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    What is a Fellowship?

    September 23, 2021 | Staff Writers

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    Advancing your education is one of the best life decisions you can make. It not only makes you an expert in your field but also earns you respect. There are several advanced education levels you can attain. These include master’s and Ph.D. levels. However, attaining higher academic achievements like graduate study can be costly. Most people don’t advance their education due to financial constraints. To make advanced education attainable, the government and other institutions offer financial assistance to deserving students. This assistance applies to different expenses depending on the organization giving and terms of the financial assistance.

    Fellowship training is one of the financial assistance programs you could receive to advance your education. Individuals in a fellowship program are called fellows. There are different types of fellowships, including cohort fellowships, alumni fellowships, and others. Several factors differentiate fellowships from other financial assistance you receive. With a fellowship, you get to study specific subjects in your chosen field. Fellowships usually target post-graduate students. However, they are also awarded to undergraduate students who are about to complete their undergraduate degree program and begin as a graduate student. Just like other forms of financial assistance, you will undergo several assessments before being given the fellowship. Fellowships usually target exemplary students in the chosen fields. To get an in-depth understanding of fellowships, we explore the following:

    1. How fellowships work
    2. Differences between a scholarship and a fellowship
    3. Benefits of pursuing a fellowship
    4. Application process for a fellowship

    How a Fellowship Works

    Fellowships offer life-changing opportunities. However, you must understand how fellowships work to benefit from them. The conditions of becoming a fellow vary depending on the institution awarding them. Despite the differences between institutions, there are a few features in common with all fellowships. These features include:

    • Seminars
      Seminars are a common feature for most fellowships. After institutions choose their fellows, they attend seminars where they learn about various aspects of the fellowship. These seminars are typically organized by the host institution, usually a university or college. In most cases, the seminars are open to all fellows, including those pursuing a doctorate degree. The duration of these seminars varies depending on the fellowship program. If you are selected for a fellowship, the seminars are where you meet with other fellows. You can create connections and network during your study period as well as life after school.
    • Academic Qualifications
      Although they are financial assistance, fellowships are considered awards to top-performing students. All fellowships require evidence of academic excellence; this could be a degree, transcripts, or affirmation letters from your undergraduate institution. Since they target post-graduate students seeking to do research, fellowships require a presentation of your project proposal before you are selected.
    • Academic Financing
      The purpose of fellowships is to help finance educational programs, but fellowships have different forms of financing. All of them cover tuition fees for those pursuing post-graduate degrees. However, if you are working on a research project, a fellowship could take care of the expenses incurred for your project.

      Applying for a fellowship is the first step if you wish to be a fellow in any institution. However, you must meet stringent eligibility requirements for consideration. The requirements vary depending on the kind of fellowship you apply for, and your education level determines whether you qualify and the amount you receive. Here are some common qualifications you must have to be a fellow:
    • General Requirements
      There are several general requirements that you must fulfill before applying for a fellowship program. One is location. Some fellowships target people in specific regions; this implies that the institution won’t consider your application if you are from a different region. The target profession is another general requirement. Fellowships target individuals in specific fields of practice. For instance, you cannot apply for a medical fellowship if you practice law. Some fellowships focus on particular areas within a profession. An example is medical fellowships that focus on psychiatric care.
    • Field or Work Experience
      Work experience might be required when applying for a fellowship. Some require you to have practiced for a certain period before applying for a profession-targeted fellowship. If you don’t have work experience, you might have to present a thesis or a project proposal. Work experience and project proposals indicate your dedication to solving a problem in your field of practice.
    • Academic Qualifications
      Academic qualifications are among the most important requirements for a fellowship program. While submitting your application, you might have to present copies of your degree, transcripts, or affirmation letters from your school. Excellent academic performance gives you a competitive advantage over other applicants. For those seeking fellowships who have already attained a doctorate, you may have to produce published works to prove your authenticity.
    • Character Qualifications
      Fellowships typically go to students who display an ability to be influential world leaders in the future. To qualify, you need to exhibit professionalism and discipline. You will go through character assessment tests before being considered for the fellowship program. The information that you provide in your application documents is used to determine your character. If you provide false information, the assessors question your integrity and disqualify your application. References are needed and may be contacted to give information about your behavior.
    • Nomination by The Fellows’ Nominating Committee
      Fellowships are prestigious opportunities for you to advance your education and career. To be admitted, you must be part of the nominees presented by the fellow’s nominating committee. The nominations by the committee help narrow down hundreds of applicants to the most suitable ones. The host institution and the fellowship organization appoint the nominating committee. The nominees’ list is presented to the awarding committee for assessment to determine who best fits the fellowship program.

