Frequently Asked Questions

Fellowships

Each scholarship requires a different number of recommendation letters ranging from 3-8.

After the internal campus deadline, your application will be reviewed by a committee and you will be notified if your application will move forward.  If you receive a nomination to move forward, you will be given 1-3 weeks (depending on the scholarship) to make any necessary revisions that the committee suggests to strengthen your application. You will then need to resubmit your application incorporating suggested revisions and then you will officially receive MSU’s endorsement to apply externally.  The NIFS office will work with you to mail and/or upload all application materials and supporting documents to the foundation’s website.  

The degrees that you can obtain from UK universities are equivalent to what you can earn from a U.S. institution and valued the same.  Many universities in the UK are known to be very prestigious educational institutions and some can be compared to U.S. Ivy league schools.  However, both countries share a rich tradition of quality higher education, excellent research facilities, and a culture that promotes intellectualism as well as academic freedom. However, while both certainly provide an excellent environment for learning, there are many differences between the two countries regarding the structure of the university as well as student life. 

In general, degree programs in the US take about one year longer than programs in the UK, although this varies depending upon whether you receive a Master’s degree prior to a PhD. In both systems, you can go directly to a PhD program out of your undergraduate program, but in the UK it is more common to complete a Master’s degree program before moving on to a PhD. Courses of study are shorter in the UK because the course programs are generally much more focused than in the US. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. 

Yes. You should apply for any of the awards that are right for someone with your background and interests.

Most nominees who make a commitment to the competition and accept guidance from their faculty advisors

  • clarify their career goals;
  • get a better sense of the most appropriate graduate studies for them;
  • become more aware of their strengths, interests, and ways to prepare for their career;
  • improve their writing skills and, if they become finalists, enhance their interviewing skills;
  • get a head start in preparing applications for graduate education and other scholarship competitions;
  • have an experience for learning and personal growth that is not normally possible in the classroom.

This varies with each application. Typically, people who become finalists and advance to the interviews for prestigious fellowships report spending as much or more time completing the application materials and preparing for interviews as they would spend on a regular academic course in one term. People who spend very little time on the application generally do not do well in these competitions.

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-baccalaureate projects, or to pre-baccalaureate projects pursued outside the normal curriculum. All scholarships and fellowships are grants. Grants, scholarships, and fellowships do not need to be repaid.

Some competitions are restricted by nomination in order to ensure a consistently high quality in the applications. In these cases, restrictions are in place as a requirement from the sponsors. Competition is fierce, and there are many more qualified candidates than nomination slots.

Ask faculty in your area of interest if they have any research projects that you could work on in the school year or during the summer.  MSU sponsors a number of summer undergraduate research fellowships on campus each year and many faculty also hire undergraduate research assistants to work with them on their research.  Visit venture.msu.edu for more information about research opportunities on campus. Consider your interdisciplinary project and major project as opportunities to engage in professional level research.  Each summer, there are many opportunities to work in research projects on campus and around the country. The NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program and the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education both sponsor many programs nationwide. 

You must submit scores for the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) when you apply for many fellowships. The GRE General Test is given year-round by computer at test sites. MSU has a GRE testing site on campus.  You can register over the phone or online at www.gre.org using a credit card. Appointments are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis, so you should register early. 

Most awards described in the fellowships and scholarships database on this site are open only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents, but some fellowships invite non-U.S. citizens to apply. Consult the applications for specific information on eligibility. In separate competitions, citizens of other countries may apply for the Rhodes and Rotary scholarships. A permanent resident may apply for the Hertz and NSF. Only a naturalized U.S. citizen or child of naturalized parents may apply for the Soros. The Gates Cambridge Scholarship is open to citizens of any country other than the UK.  Citizens of member states of the Commonwealth may apply for certain scholarships to study in the UK.  If you are a foreign national, you may also want to contact the fellowship office at a university in the country where you are a citizen to get information about other opportunities.

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Yes. It is possible to apply for most major post-graduate fellowships as a senior or for several years after graduation. For the Rhodes, candidates must be between age 18 and 24 in the year of application; for the Marshall, nominees must have been graduated within the last three years. Applicants for the Gates Cambridge or Soros fellowships normally should be under the age of 30. Check the eligibility requirements for each award. Consider that some students may put together stronger applications after graduation since they have completed a senior project and developed a more mature understanding of their future plans and goals. If you think you might apply for fellowships after graduation, it is helpful if you discuss this possibility with faculty advisors before you leave campus so that they can make notes that will be helpful in writing letters of recommendation at a later date.   Note: If you intend to apply for the Rhodes, Marshall or Mitchell competitions after you graduate, you must still receive a nomination from MSU in order to compete.

During the application process, you should

  • read the advice on this website;
  • meet with your faculty mentors and Honors College in the semester before the applications are due;
  • begin reading regularly an in-depth national newspaper, such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, or the Christian Science Monitor, if you are not already;
  • start working on the application at least two or three months before it is due.

