FAQ

General

Q: I'd like to meet with a fellowships advisor. How can I do that?

A: Sign up for an appointment during our weekly office hours  during term time in the dining hall. By the middle of the week, we'll post a sign-up sheet beside the fellowships bulletin board, next to the entrance to the JCR. If you want us to look at an essay, CV, or other application materials, make sure to email it to us no later than Saturday night. Make sure to sign up by Saturday if possible. If all the slots are full by Saturday, email us (lohofell@fas) and we'll add more slots. But if you wait until Sunday or Monday to sign up, we won't likely be able to add extra appointment slots, so you'll have to wait until the following week. We are not usually available to meet outside of our office hours, but if you have a conflict like a job interview or concert you're performing in, please contact us to see if we can arrange an alternative meeting.  Note the best time to bring an essay or applicaiton materials is at least a week before the deadline so you have time to integrate in the feedback!

Q: May I send questions to the fellowships advisors via email?

A: Yes. Email is good for brief, factual questions. Don't expect an immediate reply; 2-3 days is typical during term-time, and a week (or sometimes longer) is typical during the summer. If you want to discuss your plans in general, or you want feedback on an application, come see us during office hours. We will give essay feedback via email only during the summer time and only if you are unavailable to meet in person or on the phone.  Questions regarding elligibility or other details of particular grants are best directed to the grant body (in many cases OCS).

Q: What is the Guide to Grants?

A: The Guide to Grants and the online supplement are lists of fellowships published by the Office of Career Services. See the List of Fellowships page for a more detailed description of each.

Q: What things should I do before coming to meet with a fellowships tutor?

A: Before you come speak with us, think through some of your ideas about what you might like to do, and have a look through the List of Fellowships on this website to get some ideas what fellowships you might apply for. Bring a list of questions with you when you come to meet with us.

Q: What kinds of fellowships are out there? How do I find out about them? Which ones should I apply for?

A: There are fellowships for underclassmen and for graduating seniors. There are fellowships for graduate study, for independent projects in a foreign country, for public service, and for a year as a teacher in a foreign country. There are fellowships that fund projects during the summer, other fellowships that fund a year of work, and still others that fund up to four years of study. Some fellowships are for U.S. citizens; some are specific to Harvard students; some have unusual requirements, such as having a Scottish ancestor. Some fellowships require very strong academic records; other don't depend at all on your grades.

In short, there are fellowships for just about everything. Once you have an idea, browse the List of Fellowships on this website to find out about them.

We can't and won't tell you which ones to apply for. But after you've looked at the different fellowship options, we can help you strategize which ones will be the ones that best fit you and your goals, and then we can advise you as you prepare your applications.

Q: I missed a fellowships meeting or infosession. Is there a make-up session, or could I meet with you to get the information I missed?

A: None of the meetings and infosessions have make-up sessions, and we aren't able to meet with each student who is unable to attend these sessions (nor is the OCS fellowships staff). A few infosessions are offered multiple times. But for the most part, you should arrange to have a friend attend, take notes, and collect a set of handouts for you.

Q: I'm applying for summer grants, and many of the applications refer to CARAT. What's the CARAT? Is it different from the applications for these grants?

A: CARAT (Common Application for Research and Travel) is confusing, and students often have many questions about it. The CARAT allows different funding bodies to gather information and then to share information with each other about who was won scholarships and for how much money. Each funding body still has its own application, though obviously some of them direct you to the CARAT in addition.

Can you tell me my chances of winning the fellowship I'm applying for?

A: Generally not. We can help you assess whether you'll be a competitive candidate for particular fellowships. And in a few cases we can give you an idea of how students are applying for how many scholarships. For most fellowships, if we know this sort of thing we put in in the description on the List of Fellowships.


 

Preparing Applications

Q: Can you give me feedback on my fellowship personal statement or proposal?

A: Yes! Please come see us during our office hours. Make sure to send us your essay no later than the day before our appointment.

Q: Will you help me proofread my essay?

A: No. We may point out some errors, but we will read primarily for content and substance. Try reading your essay aloud or reading one sentence or line at a time. We highly recommend getting your family members and/or friends to help you proofread and also to give you feedback on your essays.

Q: My essay exceeds the word limit. Can I submit it as-is? Can you help me cut it down to size?