    The application process for fellowships can be tedious and costly irrespective of who is applying. Several application platforms are available to help cut down these costs. They include the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, FAFSA.

    Differences Between A Scholarship and A Fellowship

    Scholarships and fellowships are common forms of financial aid students can get. Most people mistake fellowships with scholarships, which leads to difficulty in applying for the intended financial assistance. Let’s look at some of the differences that set fellowships and scholarships apart.

    • Qualifications- Getting a fellowship or a scholarship depends on many factors. Most of these factors are related to your academic qualifications. However, the requirements for scholarships are less stringent than for fellowships. While scholarships only require evidence of being in school, some fellowships require work experience.
    • Funding- How you receive the funds is the main difference between scholarships and fellowships. Scholarships have different forms of funding for students, including direct payment of tuition fees. Fellowships, on the other hand, direct their funding to all essential expenses of your study. How you receive scholarship and scholarship funding depends on the policies of the organization giving them out. However, some scholarships and fellowships offer stipends to students.
    • Targeted beneficiaries- Scholarships and fellowships target different kinds of beneficiaries. With scholarships, anyone can apply, from high school level to advanced levels, such as a Ph.D. However, some scholarship organizations prefer to support students at undergraduate levels only, meaning only students pursuing associate’s or bachelor’s degrees. Fellowships, on the other hand, target individuals at higher degree levels. Most beneficiaries of fellowships are master’s and Ph.D. students with years of work experience. Additionally, fellowships fund research programs for students in selected organizations.
    • Target academic institutions- Fellowships deal with specific academic institutions. Once you are approved as a fellow, you must study at the university or college offering you the fellowship. Scholarships could be flexible; this means you can study in your university or college of choice and still be a beneficiary of the scholarship. However, some scholarship organizations, such as the Rhodes Scholarship Program, deal with specific institutions.
    • Application and award process- Applying for scholarships is not the same as applying for fellowships. Fellowships involve longer processes and stringent requirements before a decision is made. With scholarships, you make a direct application to the institution giving out the scholarship. The institution then assesses your application to determine whether you qualify, depending on your details. With fellowships, you must be nominated by the fellowship nomination committee. The committee forwards a list of nominees to an evaluation committee which determines who gets the fellowship. The difficulty in getting scholarships depends on the policies of the scholarship program. If the amount offered by the scholarship program is high, you might face a more strict selection process.
    • Title obtained at the end of the program- Being a beneficiary of an academics financial assistance program is important for your career. Titles received after completing a study program set you apart from the rest of the professionals in your field of work. Beneficiaries of scholarship programs are known as scholars after completing the program. Scholarship recipients have the title scholar accompanied by the title of the scholarship program. For instance, a beneficiary of the Rhodes scholarship program is known as a Rhodes Scholar. On the other hand, fellowship beneficiaries are fellows, combined with the name of the fellowship program. An example is ACP fellows, a beneficiary of the American College of Physicians fellowship program.

    To benefit from fellowships, you need to understand how they receive funding. Funding varies depending on the fellowship program you get. Understanding the funding policies of your fellowship places you in a position to plan for your study life. The differences in funding are based on time, the amount involved, and the mode of payment. Types of fellowships based on funding policies include:

