Frequently Asked Questions
- What is an institutional endorsement?
- What is a nomination?
- When should I start looking into fellowships?
- How long is the application process?
- What is a "mock" interview?
- How many drafts should I prepare of my personal
- Who should read my personal statement?
- How often should I meet with the Fellowships Office?
- I'm studying abroad. Can I apply for a fellowship? How?
- What is the difference between an internal and official
- Does it matter whether I apply from New York or my home
- How do I go about researching my program of study
- Can a TA write a letter of recommendation for me?
- I've just learned of a fellowship that I'm interested in, but
the deadline for the application is quite soon. Should I apply?
- Whose responsibility is it to get recommendation letters to the
fellowship granting organization?
- Do I really have to be a varsity athlete to apply for a Rhodes
- Does the Office of Fellowships help people get money for unpaid
internships with corporations, non-governmental organizations, professors,
laboratories, or political figures?
- How firm are the minimum grade point average requirements for
scholarships that list them?
- Can the office put me in touch with recent Columbia winners of
- Does the Office of Fellowships assist recent alumni who wish to
- What is an institutional
An institutional endorsement means that a fellowship
applicant is submitting their application with the official approval of their college
or university, administered through our office. An institutional endorsement usually
indicates that a fellowship nominee has gone through an internal selection process
here at Columbia. Certain fellowships require institutional endorsement. This
generally means that a university official writes the institutional letter of support
on behalf of the candidate. Students cannot apply without that official letter of
- What is a nomination?
nomination indicates that a student has been selected by their institution to go
forward in the competition from a general pool of applicants. A nominated student may
be the same as a finalist, depending on the terms of the fellowship selection
process. Certain fellowships require a "nomination" process. This means that Columbia
University does a preliminary selection among the applicant pool and nominates
candidates not exceeding the number allowed by the fellowship (numbers may vary
according to state or region).
- When should I start looking
It's never too early to begin the fellowship process! Once
you begin to consider your post-graduation options, look into the different programs
and opportunities that are offered. As a sophomore, you should begin honing your
interests and investigating possible fellowship opportunities. Even as a first-year,
however, you can prepare for possible fellowships by doing well in your courses,
exploring a wide variety of fields, building relationships with faculty, and meeting
with your Fellowship advisors.
- How long is the application
Most fellowship applicants work for six to nine months prior to the
deadline. (Some fellowships liken the application process to enrolling in a
three-point course.) While the schedule varies for each fellowship, you may attend a
series of information sessions and writing workshops. The most important component of
the process - and the lengthiest - is the writing and rewriting of your personal
- What is a "mock"
Once you have been selected as a fellowship finalist, you will be
invited to one or more "mock" interviews to better prepare you for the actual
interview. Before a panel of faculty, previous winners, and Fellowship staff, you
will go through a simulated fellowship interview followed by a constructive
conversation about your performance.
- How many drafts should I
prepare of my personal statement?The quick answer: as many as you need!
While no applicant goes through the same process, most will end up writing 10-12
drafts before the final version is produced. Each draft ends up exploring different
narratives, different techniques, and different emphases. The process of rethinking
and revising will help you hone your focus and strengthen the application as a whole.
The fruit of your labors is a statement that demonstrates both your intellectual
maturation and the development of your persuasive skills.
- Who should read my personal
When it comes to reading and editing the personal statement, the
more eyes, the better. Submit your work to the Fellowships Office, and also ask your
friends, parents, professors, and mentors to read it. They will let you know if it
truly reflects who you are, and clearly defines where you want to go and why. Other
readers will be able to spot areas in need of improvement that may escape your
- How often should I meet with
the Fellowships Office?
As you prepare your personal statement, you should
meet with us to edit and revise each new draft you complete. Feel free to contact the
Fellowships Office whenever you have any fellowship-related questions or concerns.
Even if you don't have updated drafts, you should remain in regular contact with the
- I'm studying abroad. Can I
apply for a fellowship? How?
Even if you're studying abroad, you can still
apply for fellowships. If you are leaving before the process begins, contact us
before your departure so that you can get all the relevant information. If you are
abroad when you decide to apply, email us and we can send you information and begin
working with you.
- What is the difference
between an internal and official deadline?
An official fellowship deadline is
the date established by the fellowship foundation for the receipt of all application
materials. An internal deadline is the date set by the Fellowships Office to receive
the completed application, including letters of recommendation, transcripts, and the
final version of the personal statement. The internal deadline is required so that
the Office can select Columbia's nominees or collate and send the application
materials. Both internal and official deadlines are set in stone.
