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What Is A Fellowship And Why You Should Consider It

Updated: October 23, 2023 | Published: November 23, 2020

Updated: October 23, 2023

Published: November 23, 2020


What is a fellowship and what does it matter to get one? As a graduate student, you’ll likely find yourself pondering these questions. While a fellowship is similar in a sense to an internship, there is more to know as it is academically-focused! Here, we will share all you need to know about fellowship programs, including their purpose and their benefits/downsides.

What Is A Fellowship?

There are various types of fellowships, but they may either award funding for students to gain research experience or be used to subsidize the cost of education. As such, fellowships tend to be awarded based on merit.

Fellowships can also help to boost a graduate student’s resume upon applying for jobs. Consider it like work experience before entering the field.

Academic research notes for a fellowship
Photo by Dan Dimmock on Unsplash

3 Types Of Fellowships

Depending on your current enrollment status, there are different kinds of fellowships you can be awarded.

1. Graduate

Graduate fellowships offer money to help subsidize the cost of a graduate degree. Fellowships can come in the form of cost-of-living stipends, health insurance or to cover tuition. In some cases, a fellowship may also help to pay for the expenses tied to a graduate student’s professional development (i.e. The cost of attending a conference or seminar).

2. Medical

Doctors who are practicing after finishing medical school and residency can apply for fellowships to further specialize in their field. These fellowships can cover the cost of training so that doctors can become experts in their niche field of medicine.

3. Postdoctoral

For those who have completed their doctorate and wish to perform research, postdoctoral fellowships supply the necessary funding. They may cover the full expense of the research or subsidize the costs.

The Length Of A Fellowship

The length of a fellowship isn’t a one-size-fits-all timeline. Each granting institution of a fellowship will determine its length. In most instances, fellowships last at least a year, but they can also be renewed if the eligibility requirements continue to be met.

For postdoctoral fellowships, research may not always take just a year, so these can last for several years.

Benefits Of A Fellowship

The benefits of a fellowship are obvious and can be extensive. A fellowship can reduce the cost of earning an education. If it doesn’t come in the form of compensation, then a fellowship may provide you with stipends for travel costs or living expenses.

Additional benefits of a fellowship may include:

  • Student loan forgiveness
  • Health insurance
  • Free housing

No matter what the monetary contributions are, a fellowship will undoubtedly provide students with experiential learning and open the door to continued success.

Cons Of A Fellowship

Let’s start by saying that a fellowship isn’t going to have negative attributes if it’s what you want for yourself. The main downside is that they are highly competitive — so just because you apply, it doesn’t mean that you will be awarded a fellowship.

Furthermore, it will require a commitment to working hard. Fellowships are not well-suited for those who procrastinate or give up easily. But, if you’re willing to put in the work and do what it takes to benefit your future, then a fellowship is an opportunity worth trying for.

How To Find A Fellowship

It takes time, energy, and patience to find a fellowship that is tailored to your goals. For students who are interested in applying for a fellowship, the best place to start is with your school’s faculty advisors or professors. Sometimes, your institution’s financial aid office can point you in the right direction.

As with anything, you can perform internet research by searching keywords for the type of fellowship you want to attain.

Paperwork to apply for a fellowship
Photo by Tetiana SHYSHKINA on Unsplash

How To Apply For A Fellowship

As stated, fellowships are very competitive. That’s why you’ll have to fill out an application and prepare impressive work to show for it.

Organizations that provide fellowships will tend to favor students who have performed well academically, given back to their community, and have taken challenging classes. For those who are applying for postgraduate research fellowships, you may have to showcase all you aim to achieve with the funds.

Many applications require similar documentation as a school would, including:

  • Letters of recommendation
  • A resume or CV
  • Transcripts
  • Research proposal

Is A Fellowship Right For Me?

So, how do you know if a fellowship is right for you? When deciding to apply for a fellowship, consider the the following:

  • Will this fellowship help me in my career?
  • Does this fellowship grant me specific training for my profession?
  • Will earning this fellowship help me to achieve my goals?
  • Do I have the motivation and dedication to successfully fulfill the fellowship’s requirements?

If you’re simply looking for financial aid for education, then a fellowship isn’t the route to go. Instead, take a look at scholarships and FAFSA, for example.

On the other hand, you can consider attending an affordable institution for higher education like University of the People. We offer four degree programs that prepare you to excel in your chosen career. If finances are a concern, then you have nothing to worry about when you attend our online institution because our programs are tuition-free!

The Bottom Line

A fellowship can help students and graduates excel in their future. Fellowships offer funds for education to either complete degrees or perform research in a field of choice. While they remain to be highly competitive, the benefits greatly outweigh the risk of applying for a fellowship.

The worst thing that can happen is to be denied. In actuality, if you meet the eligibility requirements, then you have everything to gain and nothing to lose when you apply for fellowship programs!