A: We recommend that you submit essays that do not exceed the word limit. Some students have submitted essays that run over the word limit, though not grossly so (for example 1050-1100 words for a 1000-word personal statement) and still succeeded in the fellowship competition. But that does not mean that a future fellowship committee might choose to enforce the word limit more strictly. We can give you lots of suggestions on how to modify your essays, but we won't go line by line and help you edit down to reach a word limit.

Q: Can you give me feedback on my CV, resume, or activity list for a fellowship application?

A: Yes! One of our former fellowships tutors, Courtney Peterson, has written a brief guide to CV's for Lowell House Fellowships applicants. Email lohofell@fas to get a copy of the guide. Once you've read it and revised your CV according to the suggestions in it, make an appointment to see us during our office hours and we can give you feedback on your CV. Make sure to email it to us no later than the day before you meet with us.

Q: How should I format my application to make it look professional?

A: For CV's or resumes, follow the guidelines in Courtney's guide:

For essays and proposals:

 Use one-inch margins on all sides. (Note that Microsoft Word 2003 and earlier have 1.25" left and right margins as the default. Change them.)

 Make sure that your text is justified against both margins; essays with left-justified text look unprofessional (all journal articles, books, and magazine and newspaper articles have justified text).

 Many essays look good single-spaced with a line of white space in between paragraphs; if you do this, do not indent your paragraphs.

 If you indent paragraphs, use 1/4" indents (Microsoft Word has a default tab stop of 1/2", which makes indents that are much too large).

 Avoid unusual fonts; you can't go wrong with Times New Roman or Garamond. Serif fonts (like Times and Garamond) generally look better when printed; sans-serif fonts like Helvetica generally look better on computer screens. Avoid fixed width fonts like Courier that make it look like you're using a typewriter.


 

Recommendations

Q: Can I get a letter of recommendation from my TF? What about a letter co-signed by the professor and TF?

A: It is acceptable to submit letters from teaching fellows for some fellowships. Some letters written by TF's can be very effective, but it is in most cases much better to submit a letter written by a faculty member. TF-written letters tend to be weaker for four reasons: 1) TF's have a smaller basis of comparison since they have probably taught only a few sections, whereas faculty have in general taught many more students, and often at multiple universities. A strong statement about your academic performance carries more weight if it's coming from someone who's taught hundreds or thousands of students rather than dozens. 2) Professors' opinions carry more weight than graduate students because of their relative stature. 3) TF's are less practiced at writing letters of recommendation. 4) TF's have had few occasions to read letters of recommendation, so they don't have as much of a sense of what makes a letter effective.

One possibility is to have a letter co-signed by a TF and a professor. When it appears that the letter is still written by the TF, this is marginally more effective since it at least indicates that the professor has read the letter and endorses its contents. A better idea would be to ask your professor for a letter, let the professor know who your TF was, and have your TF email the professor to offer some input to the letter. If a professor writes a letter, she might offer her own opinion and also share what your TF says, perhaps by quoting the TF's comments in the letter.

When possible, faculty letters are better. So (pay attention sophomores) make sure that you get to know faculty members! We suggest that you set a goal of getting to know one faculty member each semester. For larger classes, you can do this for example by making an occasional trip to office hours or by inviting a professor to the faculty dinner at Lowell House.

Q: Does it matter whether my recommender is a full professor, assistant professor, or lecturer?

A: No. You should choose recommenders who will write you the strongest letters. Letters from assistant professors are very unlikely to carry less weight than letters from full professors. Also, a letter from a famous professor who isn't familiar with your work is much less effective than a letter from an assistant professor who has read your work and perhaps also interacted with you in class or lab. A strong letter from a famous professor (or someone known personally by a selection committee member) is likely to be very effective, but most fellowship winners have no such thing.

Q: Is it a good idea to get letters of recommendation from coaches, work supervisors, or research PI's?

A: In most cases, yes. Letters from people who have supervised you in some context can be very effective. However, it depends on the application. If you are applying to graduate school, a letter from your coach may not be as effective as an additional letter from a professor in your field. For rigorous academic fellowships, there's nothing wrong with submitting letters entirely from faculty members who've taught you at Harvard. But if you are submitting three or more letters of recommendation, it is often nice to have one of your letters be from a coach or summer boss to speak to other aspects of your accomplishments.