    • Fully funded programs
      Students in graduate programs can receive fully funded fellowship programs, which target those in masters and Ph.D. programs. They include total clearance of tuition fees and annual living stipends for the duration of studies. Fully funded fellowships could be in the form of no-strings-attached payments or regulated finances as well as in the form of assistantships. These are part-time university jobs meant for graduate students. Assistantships are always related to the field of study you major in and require you to provide research, teaching, or administrative assistance. Fully funded fellowships usually go to the top applicants to the program. However, some fellowship programs offer fully funded benefits to all accepted fellows.
    • Internal and external fellowships
      Internal and external fellowship programs mainly focus on offsetting tuition fees. The school or department you study in usually offers internal fellowships. With these, you may not have to apply since the departments have your details. However, you might be required to provide supplementary application components for consideration among other top-performing graduates. External fellowships are those funded by independent organizations. The organizations directly pay tuition fees to your institution. You must make official applications for external fellowships, mainly because external fellowship programs deal with more than one institution and have many applicants. Internal and external fellowships have short deadlines, meaning you have to apply at the same time as you apply for graduate school.

      Fellowship organizations spend a lot of money on fellows every year. Most of these organizations are nonprofit and therefore need to keep track of their expenditure. For this reason, they follow up on every fellow to ensure their investments do not go to waste. Once you get accepted into a fellowship program, several things are required of you. These include:
    • Academic excellence
      The main reason for fellowship grants is to help you achieve your higher education goals. Once you are accepted to be a fellow, you must maintain excellent academic performance throughout the program. A deteriorating academic performance might lead to the withdrawal of the fellowship.
    • Discipline
      One of the qualifications of being a fellow is a good character. As a fellow, you must display good behavior both in school and at work. Your social interactions should depict a potential future leader. Lousy behavior might lead to the withdrawal of the fellowship since it puts the program’s reputation at risk. Financial discipline is also essential for fully funded fellows. Spending money on unnecessary expenses could lead to a strenuous study period.
    • Innovative thinking
      Funding academic research is one of the main purposes of fellowship programs. As a fellow, you must be innovative if the program you are admitted to funds your research. You must display abilities to solve a certain problem. To prove this, you might be required to present your project proposal. Innovative thinking allows you to make progress in your research. Stalled research projects might lead to the withdrawal of the fellowship.

    Benefits of Pursuing a Fellowship

    Other than financial assistance to advance your education, there are many benefits you get from a fellowship. These benefits depend on the nature of the fellowship program you receive. They include:

    • Developed professional skills- The main goal of fellowship programs are advancing one’s education. By being a fellow, you advance your skills in the subject you seek to study. The focus of fellowships on graduate schools means you can comfortably pursue your master’s degree or Ph.D. Being a master in any subject sets you apart from the rest in your field of practice. As a result, you have more employment opportunities. The leadership skills attained through fellowship programs set you up for leadership roles in your profession, meaning you potentially get a higher salary.
    • Networking opportunities- One of the best forms of fellowships is international fellowships. These fellowships bring together students and research professionals from different parts of the world to the same place. By being a fellow in such programs, you get to interact with people and make important connections. Networking allows you to identify and explore new ideas related to your field of study. If you are a funded research specialist, you can learn about different subjects from people working on the same subject as you. Additionally, networking allows you to meet your potential future employers.
    • Cross-cultural competency and awareness- By interacting with fellows from different cultures and backgrounds, you learn new cultures. Understanding how people in various regions view certain aspects of life makes it easier for you to work in new environments. Cross-cultural competency and awareness make you appreciate different cultures, something essential for integration while in your field of practice. It also prepares you for leadership positions as you learn how to deal with different people.
    • Respect in your field of work- Advancing in your education earns respect from your peers and workmates. Being recognized as an expert based on the skills you attain makes you a resource person in your field of practice. Additionally, fellowships involve stringent selection procedures. Being a fellow in a recognized fellowship program shows that you are an exemplary performer in academics and co-curricular activities. Being on top of your class to be considered for a fellowship program is a respectable accomplishment.

    Employers look for several qualities before offering you a job. While some of these qualities are character traits people are born with, others are taught through fellowship programs. For instance, employers look for skilled employees. You can perfect your skills to increase your marketability through a fellowship program. Other qualities employers look for are work ethic and leadership qualities. All these can be attained through a fellowship program.

    Although all fellowship programs are beneficial, you need to find one that suits you best. Programs are suited for different fields and have unique conditions, meaning you must be careful to choose one beneficial to you. Applying for programs that aren’t suited for you could lead to your application being declined. Here are some factors you should consider when choosing a fellowship program.

