to the professional development of individual fellows and often include intensive training. Key elements of this training might include:

  • academic seminars to develop frameworks and apply theory
  • in-depth research and analysis of a particular issue area
  • a broad curriculum of skills development: leadership, community organizing, public speaking, grant writing, media relation


Compensation is often considered the biggest drawback of a fellowship. Although most fellowship programs do provide a living allowance or stipend, it is typically not comparable to the salary of a full-time job. This financial compensation varies greatly – stipends can range from $10,000 to up to $25,000 for a 9-12 month program.

Other incentives are often provided to fellows such as healthcare coverage, student loan repayment assistance, and housing stipends.

The Application Process

Although eligibility requirements vary with the fellowship, most programs do look for:

  • motivation, self-direction and personal integrity
  • highly developed interpersonal and writing skills
  • demonstrated leadership and potential for continued leadership

Applications can be extensive and often include a resume, transcript, letters of recommendation and writing sample. Depending on the fellowship, there may be additional application materials required as well.

In addition, the application to most programs includes an interview, either a series of individual interviews, a single panel interview, or situational group interviews in which candidates work together to devise responses to a problem or question.

What are Research Scholarships?

One of the most well-funded international scholarships are research scholarships. Foreign governments fund international research scholarships to establish their countries as global research hubs. Universities set up international research scholarship programs to attract high quality students to contribute to their research efforts. Research scholarships are usually towards Masters by Research/Thesis or PhD Degree.

Recommended: Find Research Scholarships Here >>

What’s the difference between grants, scholarships, and fellowships?

There is very little difference in practice, and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. There are a few minor technical distinctions. Grants are the most inclusive, representing any grant of money in exchange for a prescribed purpose. Scholarships usually refer to grants in support of undergraduate education, and fellowships usually refer to grants in support of post-bachelor’s degree projects, or to pre-bachelor’s degree projects pursued outside the normal curriculum. All scholarships and fellowships are grants. Grants, scholarships, and fellowships do not need to be repaid.

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