Q: Is it a good idea to get letters of recommendation from concentration advisors, freshman/sophomore advisors, or resident tutors? What about family friends and other people who know me well?

A: It depends, but generally not. The most effective letters come from people who have first-hand exposure to your accomplishments. That includes professors who have read and graded your work, and/or seen your contributions in section. It also includes coaches, research supervisors, and your boss at a summer job. These people have seen what you produce and they have been in a position to evaluate it. In contrast, your tutors and concentration advisors are likely people with whom you talk about what you're doing, but they don't get the same level of exposure to it, and they don't have the chance to compare you to your classmates, teammates, or co-workers. For almost all fellowships, it is much more important to have referees who know your work. It's much less effective to have referees whom you just feel know you well. There are some exceptions to this, such as PRISE and summer school proctorships, for which the applications request a letter from someone who can speak to the way you act in a residential community like Lowell House. But in most cases, references that are primarily character references will be weaker letters.

Q: Can I have a peer write a letter? What if my main activity has been Model UN or the Crimson and faculty members can't attest to my accomplishments?

A: Letters from peers are not likely to be considered, so we advise you not to submit them unless you have some very exceptional circumstance. Many students--probably a majority of students--devote a large amount of time to extracurricular activities in which there is no supervisor (aside from another student) who can attest to the student's accomplishments. That's not a big problem, and you won't be disadvantaged because other students will be in the same situation. You can highlight your contributions in your CV, and if it fits with your proposal you can elaborate on them in your essay. You may also get a chance to speak about them in an interview. For Marshall, Rhodes, and Mitchell Scholarships, it is also possible for these to be discussed in more depth in your institutional endorsement letter.

Q: How should I go about asking someone for a letter of recommendation? How much notice should I give, what materials should I provide, and how can I do this politely?

A: Just email your professor or ask her in person. (Asking by email is just fine; there's no need to wait until you can speak in person.) If appropriate, remind her the context in which she knows you (e.g., "I took your Science A-45 course last spring"), explain what you're applying for, and let her know the deadline. Once your referee agrees, it may be helpful to send a copy of your resume, transcript if appropriate, and a draft of your essay and/or proposal. (Some recommenders find that very helpful; others won't use it at all.) Include very clear instructions regarding when and where to submit the letter. If the letter is to be submitted directly to the fellowship committee, it is very helpful to provide a stamped, addressed envelope (this also makes sure that the address gets filled in correctly). For fellowship competitions administered by OCS, you can just get a University Mail envelope from the superintendent's office or your department secretary. Sometimes, a professor will just put her letter in an envelope, seal it, sign across the seal, and return the letter to you to submit along with your parts of the application. This is a common practice, so it won't be unusual if a professor hands her letter to you in an envelope (they trust you not to open it), and don't feel bad asking for it.

It is polite to request your letter at least two weeks before she has to submit your letter. 3-4 weeks is preferable. If you ask less than two weeks before the deadline, be very apologetic and realize that you are calling in a favor (the exception to this is when the professor has previously written you a letter and can use the same one with little to no modification).

Have your professor notify you when the letter is submitted! It is definitely acceptable (and usually very necessary) to remind your professor several times during the days prior to the deadline. A few faculty do these well in advance, but most don't.

Q: I asked my professor or supervisor for a letter, and she told me to draft one and bring it to her to sign. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? What should I do?

A: This is a bad thing, and you should either try to convince this person to write the letter herself, or else you should probably find someone else to write you a letter. The letter will likely be weak because the most valuable things that a professor or supervisor can write in a letter are probably things that you won't even know to write. In addition, if the letter doesn't seem genuine to the committee that's reading it, your entirely application will be viewed more skeptically. For faculty members, it is part of their job to write letters of recommendation for students; a professor who asks you to write a letter is being irresponsible. If your professor asks you to write the letter, you can push back and say that you think it would actually be much better if she wrote it herself. But if it seems like she isn't willing to do so, or is likely to write a brief and cursory letter, then you should seek a letter from someone else.

Q: Is it OK to get a recommendation from one of my high school teachers or someone else I worked with before coming to Harvard?

A: Generally not, unless you did something of national significance (e.g., published research) during high school. In any case, recommendations should attest to things you have accomplished since coming to college. And letters from high school teachers will be even less effective because your referee will be comparing you to a cohort of 17-year-olds.

