For some, Whittier College can only put forth a limited number of candidates via a nomination process and institutional letter of support, whereas others allow an unlimited number of Whittier College students to apply directly for the fellowship.
In spite of the differences, there are some common application materials required by most fellowships: application forms, essays and/or proposals, transcripts, and recommendations. Others also require photographs, proof of citizenship, language evaluations, and so on.
The following ‘Student Guide to Fellowship Applications’ helps familiarize potential candidates with the entire process of applying for a fellowship. For specific information, students should always check each fellowship's website directly.
An application will usually ask for basic biographical information, such as an address, citizenship status, educational institutions attended, and proposed title.
The application is the first document that selection committees review, so prepare the application professionally and carefully. Do not overlook it in favor of essays and proposals.
The availability of application forms varies widely across different fellowships. Contact the particular advisor noted on the Whittier Fellowships’ website about obtaining them.
Proposals should fit your past interests and profile, i.e., academic and co-curricular preparation. Although in-depth background and expertise are not always necessary, some prior interest or background is usually required.
When developing a proposal, keep the following questions in mind:
Students often find writing essays to be the most challenging, yet the most fulfilling part of the application process. Essays provide a chance to articulate your specific plans and aims, how these plans are linked to your past experiences, or why these future plans were identified in the first place.
The “research project” essay is often the most straightforward and easily explained. The essays that entail more soul-searching and personal reflection can sometimes pose difficulties if you are not comfortable with reflexive writing. While the “research project” type essay is more academic, essays asking why you want to pursue what you have proposed may present a more complicated task.
Personal writing allows you more freedom to express your values, unique gifts, and beliefs - a freedom that some find paralyzing. While there is no “right” way to express your personal interests and ambitions, be as specific as you can and avoid generalities in order to help a selection committee identify you from a pool of other stellar candidates. Rather than opting for the general aspects of your candidacy, personalize your essay and show them that you are the ideal candidate for this fellowship.
For tips, see James M. Lang, "Helping Students to Tell Their Stories," The Chronicle of Higher Education September 20, 2012.
Write, write, and rewrite! You should be prepared to share your essay well in advance of the application deadline with faculty academic advisors, the Whittier advisor of a particular fellowship, the Fellowships Coordinator, and others. Get feedback, listen and respond to suggestions as well as constructive criticisms, revise, and then revise as well as ask for further feedback.
The more personal the recommendation, the better. Likewise, the more individually tailored each recommendation is to your strengths as a candidate and the fellowship or scholarship to which you are applying, the more helpful the recommendation. Therefore, confirm that your recommenders 1) agree to write a letter of support for you that fits the selection criteria for your particular fellowship or scholarship, and 2) are familiar with your academic background and resumé.
Meet individually with your recommenders to discuss your background, the specifics of the fellowship, and the process of submitting the letter of recommendation. The letter should be rich in content and personal examples and/or anecdotes. Provide recommenders with resumés, transcripts, draft statements/essays/proposals, and so on at least 3-4 weeks in advance of deadlines. All of this background information will help your recommenders to be more specific and persuasive in their letter of support.
These letters usually come from the President, the Dean of Faculty, or nominating committee at Whittier College. If the fellowship or scholarship to which you are applying requires a nomination or endorsement form, you should discuss the nomination or endorsement process with the Whittier advisor for the fellowship or the Director of Fellowships.
While these forms are usually reviewed by selection committees separately from other recommendations, these letters should be equally as rich in content and personal examples or anecdotes. Provide resumés, transcripts, draft statements/essays/proposals, and so on at least 3-4 weeks in advance of deadlines, so that the institutional nomination or endorsement letter illustrates your strengths.
A 4.0 GPA is not automatically required for candidates applying for fellowships. However, your application should demonstrate scholarly achievement and success, broad academic engagement, and intellectual curiosity, all of which lie at the heart of most fellowships and scholarships. Selection committees will be interested in how your overall record clearly demonstrates these attributes.
Aside from grades, most fellowships and scholarships ask you to provide a list of academic achievements, awards, prizes, and/or publications, ordinarily found in a resumé.
Request transcripts from Whittier College and from any institutions at which you have studied previously (including study abroad) well in advance to ensure that they arrive by the deadline or to include in your application packet.
Most fellowships and scholarships require at least one interview. Since Whittier College and the federal agencies, foundations, and other organizations providing these opportunities want to confirm that a candidate’s application matches their in-person presentation, the interview - held either on-campus as part of Whittier’s nomination process, or held by the sponsoring agency, foundation, or organization during its application process - provide a unique opportunity to assess your interpersonal strengths and your abilities to represent your application in a more personalized way.
Some interviews may focus on your ability to discuss world events; others may be focused on your explanation of your co-curricular activities and interests. Qualities of engagement, confidence, manner, affability, and sincerity may all be assessed during the interview.
For those students who are selected as finalists for fellowships and scholarships, the Director of Fellowships will arrange a practice or mock interview upon request.
Some fellowships and scholarships require a resumé or a curriculum vitae (c.v.). Develop one or the other, regardless of your undergraduate or post-graduation plans, in order to communicate your achievements and activities to future faculty, employers, and so on. Ask for advice about writing a resumé or c.v. in the Center for Career and Professional Development.
The Student Fellowships Committee of Whittier College worked together with the Whittier College Business Office to determine that students will not have taxes withheld from internal undergraduate fellowship stipends. Once students are selected as fellows and fellowship advisors are prepared to pay students their stipends, students must read and sign the tax information form. Students should keep a signed copy of this form for their records. Fellowship advisors cannot give tax advice; therefore, students are urged to determine their own particular tax liabilities. Students should read and follow the instructions on the form regarding fellowships and taxes. Please also see IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education, especially Chapter 1.
**This guide was adapted from the Southwestern University’s Scholarship and Fellowship Handbook 2008-2009.