Cornell University

Applying for Fellowships

Every fellowship has its own application form. However, fellowship selection committees generally ask for:

  • a transcript and extracurricular record
  • two or more letters of recommendation
  • a personal statement

For more competitive fellowships, you may also be asked for:

  • a project proposal or plan of study
  • an interview

What makes a strong application?

In a strong application, the separate components of the application fit together well, and offer a convincing composite picture of your strengths.

Your application may be compared to hundreds of others. It will likely be read by several groups of people during the selection process. To ensure that you are conveying the impression you intend, consult with as many people as possible as you put together your application package. A strong application will stand out from the crowd, and will impress a variety of people.

Who is available to help and advise?

There are many people available to help you put together an effective application package.

  • The Fellowships Coordinator, Beth Fiori, in 103 Barnes Hall can offer advice, application strategy tips, and mock interviews.
  • The essay(s) are the most important part of your application.  Plan on writing at least two drafts over several weeks and requesting feedback on the drafts from more than one person.  Ask one or two of your professors to read your drafts.  Bring your work to the Knight Institute Writing Workshop (link) for advice.  Ask one of your First-Year Writing Seminar instructors for feedback. 
  • Faculty in your field can do more than write letters of recommendation. They may have experience sitting on fellowship selection committees, and be able to give you an "insider's" point of view. Get their advice on which fellowships to target. Ask them to critique your personal statement. Ask if they are in contact with former students who have won one of the fellowships you're targeting.

Special Notes on Prestigious Fellowships

If you have a GPA of 3.5 or higher, you may be eligible for one or more Prestigious Fellowships. In addition to an outstanding academic record, prestigious fellowship applicants should have made their mark in one or more other ways. Substantial intellectual or creative projects, evidence of leadership or public service, and strong, detailed faculty letters of recommendation are essential to compete for these awards. Several of these fellowships require official endorsement from Cornell, which entails an additional on-campus selection process.