Q: What is the House file and how do I use it?

A: There is a file in the Lowell House office where you can save copies of letters recommendations that have been written for you. Here's how it works:

1) Print out the "Request for Recommendation" form from the Fellowships Resources page, fill out the appropriate section, and give it to your recommender, along with a university mail envelope addressed to Lowell House Office, 10 Holyoke Pl.

2) Your recommender will fill out her section of the form and attach her letter to it. Keep in mind that this letter is just a copy of a letter that your recommender is submitting for some other purpose; this doesn't constitute submitting the letter to anything.

3) At some point in the future, if you would like a photocopy of that letter used for another purpose, you can use this form to have the House office mail a hard copy of the letter to an address that you specify.


The best way to use the file is to have every recommender send a copy of her letter to the House file whenever you request a letter. That way, the letters remain archived and accessible for eventual future use. Putting letters in your House file is also useful for House tutors who may be assisting you with fellowship applications.

Even if there is an old letter from your recommender on file in the House office, you should always contact your recommender and ask him or her to send a fresh copy to the selection committee. Letters that are addressed and tailored to a specific competition are always better received. (It will be of limited value, for example, to send a photocopy of a letter addressed "Dear Phi Beta Kappa Selection Committee" to the selection committee for the Fulbright Scholarship.) Sending a photocopy of an old file letter should only be a last resort; in fact, some fellowships committees may even refuse to accept such a letter.

Q: I feel bad about asking the same professors for lots of letters. Should I ask someone else to write letters to prevent it from being too burdensome?

A: No! Professors don't feel bad when you keep asking them for letters (and that's part of their job). Besides, most of the time is spent actually writing the letter. Once the letter is written, it takes very little time for a professor to change the name of the program for which you are applying, print it, sign it, and mail it. For each application, ask whomever you think will write you the best letter for that fellowship application.

Q: Should I do anything to thank the people who write letters for me?

A: Yes! Write hand-written thank you notes, and deliver them promptly. Sometimes students give small gifts, but that's not at all necessary; just a simple card or note is great.


 

Eligibility

Q: Can I get a fellowship as a sophomore?

A: Yes, you certainly can win a fellowship as a sophomore. There are fellowships for summer research and travel, which are definitely open to and often geared especially for sophomores. Have a look at the List of Fellowships on this website for fellowships for which you might be eligible.

Q: Are my grades high enough to win a fellowship?

A: It depends on your grades and on the fellowship. Some fellowships, such as the Churchill and Marshall, have strict GPA requirements; these apply regardless of your in-concentration GPA and regardless of what university you attend. If you fall below the threshold, you aren't eligible. Other fellowships, including most of Harvard's fellowships to the U.K., are rigorous academic fellowships that generally require roughly a 3.7 or higher but don't have a strict cut-off. Still others, like traveling fellowships, public service fellowships, and most summer grants don't depend strongly on your grades at all. Read about the descriptions in the List of Fellowships and see whether you think you're eligible. If you have any doubts, contact us.

Q: My last semester at Harvard will be in the fall rather than the spring. Do I count as a junior or as a senior?

A: If, during the spring semester, you plan to return to Harvard in the fall, then you should be eligible for all the fellowships for underclassmen (even if they say they're for sophomores and juniors, they're generally open to students who are returning to Harvard after the summer, but check with the scholarship administrators to confirm). Regarding fellowships for graduating seniors: these fellowships fund a full year of study, work, or travel, so you should be able to begin your tenure as a fellow starting in the fall. That means you would apply in the fall, during your final semester at Harvard, for a fellowship that would begin the following fall. (Pretty much all of the deadlines for fellowships for graduating seniors fall during the fall term. If the fellowship deadline falls in the spring term and thus you will already have graduated, check with the fellowship administrator directly.)

Q: I'm doing a master's during my fourth year at Harvard. Do I still count as an undergraduate?

A: Yes. If you intend to remain at Harvard for four years, you count as a junior during your third year and as a senior during your fourth year. (Also, your A.B. and A.M. are awarded simultaneously at Commencement.)

Q: I have advanced standing and I'm planning to graduate in three years. Do I still count as senior?

A: Yes. If you intend to remain at Harvard for three years, you count as a senior for your final year and should be eligible for all of Harvard's fellowships for graduating seniors.