    • Your career
      A fellowship program is a nontraditional aid that focuses on financing specific fields of study. Before applying for a program, you should ensure it matches your profession. Applying for research funding through fellowship programs will require proof that the research is beneficial to the field of study targeted by the programs.
    • Amount of funding involved
      The amount of money you receive from a fellowship program is essential for planning purposes. Before selecting a fellowship program, you should find out how much the program offers based on your level of study. Knowing how much funding you can expect allows you to plan for the future and know how much you might need to supplement your study program. Fully funded scholarships are ideal if you don’t have supplementary income, as you don’t have to worry about working or taking out a lot of student loans.
    • Duration of the fellowship program
      The amount of time you spend on your course or research should guide you on which fellowship program to apply to. For instance, fellowship programs that offer funding for two years are not ideal if your studies will take over two years. It implies that you will incur further expenses for the remaining period of your study. However, some fellowship programs, especially those funding research projects, provide funding for the entire study period.

    Application Process for a Fellowship

    If you qualify for a fellowship program, you must apply for it to be considered. A fellowship is a huge opportunity and one you should not pass up. Your application should meet a certain threshold before being considered for selection. Some factors that determine how good your application includes:

    • Personal details- Your application should have all the necessary information needed to identify it as yours, including your name, school, address, and others. The contact details on your application are used to communicate with you about the outcome of your application. Ensure that all of the information is correct.
    • Academic qualifications- You should provide evidence of your academic qualifications while applying for a fellowship. Academic certificates such as degrees or transcripts are evidence that you have attained the desired level of education. If you apply for a postdoctoral fellowship, you should provide your published research papers.
    • Curriculum vitae- If you apply for fellowship programs that target professionals, you must include your curriculum vitae in your application. It should contain all your details, including work experience and lifetime achievements. A curriculum vitae determines how important you might become when awarded the fellowship. The curriculum vitae should outline your leadership positions as part of your work experience.
    • Recommendations- Your application should have a letter of recommendation from your graduate school. This recommendation proves that you have attained the stated academic levels and commends on your character. Recommendations are essential when applying for external fellowships.

    The items to include in your fellowship application depend on the fellowship program policies. Some programs might require you to attach a list of references for your evaluation. There are several things you need to focus on to make your application more appealing. The first is aligning your application to the desired outcome. Your application should focus on the desired goal of the fellowship program. If the program focuses on skills in a certain field, ensure you portray how skilled you are in that field in your application. Doing so makes you a more preferred candidate for the program.

    Another tip to make your application strong is being authentic. Give truthful information throughout your application. Inconsistency in your information could lead to elimination as the assessors will doubt your integrity. Every qualification you list should be paired with evidence in the form of a document. Attaching all the needed information and documents also makes your application stronger. The documents and information required vary depending on the student funding you apply for. Reading through the requirements before applying makes it easy to attach the needed information.

    In Summary

    Fellowships are an essential form of financial support if you want to advance your education. However, you have to overcome a rigorous selection process to become a fellow. The application and selection process varies depending on the program you apply for. Programs that offer the best funding, such as fully funded programs, have more stringent requirements. The requirements target to reduce the number of people qualifying since they attract more applicants than other fellowships. If you want to qualify for a fellowship, you must prepare early. Fellowships require exemplary academic performance and a good behavioral record. Therefore, you should work hard in your studies in preparation for the fellowship you want to apply for after graduate school. Getting a fellowship increases your chances of being employed. It is a boost to your career since it allows you to improve your skills and network with people from different professional levels.

    Once you receive a fellowship, you have to maintain high levels of discipline. Fellowships target to create future leaders and professionals, which implies that any bad behavior might lead to the withdrawal of the funding. Financial discipline is essential in managing the funds you receive from the fellowship program. Although there are financial assistance programs for students, financial considerations before selecting a career path are very important. Getting financial assistance is not always guaranteed. In some cases, you might have to fund your studies by yourself. If you need to advance your education, you should explore other financial assistance sources. These include scholarships, student loans, and grants.

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