- Does it matter whether I
apply from New York or my home state?
Some fellowships include a regional
application process, and you may have the choice to apply from either your home state
or New York, where you are attending college. The Fellowships Office will work with
each applicant to determine the best state from which to apply, considering your own
strengths and the characteristics of the regional competition.
- How do I go about
researching my program of study abroad?
To determine which international
school is best for you, begin your search on the Web, using some of the resources
listed on this site. Go to the universities' own websites to learn more about their
curricula and pedagogy, and perhaps most importantly, contact faculty with whom you
would like to work, both in your department here and in the schools you are
researching. Professors are open to your communication and are often happy to learn
about your research interests and offer their own guidance and suggestions. The
Fellowship staff will also put you in contact with previous winners.
- Can a TA write a letter of
recommendation for me?
It is always preferable for a professor to write your
letter of recommendation. Professors who have taught undergraduates for a number of
years have a larger context in which to place an applicant, and can offer a
perspective that a graduate student cannot. The Fellowship Office works with
applicants to determine the most appropriate roster of recommendation writers for
- I’ve just learned of a
fellowship that I’m interested in, but the deadline for the application is
quite soon. Should I apply?
The answer depends upon the fellowship in
question. You may be applying for something that requires relatively little
information, only one recommendation, and a brief essay. In this case, it may not be
too late. If, on the other hand, the fellowship requires eight letters of
recommendation, university endorsement, a research proposal, and personal statement,
it would be too late. Experience has shown that it takes six to nine months to put
together a first-rate application. What may be the best course of action is to make
winning the fellowship a goal for the following year, in which case you will have
given yourself the valuable and necessary time to assemble the best application
possible. Always check with the Office of Fellowships if you are in doubt and we will
be happy to advise you accordingly.
- Whose responsibility is it
to get recommendation letters to the fellowship granting organization?
responsibility is yours. An application may stipulate that you have your recommenders
submit their letters on-line. In this case, you should familiarize yourself with
those procedures so that you can explain the process to the faculty member or
employer in question. Oftentimes when the recommendation is asked for on-line, the
foundation will send instructions to the recommender as well. If a paper
recommendation is required, please be sure that you give your recommender all
necessary cover sheets, the correct contact person to whom the letter should be
addressed, the correct number of copies asked for by the foundation, and the relevant
deadlines. Regardless of the method required for submitting a recommendation, we ask
that you also have the recommender send a hard copy to the Office of Fellowships. We
keep that on file in case there are any problems with the submission.
- Do I really have to be a
varsity athlete to apply for a Rhodes Scholarship?
No. In the past, it was
expected that Rhodes Scholars would have attained high athletic achievements either
with a college team or as an individual during their university career. Now, the
Rhodes Trust asks that students demonstrate their “energy to use [their]
talents to the full, as exemplified by fondness for and success in sports.” The
key here is that you have an active lifestyle which embodies this notion of using
your talents and gifts to the utmost.
- Does the Office of
Fellowships help people get money for unpaid internships with corporations,
non-governmental organizations, professors, laboratories, or political
No, we do not. Fellowships and Scholarships are almost always
granted so that individuals can pursue scholarship or research of one kind or
another. For information on how to obtain an internship that would provide valuable
work experience, we encourage you to contact the Center for Career Education on
- How firm are the minimum
grade point average requirements for scholarships that list them?
quite firm. If a fellowship lists 3.50 as the cut off, they will not consider
applicants who fall below that requirement, regardless of individual circumstances,
strength of undergraduate education, or justifications for a particularly low grade
or weaker semester. Some of the most competitive scholarships fail to list a specific
minimum grade point average, expressing their desire for candidates with excellent
our outstanding academic performance. These kinds of parameters usually mean that you
should have at least a 3.80 or higher.
- Can the office put me in
touch with recent Columbia winners of various fellowships?
Yes, we can and
are happy to do so when the winner or recent applicant has expressed a willingness to
talk to current students. Please enquire with our office and we’ll do
everything in our power to connect you with those individuals. Please also keep an
eye on our calendar for information about recent winners coming back to share their
experiences on campus throughout the year.
- Does the Office of
Fellowships assist recent alumni who wish to apply?
Yes, we do. 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. We offer
all of the same resources to recent alumni that we do to current students, so please
don’t hesitate to ask for our assistance and guidance if you have already
graduated, but are still interested in national and international fellowships.