 

Marshall and Rhodes Scholarships

Q: What kind of grades do I need to be competitive for these fellowships?

A: The Marshall Scholarship requires a 3.70 or higher; a very significant majority of winners have above a 3.85. For the Rhodes, Harvard usually says that about a 3.7 or higher is necessary, but in practice a 3.8 or higher is needed in most cases to have a chance at being invited to interview.  No one with less than a 3.8 has won in the last 5+ years.

Q: When do I need to start my application?

A: Ideally, you should begin the process before you leave Cambridge at the end of your junior year. Before you depart for the summer, speak with the fellowships advisors and with faculty members. During the end of the semester and the first part of the summer, figure out which degree program you want to pursue. And by mid-summer, you should be working on an essay. To ensure sufficient time to obtain feedback and revise, aim to complete a good first draft before the end of July.

Q: Should I apply in my home region/district or in the Boston region (Marshall) or District 2 (Rhodes)?

A: For these competitions, you can apply either in the region where you attend school or the region where you live. All regions/districts are extremely competitive, and it's impossible to predict whether you'll have better chances by applying in one region compared to another. That said, there are several factors to consider. One is cost. Marshall pays for transportation to your interview; Rhodes applicants are responsible for paying their own way (Harvard doesn't reimburse you, though I don't know that anyone's ever asked). Another factor to consider is time: If you're invited to interview, it will be in mid-November, when you're quite busy with other things. You have the choice of flying across the country to interview or taking a 10-minute ride on the T or in a cab. Finally, you might consider the competition. There are great students in every district, but if you apply in the Boston region or District 2, many of the students competing against you will be your peers at Harvard. The selection committees don't have qualms about choosing multiple people from the same school, but you might not want to be in direct competition with your classmates. The one area in which you might be disadvantaged is at the endorsement round. Harvard always has many more students applying from Massachusetts than from other regions, so you may face stiffer competition at the endorsement round if you don't apply from your home district.

Q: I'm planning just to apply for the Marshall or just for the Rhodes. Is that a good idea, or should I apply for both of them?

A: In nearly all cases, we advise you to apply for both the Marshall and the Rhodes. All Rhodes applicants should certainly apply for the Marshall unless they have below a 3.70 (in which case they're unlikely to be competitive for the Rhodes anyway). Marshall applicants should apply for the Rhodes only if there's a suitable program at Oxford that interests them. Even if you think you're better suited for one program rather than another, it's worth putting your hat in the ring for both because the chances of winning either of them are so low. We know people who've won a Rhodes who seem more like Marshall candidates and vice versa.

Q: Can I edit my application after submitting it to Harvard for endorsement?

A: Yes. This is a good time to proofread and make final edits. However, you should not count on this period as a time to get your application in good shape; if it isn't already very strong by this point, you are unlikely to be endorsed. If you change your proposed course of study, it is essential to notify your fellowships tutor.

Q: Are there any restrictions for the Marshall on where I can study?

A: You may study at any university in the U.K.; however, if your first choice university is Cambridge, Oxford, or LSE then your second choice university may not be any of those three. This information cannot be found in the Rules for Candidates or Memorandum of Guidance on the Marshall website; this rule is only stated in the official, online Marshall application. If your first and second choice universities don't fit these guidelines, you are unlikely to be endorsed by Harvard. Also, you need read carefully on the Marshall website what degrees they will fund; in the past, they have not funded study toward a second B.A. or an MBA.

Q: How rigorous is Harvard's endorsement process?

A: Very. Only about 40-50% of Harvard's applicants receive university endorsement. Applications must be strong, polished, and thoroughly motivated. Applications that have not undergone extensive editing are unlikely to receive endorsement. Even if you have are a varsity athlete and junior Phi Beta Kappa member with a 3.95 GPA, you should not take endorsement for granted. If a student like that submitted a hastily written essay or something little more than a narrative form of her CV, then she would be unlikely to be endorsed.

Q: What do the Rhodes folks mean by "activities list"?

A: It's essentially a CV with the education section omitted; the key is that you need to describe each of your activities and your role in them. All this is thoroughly described in the CV guide written by former fellowships tutor Courtney Peterson, which is available upon request by emailing lohofell@fas.harvard.edu.

