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A fellowship is a type of financial aid. The money you receive from a fellowship may help pay tuition, books, fees and other costs. But some fellowships may instead pay for trips, thesis projects or the cost of attending a conference.

In many ways a fellowship is like a prize. It is usually something that graduate students or postgraduate scholars compete for. They may earn their place because they plan to make a meaningful contribution to their field.

Most fellowship programs are thus like merit-based grants. Unlike a student loan you do not need to pay back the funds.

Beyond the funding, a fellowship provides a chance to grow as a professional. Most are short-term opportunities that last a few months or years. They are often sponsored by a specific organization. One that is seeking to expand leadership and knowledge in their field.

Different types of organizations award administer and fund such fellowships.
  • Universities and colleges
  • Corporations
  • Nonprofits
  • Foundations
  • Media groups
  • Governmental entities

What is the difference between fellowships and scholarships?

Like a merit-based scholarship, a fellowship is a kind of grant. People interchange the terms because they both reward your academic achievement.

But there is a key difference between these two kinds of aid. Fellowships more than scholarships usually include a service commitment. This may last for a period of one or more years although time frames vary.

Also, as a fellow, you’ll usually receive funding while pursuing a specific interest. Most scholarships are based on financial need, merit or another qualifier.

What is the difference between fellowships and internships?

Both internships and fellowships share one thing. They may help your career get underway. But other than that, the two differ in a few key ways. The application process, the target applicant, the experience itself, and the money. An internship after all, is not a grant.

In an internship, a student works in exchange for experience at the hiring company. The company they intern for may only hire people with experience. So, for a college student, an internship may be a way to test drive a career choice in real time. With the experience working in a role under their belt an internship might turn into a job once the student graduates.

Also, some degree programs entail internships. In this way, they are a way to help students apply course material in real time. some may be “paid” or “unpaid”. But either way, students may receive college credit for the time they spend interning.

Fellowships differ. They usually focus on helping a student develop as a professional. Also, on growing one's knowledge base through quality research. In fact, to apply for one, you usually need to propose a project that you plan to complete during your fellowship.

Unlike internships, many fellowships are for students pursuing a master's degree or PhD. Such students may look at a fellowship as a way to enhance their academic studies. Plus, one earns the title 'fellow". Something that may help your resume stand out given fellowships are competitive.

Are all fellowships paid?

Fellowships are short-term funding opportunities. Many are funding for a research project. The funds usually last 9- to 12 months. Students may receive the money in the form of tuition credits and/or stipends.

Most fellowships do come with a tuition stipend. A stipend is a living allowance. It often pays out in fixed amounts rather than an hourly wage. Fellows don’t usually have to clock hours, though they do need to complete their project on the date agreed.

The money from a fellowship may not equal the salary of a full-time job. In fact, the amounts paid vary quite a bit. Some schools (Berkeley is one) offer a range of from $10,000 to up to $25,000 (for a 9 to 12 month-program).

But there are unpaid fellowships too. One example is the Medical Missionaries Global Health Fellowship. This program is for recent college graduates, grad students, or professionals. It provides the opportunity to gain experience in health care delivery in Haiti. Rather than tuition, the fellowship pays living expenses and other costs.

How long is a fellowship?

The length of a fellowship varies. Some professional fellowships last 4 to 6 months, or up to a year. Terms may be flexible, full or part-time. For instance, a fellowship for a PhD student may last a few years. Doctoral students usually need about 4 years of study. Plus, one year for their dissertation writing.

What are the Benefits of a Fellowship?

Fellowships may be hard to secure but come with many potential benefits. Here are 7 benefits of the different fellowship programs available to students and professionals.

1. Financial aid

Many people use a fellowship program to help them fund grad school. The allowance is often helpful for master’s, doctoral and post-doctoral students. Though there are fellowships for undergraduates too.

At last check, the NCES reports that 1.58% of full-time master’s students received institutional financial aid. Figures are higher for full-time doctoral students. This group includes PhD and professional doctorate students. About 2.12% and 2.25% of these student groups received institutional aid.

2. Incentives

There may be other incentives that tag along on a fellowship too. Fellows may receive healthcare coverage, student loan repayment help, and money for housing. Some also provide research support and cover travel to and from conferences.

3. Tax benefits

A fellowship may or may not be tax-free. If you use the money you receive to pay tuition, fees, books, supplies, and equipment for courses, it may be tax-free. If you use the money to pay other expenses, it may count as income. Then it is taxable.

4. Quality Research Skills

If you are drawn to research, securing a fellowship may add credibility to it. Along with monetary support, you may be able to interest other organizations and/or foundations to fund you as well. In some fellowship programs you may work alongside a mentor. Mentoring is one way to pick up quality research methods from people with direct experience.

5. Practical experience

A fellowship entails project work that may help you develop a variety of skills and experience. Most require you to meet challenges and take on a lot of responsibility. This experiential learning may not be available to someone starting out in an entry-level job.