In a strong application, the pieces 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, utilize the knowledge and experience of others in putting together your application package. The letters of recommendation should offer a portrait of the student that is consistent with the personal statement and other materials submitted by the candidate. A strong application will stand out from the crowd, and will impress a variety of people.

Grades alone are less important than the overall combination of qualities (which might include research, service, leadership, and so on), but they are still significant.

  • General:  Nominees for prestigious fellowships generally have GPAs at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale.
  • Marshall: The Marshall Scholarship requires a GPA of 3.7 or higher, and in practice most fellowships also look for a similar level of academic achievement.
  • Truman: 3.5 - 3.6 with outstanding grades in upper-division courses in their field of interest, along with several years of public service.
  • Udall: The average GPA of Udall Scholars is 3.7, but some Udall winners have had GPAs as low as 2.8 or 2.9 combined with exceptional accomplishments related to the environment in other areas
  • Goldwater:  Most Goldwater Scholars have GPAs in the range of 3.9 - 4.0. 
  • NSF Graduate Research Fellowship: Most applicants for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowships have GPAs of 3.7 or higher, but applicants with less competitive GPAs have won awards if they show substantial improvement in their grades and a very strong application in other respects, including the proposed plan of research and very supportive letters of reference.

Near perfect grades are never, by themselves, enough to win.  So many students with excellent grades apply for these awards that other aspects of the application are more decisive.

The most universal criterion is academic excellence. National scholarships and fellowships are highly competitive with applicants in the top 10 - 15 % of the class, with a minimum GPA of 3.5 (and higher for many awards). Many fellowships also look for a record of leadership, public service, research experience, and meaningful participation in extra curricular activities.

Every fellowship has its own application form. However, fellowship competitions generally ask for a transcript and record of extracurricular activities, three or more letters of recommendation and a personal statement. Some may require the GRE. For more competitive fellowships, you may also be asked for a project proposal or plan of study, and an interview.

Consider applying for a fellowship if your plans after graduation include any of the following:

  • graduate school
  • professional school
  • study abroad
  • professional development
Scholarships

Each scholarship requires a different number of recommendation letters ranging from 3-8.

After the internal campus deadline, your application will be reviewed by a committee and you will be notified if your application will move forward.  If you receive a nomination to move forward, you will be given 1-3 weeks (depending on the scholarship) to make any necessary revisions that the committee suggests to strengthen your application. You will then need to resubmit your application incorporating suggested revisions and then you will officially receive MSU’s endorsement to apply externally.  The NIFS office will work with you to mail and/or upload all application materials and supporting documents to the foundation’s website.  

The degrees that you can obtain from UK universities are equivalent to what you can earn from a U.S. institution and valued the same.  Many universities in the UK are known to be very prestigious educational institutions and some can be compared to U.S. Ivy league schools.  However, both countries share a rich tradition of quality higher education, excellent research facilities, and a culture that promotes intellectualism as well as academic freedom. However, while both certainly provide an excellent environment for learning, there are many differences between the two countries regarding the structure of the university as well as student life. 

In general, degree programs in the US take about one year longer than programs in the UK, although this varies depending upon whether you receive a Master’s degree prior to a PhD. In both systems, you can go directly to a PhD program out of your undergraduate program, but in the UK it is more common to complete a Master’s degree program before moving on to a PhD. Courses of study are shorter in the UK because the course programs are generally much more focused than in the US. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. 

Yes. You should apply for any of the awards that are right for someone with your background and interests.

Most nominees who make a commitment to the competition and accept guidance from their faculty advisors

  • clarify their career goals;
  • get a better sense of the most appropriate graduate studies for them;
  • become more aware of their strengths, interests, and ways to prepare for their career;
  • improve their writing skills and, if they become finalists, enhance their interviewing skills;
  • get a head start in preparing applications for graduate education and other scholarship competitions;
  • have an experience for learning and personal growth that is not normally possible in the classroom.

This varies with each application. Typically, people who become finalists and advance to the interviews for prestigious fellowships report spending as much or more time completing the application materials and preparing for interviews as they would spend on a regular academic course in one term. People who spend very little time on the application generally do not do well in these competitions.

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-baccalaureate projects, or to pre-baccalaureate projects pursued outside the normal curriculum. All scholarships and fellowships are grants. Grants, scholarships, and fellowships do not need to be repaid.

Some competitions are restricted by nomination in order to ensure a consistently high quality in the applications. In these cases, restrictions are in place as a requirement from the sponsors. Competition is fierce, and there are many more qualified candidates than nomination slots.

Ask faculty in your area of interest if they have any research projects that you could work on in the school year or during the summer.  MSU sponsors a number of summer undergraduate research fellowships on campus each year and many faculty also hire undergraduate research assistants to work with them on their research.  Visit venture.msu.edu for more information about research opportunities on campus. Consider your interdisciplinary project and major project as opportunities to engage in professional level research.  Each summer, there are many opportunities to work in research projects on campus and around the country. The NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program and the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education both sponsor many programs nationwide.