Q: How hard is it to get a third year of funding?

A: Students pursuing Ph.D.'s are granted third-year funding nearly automatically. Students pursuing other degrees still have a good chance of obtaining funding for a third year, but it is not guaranteed.


 

Fulbright Grants

Q: The Fulbright application procedure seems really complicated. What are the main parts of the application process?

A: About a month before the deadline, students must submit an "intent to apply" statement to OCS (ocsgrant@fas). This should be a rough draft of your proposal, about 1/2 to 1 page long (your full draft may be up to 1000 words).

Then, your full application, including letters of recommendation, is due in the OCS fellowships office in September. You will then be scheduled for an interview with a member of the Harvard faculty; these interviews tend to be very cordial and are not high-stress. Following the interview, OCS will write up an evaluation of your application and submit it to the national Fulbright committee along with your application. Everyone who applies gets forwarded on to the national round. We have no idea how much weight the U.S. Fulbright committee puts on Harvard's evaluation of your application.

The U.S. Fulbright committee will create shortlists of applicants, whose applications are then forwarded to the appropriate host country. You will be notified of your status in the competition at this point. If you make it to the host country round, in most cases you have about a 50% chance of winning a grant.

Finally, the host countries will determine the winners and you will be notified. This rarely happens before April and may not occur until June.

Q: Can I edit my application after submitting it for the Harvard round?

A: Yes. You are welcome to continue editing your application before the national submission deadline. However, Harvard's evaluation will be based only on the materials you submitted by the Harvard deadline. If you change what it is that you're proposing to do, you must contact your fellowships tutors.

Q: What do they mean by curriculum vitae? I've heard that this isn't a typical CV or resume.

A: What the Fulbright folks mean by curriculum vitae is an intellectual autobiography: what are your interests, and how did they develop. That is, it's more of a personal statement. The Fulbright committee wants you to include all the usual components of application essays: what do you want to do, why do you want to do it, how does it fit in with what you've done before, what motivates you, what do you see yourself contributing in the future, etc. For the Fulbright, you can spread out your essay into two statements, the 1000-word proposal and the 500-word personal statement. Due to the length constraints, some of things you would ordinarily put in a personal statement will inevitably have to spill out into the proposal statement instead; that's fine.

Q: What are my chances of winning? Are teaching grants less competitive than full grants?

A: We can't tell you offhand, but on the Fulbright website, you should be able to find competition statistics for the most recent year: you can see how many applications were received and how many grants were given for each type of grant and destination country.


 

U.K. Fellowships

Q: How do I figure out what are the good programs in the U.K. in my field?

A: The best resource are your faculty members here at Harvard. Talk to your professors and get their advice about which universities have good reputations in your field, which graduate programs they're familiar with and what they think of them, and which faculty members you might consider working with. Try to see if there are any faculty members in your department who are British or studied in the U.K. You might also find it very helpful to speak with graduate students in your department who are British or studied in the U.K.; ask the department administrator or graduate student coordinator in your department. Finally, there are a few resources on the web, such as the Research Assessment Exercise, which you can find on the Fellowships Resources page of this website.

Q: Should I contact people I want to work with?

A: Yes, definitely. It is important for you to establish that you can work with the faculty members of your choice (and that they will be remaining at your choice of university, instead of moving or taking a sabbatical); this is both to ensure that you'll have a satisfying educational experience and to show the selection committee that your proposed course of study is feasible.

If you are planning to do a Ph.D., it is critical to arrange an advisor in advance. Unlike most Ph.D. programs in the U.S. (in which you are admitted to the program without having a thesis supervisor), in the U.K. you are admitted to the program to work with someone in particular. So to get admitted, you need to have found an advisor who is willing to take you on. As a top Harvard student who would be coming with your own funding, you should have some good options.

Unless you already have contacts in the U.K., you'll just have to email professors out of the blue. Introduce yourself, give a brief overview of your background, explain that you're applying for a fellowship and hoping to study in their department, and express interest in working with them. You might ask whether they'll be taking students to work on projects that you're interested in. Not all professors will reply, and even fewer will reply promptly, so email several of them and leave yourself plenty of time to wait for replies.

Q: Do I also have to apply directly to the graduate school or program?