6. Training and professional growth

Many fellowships provide intensive training. For instance, fellows often take part in academic seminars. These may help them develop a framework and apply theory. Fellows often conduct in-depth research too. This may involve much time spent on analysis of their issue area. In other aspects of their curriculum, fellows are able to develop many skills:

  • Leadership
  • Community organizing
  • Public speaking
  • Grant writing
  • Media relations

7. Kickstart of further a career

A Fellowship may kickstart or enhance a career. You can add it to an academic CV. While a fellow, you may work with other professionals too. These connections may expand your networks and opportunities.

How do you get a fellowship?

Winning a spot in a fellowship program may entail a nomination, interview and/or presentation. It all depends on the source of the fellowship.

There are two primary sources of fellowship grants:

  1. School-based (internal). These fellowships come from a college, university or university department.
  2. Independent (external). Foundations, government agencies and other groups fund fellowships. These may provide a way to study in the U.S. or abroad.

Once you identify a fellowship program you want to pursue, you may have to apply. Each fellowship comes with details of how to do this and what to include. You may, for example, need to submit:

  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Names and addresses of references
  • A detailed proposal

Different types of fellowships

There are various types of fellowship programs.

Graduate fellowships. These programs help pay for some of the costs of grad school. Tuition, housing, cost of living, and expenses to attend academic conferences. For example, the American Association of University Women offers a fellowship for minority women pursuing doctorates.

Medical fellowships. These programs are for doctors, out of medical school and after their residency. They often provide more training in a niche area. For example, the American Psychiatric Association has a fellowship for medical students who want to focus in HIV psychiatry.

Post-doctoral fellowships. These programs are for people who completed their PhD. But want to continue their research and thus seek extra funding. A popular source is the National Sciences Foundation.

Top Fellowships

There are many fellowships taking applications each year. Here are the top fellowship programs and details on how to apply.

Daniel J. Curtin, Jr. Fellowship

This fellowship is open to U.S. student who are in their third or fourth year of an undergraduate planning program, or in their first or second year of a graduate planning program, or their first or second year of a law school program. The recipient will participate in a 10-month fellowship program that requires approximately 100 to 200 hours of work; fellowship work is conducted remotely.

Total: $1500 Awards:  1
Deadline:  September 15

Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship

The Fulbright-National Geographic Fellowship seeks researchers with a talent for and interest in storytelling. For this application cycle, the National Geographic is most interested in a project focused on Oceans and Water. It should have focus in plastics, community coastal and fishery management, and biodiversity. Project proposals on other topics of interest (including but not limited to science, culture, and conservation) will also be accepted for review and may be selected.

Total: $50000 Awards:  10
Deadline:  October 13

Harvey Fellowship

This award is available for U.S. and international Christian graduate students. Recipients are selected based on academic achievement and commitment to Christian values.

Total: $12000 Awards:  20
Deadline:  November 1

AAUW American Dissertation Fellowship

This award is for U.S. women who are completing dissertations.

Total: $30000 Awards:  47
Deadline:  November 1

AAUW American Postdoctoral Research Leave Fellowship

This award is for U.S. women seeking tenure or other promotions interested in spending a year pursuing independent research.

Total: $30000 Awards:  12
Deadline:  November 1

Stevenson University Presidential Fellowship

U.S. graduating high school seniors who demonstrate academic excellence along with proven leadership in school-based activities, community service and/or athletics will be considered for this award from Stevenson University in Maryland.

Total: $25000 Awards:  10
Deadline:  November 1

AAUW International Fellowship

This fellowship is offered to female international graduate students who have completed the required coursework for a bachelor's degree.

Total: $30000 Awards:  47
Deadline:  November 15

Nursing Excellence Fellowship

The goal of the National Hemophilia Foundation Nursing Fellowship is to provide support for a registered nurse currently employed, or interested in hemophilia care. It enables an RN to conduct nursing research or clinical projects.

Total: $13500 Awards:  1

GFWCM Memorial Education Fund Fellowship for Physician's Assistants

This award is available for Massachusetts residents who are pursuing a graduate degree to pursue a career as a physician's assistant.

Total: $500 Awards:  1
Deadline:  March 01

American Anthropological Association Minority Dissertation Fellowship

The American Anthropological Association Minority Dissertation Fellowship is available to minority students who are pursuing a doctorate in anthropology.

Total: $10000 Awards:  1
Deadline:  March 14

NASA/Montana Space Grant Consortium Fellowship

This award is available for U.S. graduate students who attend one of the following Montana Consortium campuses: Blackfeet Community College, Carroll College, Chief Dull Knife College, Fort Belknap College, Fort Peck Community College, Little Big Horn College, MSU-Billings, MSU-Bozeman, MSU-Northern, Montana Tech, Rocky Mountain College, Salish Kootenai College, Stone Child College, the University of Great Falls, the University of Montana or the University of Montana-Western. Students must be enr...

Total: $16200 Awards:  5
Deadline:  April 01

Electron Devices Society Ph.D. Student Fellowship Program

This award is for IEEE EDS student members who are pursuing a doctorate degree on a full-time basis.

Total: $5000 Awards:  3
Deadline:  May 15