Kristi Weyand
Executive Editor

As the deadline approaches for Whittier College’s fellowships (Friday, March 11), I am here to answer your questions — even those you may not realize you had. Fellowships do not offer the “free money” that many consider scholarships and grants to be; instead, this money is offered alongside experience for your resume and invaluable skills in exchange for hard work. Most fellowships require a short project proposal, a personal essay, and other simple, supplemental documents. While the deadline seems fast approaching, I encourage you to look over the list of fellowships available and put together an application while there is still time; take it from someone who has been there, a week is still plenty of time. Or, if you have already put an application in, here are some do’s and don’ts to help you through the fellowship adventure.

 

Do apply to fellowships available to all majors

The College offers fellowships to specific majors or interests, such as humanities, STEM, and the arts, but there are also fellowships available for people from all majors or to those who are undecided: Alianza de los Amigos Martin Ortiz, Barbara Ondrasik ’57 and David Groce, Jan Cauffman, Mary Davis Public Service, Richard M. Nixon, and UNI Peer Health Educator fellowships. While these fellowships have their own specific goals, the fact that they are open to all majors allows you to put your own passion into the research. For example, as a Richard M. Nixon fellow, I was able to do research on the perception of media bias during presidential impeachments. This allowed me to combine my interest in journalism with my political science knowledge. If you’re an Environmental Science/Studies major, perhaps you could do research on Nixon and the Environmental Protection Agency. You may have an idea of a topic you want to pursue for these fellowships, or you may have to work a little harder to find something that fits your interests, but do not narrow yourself down to the fellowships available only to your major. 

Do not pick a random mentor

Fellowships require that you pick a mentor and have them sign a Mentor Agreement. You might be thinking “oh, I’ll pick my advisor” or “I’ll pick the professor I know best in this department,” but do not settle so easily. Find a faculty member who has experience in or knowledge on the specific topic you hope to research. Ask students who have worked with them to make sure they are good communicators and will be available to be a mentor. You will be working with your mentor for at least a year or more for some fellowships, such as the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship. If you are going to want frequent and timely feedback, it is worth it to find a professor who fits your research interests and will be available. Do not be afraid to reach out to professors you may not know, as well.

Do reach out to other student fellows

Whether you are writing a paper, conducting an experiment, or creating art, you will be having a lot of work on top of your courses. Your research should be manageable (and we will get to that later), but having support from students who understand the work you are doing will help you complete your research without burning out. Your mentor is there to help you when you hit roadblocks or if you have questions, but your peers are an additional layer of support. If possible, reach out to previous fellows and see if they have any specific advice for the fellowships you are interested in.

Do not be afraid to switch up your project

If your fellowship topic is approved and you are awarded a fellowship, you may think you are all set and ready to complete your project. However, the world is constantly changing, and aspects of your project may change as well. For example, during my research on impeachments, an unprecedented second impeachment occurred. Whether or not your research involves current or recent events, it is important to remain flexible. Chances are, your mentor and the fellowship program will work with you to rework your research, if needed. If you need an extension on your research, be honest.

Do create schedules, but do not worry if you cannot stick to them

While you are working on your research proposal, create a timeline of how you expect your research to unfold. It helps to send this to your mentor or a peer so they can help you stick to it, but also understand that, as mentioned above, life is unpredictable. Having a schedule will help you manage your time and research without falling behind, but also give you a better understanding of how to catch up if you do fall behind. A schedule with nonspecific goals will give you something to work for, but will not catch you off guard if you do have to switch up what you are working towards. Make sure to schedule breaks as well; these will help you if you start to feel overwhelmed and burnt out, or if you think you’re falling behind. 

 

Fellowships may seem intimidating, but they provide an opportunity to explore your interests and passions while gaining experience in your fields of interest. Make sure to explore all the fellowships you are eligible for because you never know when an idea may spark. If you do not get a fellowship one year, work with your mentor to refine or redesign your proposal for next year. While I recommend everyone apply for fellowships, if you are thinking about going to graduate school, the experience fellowships provide will look great on your resume and build skills you will certainly exercise as you continue past undergraduate school. Fellowships provide a benefit for everyone, so make sure to get your applications in!

Featured Image: Courtesy of ProFellow

Author

  • Kristi Weyand is a third-year double-majoring in English and Political Science with a perhaps-too-hopeful plan to pursue a career in journalism. Her time as the Arts & Entertainment Editor has led to her interest in the intersection of entertainment and ideas generally seen as political, inspiring her way-too-many thinkpieces. When she is not writing, she can be found procrastinating by baking, watching bad movies, over-listening to the same music, and crying over succulents she just can’t seem to keep alive.

Kristi Weyand is a third-year double-majoring in English and Political Science with a perhaps-too-hopeful plan to pursue a career in journalism. Her time as the Arts & Entertainment Editor has led to her interest in the intersection of entertainment and ideas generally seen as political, inspiring her way-too-many thinkpieces. When she is not writing, she can be found procrastinating by baking, watching bad movies, over-listening to the same music, and crying over succulents she just can’t seem to keep alive.

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