A: In almost all cases, yes. The scholarship or fellowship provides funding, but you must still get admitted to the graduate program. Thus, you must make sure that you meet the requirements for the graduate program. This is not to be taken for granted: a few programs have very high GPA minimums (studying international relations at Oxford may require a GPA around 3.85 or higher). This is especially important if you had a less-specialized concentration like Social Studies, or you're planning to do a graduate degree in a field that's different from your undergraduate concentration: many British graduate programs expect you to have the equivalent background to someone with a solid undergraduate degree in that discipline, so you should check with that department to ensure that you meet the requirements before you invest a whole lot of time in the application.

A few fellowships don't require you to obtain admission to a degree program. This includes the Harlech, which gives you visiting student status at Oxford, and the Harvard-Cambridge, which will fund a degree program but does not require you to enroll in one.

Q: What is the deadline for my program? If there are several application dates (may be called "gathered fields") or rolling admissions, is it fine to apply at any time?

A: The deadlines vary by university and program. Check them carefully to make sure you don't miss any deadlines. We recommend that you apply well ahead of the deadlines. For programs with several deadlines ("gathered fields"), don't wait until the last one. Whenever possible, submit your applications no later than December, or in January if that's not possible. The longer you wait, the fewer open slots there are in your choice of program, the longer you will have to wait to hear whether you get admitted, and the less chance you have of getting into the College of your choice. If you apply in November, you may have an admission letter and College acceptance in December or early January. If you wait until late January, you may not get admitted until April and you may not get a college placement until June or July.

Q: What's meant by "College" at Cambridge and Oxford?

A: Harvard's Houses are based on the Colleges of Cambridge and Oxford, but with a few important differences. For one, all students--including graduate students--are affiliated with a College, so there is a Middle Combination Room (postgrads) as well as a JCR (undergrads) and SCR (the fellows: postdocs and faculty). Second, there are more of them: 31 at Cambridge, and a comparable number at Oxford. Third, the Colleges choose their own students. For postgraduate programs, students are first admitted to a degree program and then their applications are considered by their preferred Colleges (in order); if you're admitted to the degree program, you are guaranteed admission to a College, but not necessarily one that you specify. Undergraduates, however, apply directly to and are admitted by the Colleges, each of which conduct their interviews separately. This leads to quite a bit more distinctiveness among the Colleges even than Harvard's Houses before randomization. Fourth, the Colleges play more of an academic role than do Harvard's Houses. Undergraduates have tutors (who supervise them in one-on-one or small-group lessons) who are postgraduate students or fellows of that College. Thus, it makes sense to say that Trinity College, Cambridge is an excellent place to study maths. Fifth, the Colleges have significant disparities in resources. Some of them have more and higher quality accommodation, and/or more subsidized housing and meals. But the Colleges also have very different atmospheres. Some have very little interaction between the students and fellows (typical of older, richer Colleges) while others have much more (typical of newer Colleges and grad Colleges).

Q: How competitive are Harvard's U.K. fellowships? What kind of grades do I need?

A: Most of them are very competitive. All except the Harvard-Cambridge explicitly require a strong academic record. For the Knox/Henry/von Clemm/Herchel Smith (non-science) and for the Eben Fiske, a 3.7 or higher is probably needed to be competitive. For the Paul Williams, perhaps a 3.6 or higher. For the Herchel Smith, at least a 3.5, but in-concentration GPA should be higher. The Harvard-Cambridge doesn't have a minumum GPA. Most but all winners have very strong academic records. The selection committee gives strong consideration to students whose academic performance has improved significantly over the course of their time at Harvard.


 

Traveling Fellowships

Q: What is a traveling fellowship?

A: Traveling fellowships are a strange and wonderful opportunity found, as far as we know knowledge, only at Harvard. It's a grant to fund a year of purposeful travel in a foreign country. We realize that "purposeful travel" is pretty vague. It means that you don't have a job and you're not studying for a degree, but you still have some goal or project that you intend to pursue during your year. They give you somewhere around $15,000 - $20,000 to last you for at least 9-10 months.

"Traveling fellowship" is also a misleading shorthand: winners travel to their destination countries, but not so much once they're there. These fellowships support a year of immersion in a foreign culture, which you achieve by engaging with the host community in some way. You're not limited to staying in one city or region, but you're expected not to be itinerant nor engaging superficially as a tourist might.

Your proposal is important because it needs to demonstrate your genuine interest in your destination country and frame your time there, describing what you will do and how you will interact with people. But the selection committee will fund you not because they think your proposal is important or meritorious, but because they think you stand to gain from the experience. They expect this to be a time of significant personal growth and reflection.

It's OK if you're planning to go on to med or law school afterward; it's also OK if you're not yet sure what you want to do and this year away will help you figure it out. But to convince the committee to fund you, you'll have to give them much more reason than wanting a gap year or being uncertain of your career path.

Q: What is the House nomination process for the Gardner/Shaw/Sheldon/Trustman and Christian/Segal traveling fellowships, and how seriously should I take it?

Please note that House evaluation is no longer required starting with the 2009-2010 school year.

Q: What is the evaluation component of the application? How do I got about getting one and submitting it?

Please note that House evaluation letter is not required starting with the 2009-2010 school year.

Q: Can I use this evaluation as a letter of recommendation for something else?

Please note that House evaluation letter is not required starting with the 2009-2010 school year.

Q: I'm a sophomore or junior planning to take a year off. Are there any fellowships that will fund travel during my time away from Harvard?

A: Not that we're aware of. There are certainly fellowships that fund projects during the summer, but we don't know of any fellowships that will fund students who are on leave from Harvard. Look through the Guide to Grants and see whether there's anything that fits the bill. If you find one that seems promising, let us know and we'll put it in our List of Fellowships.


 

Graduate School

Q: Do I need a fellowship in order to do a Ph.D.?

A: No. If you're going for a Ph.D., you should expect not to pay tuition and to receive a stipend that will at least cover your living expenses (somewhere around $20,000/year, plus or minus a few thousand; in science, engineering, or economics it may be closer to $30,000). This money will come from one or a combination of these three primary sources:

 Teaching assistantships

 Research assistantships

 Fellowships


A teaching assistantship (TA, or, at Harvard, TF) means that you teach part-time--typically 2 sections/semester, or 20 hours/week--and take classes and/or do research during the rest of your time. This is the default option if you don't have a fellowship and your advisor doesn't have money to pay for you (which is something that usually happens only in fields like experimental sciences, engineering, and economics.)

A research assistantship (RA) means that your research advisor pays your tuition and stipend out of her grant money. An RA allows you to spend all your time on research. The only potential drawback is that it's tied to that advisor (for that term) and that your advisor may have enough to pay for some students but not all.

A fellowship gives you the most options. Your pay isn't tied to any particular activity, so you have maximum flexibility in whom you work with and how you structure your time. Some fellowships pay stipends that are a bit higher than an RA or a TA. Fellowships may come from outside sources, but some departments and universities may also have fellowships to offer their students.

(n.b.: Sometimes you also need separate support for summer work since TA's may not be available. This isn't something you need to worry about right now. Similarly, you don't need to worry about how much any given school will pay you until you've been admitted.)

Q: Are there fellowships that will fund professional school?

A: Very, very few. The Soros, Merage, and Jack Kent Cooke are among the ones that will. See the List of Fellowships page for more details. Most law and medical students pay with loans or with their own assets.

Q: Are there fellowships that will fund masters programs in the U.S.?

A: Very few. Some master's degrees come with funding or allow you to teach to support yourself. But many expect students to pay, and there aren't very many fellowships available. The few we know about are described in the List of Fellowships.

Q: I'm not a U.S. Citizen. Are there any fellowships I'm eligible for?

A: As far as we know, the only national fellowship for which you are eligible is the Jack Kent Cooke Fellowship. But you are probably eligible for whatever fellowships are offered by the universities to which you are applying, and in any case if you're applying for Ph.D.'s you will almost certainly get funding without needing a fellowship, as we explain above.


 

Mitchell Scholarship

Q: Who is the institutional endorser?

A: The letters are signed by our Housemaster, Diana Eck, and the Dean of Harvard College. We will also need to see your other letters of recommendation, so you should contact your referees and have them email copies of their letters to the fellowships tutors (lohofell@fas.harvard.edu) as soon they can.

Q: Do they really have their interviews on the same day as the Rhodes Scholarship interviews?

A: Yes. The Mitchell committee wants students who are committed to accepting a Mitchell Scholarship if offered one rather than students who see it as a second choice if they don't win a Rhodes.